Welcome back to my expanding investigation into the expanded Gears of War Universe!
For those of you just tuning in my name is Chris and I’m a massive fan of Gears of War. So much so I have a full sized Lancer converted for use in paintball. Over the last few months I have been doing an investigative review of the books between the games in the Gears of War franchise. To catch you up here are links to articles one and two!
Anvil Gate is the third book in the Gears of War series and once again starts off right where the action finished in the last book. This is becoming a running theme in all these stories, there is never a large gap of time that the characters have to spend ages explaining about. The only down side to this is if your not reading the books in order no matter where you jump in you’re going to be a little confused.
At the end of Jacinto’s Remnant what remained of the COG had started to make a life for themselves on Vecets Island. A small pre Eday naval base in the south seas. All they had to deal with was a band of Stranded pirates and a village of Citizens who had never seen the Locust. That is until right at the very end, when a random submarine turns up, full of Gorasni Soliders. Gorasni was one of the UIR countries that where fighting the COG in the pedulum wars and they never signed the peace treaty.
Needless to say very swiftly an “agreement” is written up. The Gorasni get a safe harbor and a place to put their homeless citizens, the COG get access to the last standing Imulstion rig still running and a share of the fuel it creates. From this point on things start to get surprisingly bad. Not only do we have the frayed relationship between the new Jacinto arrivals at the naval base and Vectes island inhabitants. We now also have a very tence stand off between the Gorasni new comers and the Pendelum war veterans living on Vectes island. Oh and the Gorasni have brought there on little navy with them and surprisingly something goes wrong there and they start losing ships. Now once again I’m going to state I’m not here to give you a blow by blow account of what happens in the books. Read them. They are a fantastic expansion on the Gears universe. What I am going to say is that “something” happens that makes Colonel Hoffman think back to a dark time in his history, when he was garrisoned at Avnil Gate.
Anvil Gate refers to a COG garrison fort originally named Avenged and located in Kashkur. One of the COG states that during the Pendlum war was only separated for the UIR by a very small independent country. It was the last bastion of COG control before the front line with the UIR and it was the site of a great stand by a young Lieutenant Victor Hoffman. The garrison is defended by 100 or so gears along with a large number of well trained civilians who are well used to sitting and waiting in a large fort. The fort is so placed that it overlooks a large Imulsion refinery which is closer to the border with the UIR than the fort, in other words a large target for any invaders. Before long the decision is made by the COG to shut off links from the refinery as they know invasion is coming and they don’t want the Indie’s getting their hands on the valuable fuel. With the line cut Hoffmans forces at Anvil gate await the coming attack with a sense of ease. Unfortunately the UIR are a touch more cunning than the COG believe and sent a scout force ahead of the main invasion to attack the fort, not to destroy it, but to obliterate the small road leading in and out of it and back to the safety of the Coalition, trapping Hoffman and his forces inside the fort indefinitely.
Its at this point Hoffman starts to come into his own. He is completely cut off with lacking communications and an unknown enemy and has to hold for an unknown amount of time. It shows that the situation on Vectes in the present time is one that Hoffman has experience in. He is trapped on an island with an unknown amount of enemys in the form of the stranded population and with no hope of re-enforcement. It actually surprised me when I got into Anvil gate that Hoffman hadn’t done more when they arrived at Vecets to defend themselves. It becomes very apparent that he has experience in “siege” defence but doesn’t use it till very late in this story.
Back at the fort things go from bad to worse. Hoffman watches the UIR forces head straight for the near empty refinery as they knew they would do. Suddenly there is an explosion. An RPG is fired into a gun bay from behind the fort and Hoffman’s captain is killed along with three of the gunnery crew. Hoffman himself takes a head wound and he knows the UIR’s attack on Anvil Gate had started. Once patched up and head cleanly shaven so the doctor could see to his wounds (a look he kept from that point on) The young LT heads into the streets and passages around the fortress town, assessing his next move. A call from the gunnery nests informs him that the UIR are starting a ground attack and Hoffman gives the order for the main guns to fire. Before too soon they start to receive motor fire from behind the fort and the realisation sets in that they are truly encircled. Hoffman knows the enemy cant get in, the fort has stood strong for years, but how are they going to get out?
At this point I would like to move away from the main story and focus on one of the side stories of this novel. Whereas Traviss’s other books spent a lot of time jumping between the past and present tense, Anvil Gate adds a third “dimension” if you will. Adding a few side stories to expand on known characters.
In my opinion the most interesting of these is the story of Bai Tak. A Pensang citizen who goes from failing farmer in the foot hills of the Kani Province to a COG solider. Traviss has spoken about the Pensang before in Aspho Feilds were they were used by Hoffman as Commandos and although they are used to carry the story along and she mentions how they are smaller and faster that your average COG citizen she never mentions much about their past or recruitment. Bai Tak’s story starts with him and his wife toiling hard in the foot hills of their farm with a failing heard of cattle. His choice to join up with the COG isn’t an instant one. He cares a lot for his wife and is scared to leave her on her own. Initially he makes the long trek to the local town just to. Whilst in a tavern working he over hears a radio broadcast regarding all the fighting going on around their nation and how the COG are stretching themselves thin. A few of the more plucky, unattached locals start making a noise about hoping in a truck and driving down to sign in. Bai is torn between making what could be a lot of money for his wife and having to leave her for a long while with out warning. Now obviously Bai hops on that truck and signs up but I feel this is quite different how how Traviss has treated the idea of “family” before. In the game the main family element is Dom’s story around finding Maria (and we all know how that ends in Gears 2). Traviss has continued that in both Aspho fields with the origins and blossoming relationship between Dom and Maria and Jacinto’s Remnant with Dom’s ongoing care for Maria and with the quiet help Chairman Prescott gives to his secretary to help save her family. I don’t know whether it was done to try and show a difference in culture or even a different way of thinking but to me it didn’t sit right with what had been written before it. Bai does show remorse at his initial decision to sign up but this is quickly replaced with the idea of being able to send more money home. Granted he is able to send a large amount of money home with the letter that would keep the family farm going for a while but it just seems very very different to how the feeling has been set with the other books.
Flash forward a few weeks and Bai and the other Pensang recruits are deep in training, getting use to the cumbersome Lancer rifle and armour plates when a Major approaches the group of recruits looking for volunteers. A call has come out from Lt Hoffman at Anvil Gate and he needs troops talented at moving around mountainous terrain without being seen. Something the Pensang were born to do. This would be Hoffman’s first interaction with the unit before they make themselves famous in the Hammer of Dawn raid. I do find it interesting when writers are able to put reason to their action like Hoffman’s choice to take the Pensang on the Hammer raid is all down to his coming experience at Anvil Gate.
The practice of over explaining an idea to help the plot flow at a later point is something used widely in science fiction. I saw it a lot in Azimov’s “Complete Robot” were a story would be expanded out further and further to give reason to the actions of the robot in question. For example in the story “ Runaround” in the a unit by the name of Speedy is sent to gather some resources on the surface of Mercury. As he gets closer to the resources he realizes the chemicals would be harmful to him so he turns away. Once he is far enough away from the danger he remembers his original instruction and heads back and gets stuck in a logical loop. It takes the author to over explain the theory of the three laws of robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
These are then expanded out so the characters can find a logical loop-hole to get Speedy out of his predicament. But I’m getting away from Gears of War here, Azimov deserves his own article.
When the Pensang arrive at Anvil Gate Hoffman is instantly impressed by their adaptivity and willingness to throw themselves at a task, even if that task is hiding behind the fort and quietly killing UIR insurgents. Sadly its not enough and the siege sets in. For a almost three months Hoffman, his gears and the civilians of Anvil Gate try and hold. Not so much against the besieging forces but against the starvation of rationing. Hoffman’s worst fears become real as he soon realizes that he might have to start shooting civilians for stealing ration meant for gears. The decision is made by the elders of the town and himself to take an offer from the UIR and surrender the garrison to them in return for safe passage for the civilians. Hoffman takes the offer stating:
“If you let the civilians leave, I will open the gates and you can move in.” (notice how that is written, it’s very important)
The civilians are evacuated and the next morning Hoffman awaits for the UIR at the main gate, a seemingly beaten man. But from what we know from the Gears of War games and other books Hoffman doesn’t give up easily, actually I don’t think he ever gives up. As the UIR are led into the fort little do they know that not only are there hundreds of Gears hidden around the walls with their wall mounted guns now pointed inwards, the fort has been laced with fuel and explosives at strategic points. Hoffman waits until their commanding officer is in his office and all the troops are inside the fort before springing his trap. The fort explodes in fire and death, killing UIR troops in the maelstrom. Hoffman had made his choice, if he couldn’t keep Anvil Gate, no one could have it. The move was suicidal, even if their ambush had killed the forces inside the fort there was a whole army outside waiting to lay waste to any survivors. By chance and luck during the attack a radio message gets to Hoffman, a COG relief force was moving in on their position, rescue had arrived but not before Hoffman had put every thing on the line to defend COG territory to the end.
This I feel explains a lot about the Hoffman we see in the games and later books. It explains the “Do or Die” attitude during the attack on the hollow and his attitude towards civilians during the later part of the war, especially around the fall of Jacinto when he not only moved every one with a moments notice but also knew they would be willing to accept. There is still another side to Hoffman we need to look at which is determination and anger at Marcus at the beginning of Gears of War, for the reason behind this we will have to look at “The Slab” which is the last book in the Gears of War series.
“Anvil Gate” the novel is Copyright of Karan Traviss
Images of the “Gears of War” video game and any mention of it are Copyright of Epic Games
“Azimov: The Complete Robot” is Copyright of Nightfall, Inc