24 August, 2011

Review - Gears of War: Coalition's End by Karen Traviss

Gears of War: Coalition's End [US] [UK] is technically the 4th book in a series that Karen Traviss has penned for the video game franchise. It is also touted as a bridge novel for the Gears of War trilogy and the Gears of War 3 video game coming out in September this year.

It's been a long time since I've played Gears of War.

I've never read Karen Traviss, but have heard good things.

It was time to remedy this situation at least partly by giving Gears of War: Coalition's End a go... and now I might just have to buy myself an XBOX 360 so I can be ready for Gears of War 3.

To catch myself up in the story, I found some good stuff on Youtube that explains the first two video games for Gears of War and for Gears of War 2. These are highly recommended if you haven't played either game in a while and this next blurb is pretty spoilerific if you don't already know the story so far.
New York Times bestselling author Karen Traviss is the eagerly anticipated bridge novel for the Gears of War trilogy - continuing the harrowing story of Delta Squad and their struggle to save the remnants of humanity in a world overrun by a brutal enemy, the Locust Horde.

When the Locust Horde burst from the ground fifteen years ago to slaughter the human population of Sera, mankind began a desperate war against extinction. Now after a decade and a half of bloody fighting, and with billions dead, the survivors - the Gears of the Coalition of Ordered Governments, along with a band of civilians - have been forced to destroy their own cities and sacrifice their entire civilization to half the Locust advance.

The last-ditch measures have succeeded, but at an enormous cost: the survivors have been reduced to a handful of refugees.

Escaping to a haven on the remote island of Vectes, they begin the heartbreaking task of rebuilding their devastated world. For a while, there's hope... making peace with old enemies, and once again planning for the future.

But the short respite is shattered when Vectes comes under siege from an even deadlier force than the Locust - the Lambent, a hideous and constantly mutating life-form that destroys everything in its path. As the Lambent's relentless assault spreads from the mainland to the island, the refugees finally understand what drove the Locust from their underground warrens and sparked the global war.

While Marcus Fenix and the Gears struggle to hold back the invasion, the Coalition faces a stark choice - fight this new enemy to the last human, or flee to the wastelands to take their chances and live like the human pariahs known as the Stranded... even as Coalition chairman Richard Prescott still guards one last, terrible secret about the Locust, the Lambent, and the future of mankind....
I had some expectations going into my reading of Coalition's End. The main thing I expected would that it would be non-stop action - a ridiculous roller-coaster ride that goes from one inexplicable reason to have to shoot stuff to another. That's what video games do right?

Obviously, I was way off, not only in my assumptions for the book, but in my assumption for the video game. I said it's been a while, give me a break.

Gears of War has a great storyline that seems so simple, but it's something I've never personally encountered before. Instead of some alien force coming to earth to destroy the human race, these aliens were already here, just deep down in the earth. This brings up big issues such as who really belongs here. Then again, it's hard to feel sorry for a race that shoots first and asks questions later.

Coalition's End deals with the aftermath of the Locust Horde. The last survivors of the human race are essentially at the end of the road. The COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) has already run away as far as it can and not only have to deal with relationships between former enemies (the Gorasnians, who they fought in the Pendulum Wars before the Locust Horde emerged), but now there's a new threat - the Lambent.

Instead of finding excuses for action, Coalition's End takes more of a Speaker for the Dead type route where there's an alien mystery that the leading members of the COG just cannot explain, and with limited resources, don't really have the scientific knowledge anymore to research. There's still some good action, don't get me wrong. Along with this, Chairman Prescott (the guy who made the decision to use the Hammer of Dawn against his own people, decimating billions) is still playing his games, even at the end of the road.

At the same time Traviss explores the COG's fight against the Lambent and the senior leaders' issues with Chairman Prescott, the novel explores the backstory of some of the main characters on or around E-day (the day the Locust Horde emerged - 15 years earlier). These were some of my favorite parts, detailing how the relationship between Cole Train and Baird began, how Bernie was able to survive on her own, and how Dizzy comes to the COG. While Marcus Fenix does show up, there's no part that really focuses on him as far as flashbacks go.

The only real disappointment I had was that some of the main plot points remain unresolved by the end that I'm sure the upcoming Gears of War 3 video game will take care of.

Why Read Gears of War: Coalition's End?

If you're dying to get your hands on Gears of War 3, Coalition's End is a perfect lead-in to the game. They nailed it in their marketing promo. It's also a great way to get to know the characters that much better and should flow very well into the game since Karen Traviss also happens to be the head writer for Gears of War 3. Highly recommended for fans of the franchise and non-fans alike.

4 out of 5 Stars (Loved it)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher


Travis Knight said...

I'm not a particular fan of Gears of War, and I've rolled my eyes when I see it on book shelves in stores.

That said, you've given me pause for thought. I used to *write* fan fiction about Gears of war, way back before college. /cringe

Could someone have done it better than me?

If I get to visit that dying Borders again, I might just go pick this up.

(By the way, I found this blog through The Hat Rack)

Bryce L. said...

Love the Hat Rack. :) I thought Traviss did a great job, even though lots of Star Wars fans are mad at her.

The thing is, I don't have any of the games or have played them much and I really enjoyed this. I will definitely pick up the first trilogy in this series.

Bryce L. said...

Oh, and if you come back soon, we're going to have a giveaway of two copies of this book. You may not have to visit the Borders cemetery.

Anonymous said...

"Then again, it's hard to feel sorry for a race that shoots first and asks questions later."

That's us, dude.
The human race.
We're the ultimate killers. It's what we do, you haven't worked that out yet?
It's in our genes.