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Gears of War Aspho Fields    by Karen Traviss order for
Gears of War Aspho Fields
by Karen Traviss
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2008 (2008)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Fighting a never-ending, demoralizing, terrifying war is bad enough. Fighting memories of the past is even worse. For Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago, the past is inescapable. Sixteen years earlier, the two of them, along with Dominic's brother Carlos, fought in the epic battle of Aspho Fields. The battle was crucial to the course of the Pendulum Wars, but its cost was too high to bear. Carlos didn't make it out alive.

Three years later, a new war erupted and thrust humankind into a struggle for its very existence. Except this conflict is not against a human enemy, but a terrifying alien one. The Locust Horde have conquered most of the world, but as Dom and Marcus make one last heroic stand against them, the past comes back to haunt them. It's a secret that's bigger than them both; a secret Marcus has sworn to keep. The two soldiers can survive the Locusts. But can they survive the past?

A novel based on a video game is always a tough sell, no matter how wonderfully received the video game upon which it's based. Luckily for fans of the Gears of War game, the task of writing its novelization fell upon Karen Traviss, whose work in the military sci-fi genre is nothing short of brilliant. (She's also known for writing a number of fan-favorite books set in the Star Wars universe.)

The characterization in Gears of War Aspho Fields is top notch. The story bounces from the present to the past with plenty of finesse, making the shifts in timeline elegant instead of jarring. Readers learn about Dom, Marcus and Carlos by seeing them in action in their youth, which only makes them more endearing as the action shifts to the present.

Despite evocative, gritty writing and excellent characterization, the story suffers from a slow pace - surprising for a novel about two wars that parallel each other. Still, the story in the book must hold true to the world building created in the game. I believe that if Traviss had more room for creative expansion, Gears of War Aspho Fields could have made a significant impact on the military science fiction genre. As it is, this is an enjoyable novel - and should find a permanent spot beside the Gears of War game in the shelves of any gamer.

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