Gears of War was originally released on the Xbox 360 in November 2006 and quickly became a fan favourite, not only because of its fast paced and violent action sequences (name one other game where you can regularly cut your enemy in half with a chainsaw!) but because of the story that devolved though the game. It became very apparent that there was a lot of back-story that the game didn’t go into. Now at the time this could have been because they didn’t know how well the game would do and left it out for time restraints but it left me wanting more. Why was the games main character Marcus Phoenix in a seemingly abandoned prison at the beginning of the game? Why does Marcus’ commanding officer General Hoffman hate him so? What happened to Marcus buddy Dom’s wife Maria? And what the hell are the locust? I’m going to attempt to answer these questions and more in my next few articles as I look at each of the Gears of War novels in turn.
WARNING. THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS. STOP NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW MORE.
The first novel in the Gears series is Aspho fields. Like all the Gears novels its set both in the “real time” and in flashbacks set during the Pendulum wars. The real time setting for this novel is just after the events of the original game with the locust still appearing through emergence-holes around Jacinto, just not in as large numbers. It also introduces us to some new characters that aren’t seen till much later in the game series, Bernadette Mataki, a South islander sniper who has spent the last 14 years since E-Day walking back to Jacinto. We also learn that Marcus and Dom have met Bernie before, when she was fighting along side Carlos Santiago (Dom’s brother) in the Pendulum wars.
The Flashbacks in Aspho are quite broad in their time scale but there is a lot that needs to be told in this first book. They start when Marcus and Carlos first meet in school. Marcus is transferred in by his Father Adam Phoenix to learn how to mix with people. Of course the students of the public school don’t take well to a rich kid joining their class and bully Marcus but Carlos stands up for him and they become best friends.
The Flashback then start to jump forward through their childhood and we get to meet not only Dom but the Santiago parents. They become a second family for Marcus as his own is not only rather distant as both his parents concentrate more on their work for the COG than himself, but also broken as his mother disappears under mysterious circumstances in caverns beneath the Phoenix estate. We then Jump to finding out that not only did Dom marry his childhood sweetheart Maria (who he spends most of the first two games trying to find) when he was only 16, we also discover he does it because she was pregnant. By this point you are less than 100 pages into the book and we have already learnt so much about the main characters in the game. It gives them so much more scope and helps you to understand why Marcus seems so distant and how much Dom loves his missing wife and how important family is to him. This is what I really enjoy about these books.
Now I don’t want to sit here and give you a step by step walk through the book, theses novels are a really good read and I want you to experience them for yourself needless to say the real time story follows the evacuation of a food depo that the Locust are try to cut off, which gets a little messy. The Flashback story follows Marcus, Carlos and Dom on a large COG offensive during the Pendulum Wars, Operation Leveller. The objective was to steal the technology that would create The Hammer of Dawn. Carlos and Marcus are fighting together on the front-line, just as they did as kids in school, where as Dom has been transferred to a new elite unit, The Commandos.
Marcus and Carlos are part of the main attack, fighting a distracting battle down on Aspho Feilds with Bernie and under the command of Anya Strouds Mother Helena Stroud with the United Independent Republics (UIR) sending everything they could throw at them. This is the only time we get an incite into the UIR forces and see them as a real enemy rather than a whispered past. The only human opposition the COG have had so far have been the Stranded, survivors of the COG’s Hammer of dawn strikes who are surviving off of scavenged materials. The UIR are obviously a formidable enemy, and have access to large scale tanks called ASPs, smaller troop transports referred to as LAVs and anti air pieces which all give the COG on the front line a real hard time.
Dom is up at Aspho Point with his fellow commandos and a unit of Pesang attempting to steal some valuable info. The Pesang are a unit favoured by General Hoffman for their stealth and “close quarters work” and their traditional view on soldiering. (before Operation Leveler one works as his assistant and brings him fresh coffee as he plans) but something that is never seen in the game which was a pity. They are described a as being very similar to modern day Gurkers even down to the ceremonial knives and it was enjoyably to read about them as characters as it gives the story and universe of Gears of War some racial diversity. Needless to say their mission is a success and the information is stolen but down on the fields things aren’t going so well. Helena Stroud is killed getting hooked up on her webbing trying to escape from an exploding tank and Carlos is caught in a cross fire and dies, right in front of Bernie and his childhood friend Marcus.
The book ends with Delta Squad back at barracks, cleaning kit and eating chow. Remembering its the first time Dom has seen Bernie since E-day and its the first time they have been able to talk he confronts her about his brothers death. She tries to brush him off, as Marcus has in the past but Dom has heard the official story, of how his brother was killed in the line of fire. Bernie recounts how he died due to his own mistake, how Dom’s older brother who to him has always been invincible died trying to be a hero and how Marcus had almost died trying to save Carlos’ life.
This first book is a real insight into the Gears of War world and the mentality of the Collation of Ordered Governments and although it takes a more story based route than most people would imagine for a game who’s main aspects involve shooting large amounts of bullets and sawing people in half it really is an eye opener. Even with the flashing between the past and present the story flows really well. In my next piece I will be looking at the three books that occurs between Gears of War 2 and 3, answering a lot of the questions asked by both the game and its players.
Aspho Feilds Novel Copyright – Karen Traviss
Gears of War Copyright – Epic Games Inc