GEARS OF WAR: JACINTO’S REMNANT
Written by Karen Traviss
Published by Ballantine/Del Rey
I don’t play video games. Don’t even own a home system of any kind. So my knowledge of GEARS OF WAR as I sat down to read this novel amounted to this: I knew that GEARS OF WAR was a video game. That’s pretty much it. So as you can imagine, I was pretty dubious about plowing through 400 pages of prose about characters from a video game.
Never under-estimate the power of having a really, really good writer working on a property. Even one you have no familiarity with.
That’s because Karen Traviss (who has STAR WARS novels to her credit, as well as a prior GEARS outing) really knows how to deliver a strong military/sci-fi story. The story begins in media res as nearly all the humans left alive on the planet Sera are escaping from what was the destruction of the final livable city: Jacinto. The bug creatures that have been overrunning the world and killing off the population, the Locust, are at that point hopefully all nearly drowned, leaving the few thousands left to go on the run and look for a place to try and rebuild the human race. Their protectors, soldiers known as Gears, are always on the frontlines, trying to keep those few humans intact and safe. However, none of it comes easy- the Gears are as emotionally scarred as any of the civilians, if not more so. Each has demons coming home to roost and is struggling to keep moving forward with their lives. Plus, there are still stray locusts out there, ready to strike at a moment’s notice, not to mention human threats known as Stranded; people who were unable to get to Jacinto before the rest of the world was laser-blasted into oblivion as a way to kill most of the Locust population.
JACINTO’S REMNANT is a strong, interesting piece of licensed work. The characters come to life on the page; those created for the novel really feel fresh and interesting, especially a nearly 60-year old female soldier name Bernie (think Susan Sarandon if you will) who cannot easily give up the military life or forget the horrors she experienced at the hands of the Stranded. While game characters Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago get the majority of the face time, it’s Bernie that, from the start, captures your imagination and interest in what’s going to happen through the course of the novel.
Traviss succeeds in her work because she smartly thinks her way through what the reader needs. In my case, I needed everything; without familiarity with the game, the comics, or her first book in the series, I could have been lost. But she laid out everything I needed to know in short order and kept my interest from flagging. Every once in a while, I just like to sit down and read a solidly done sci-fi novel; JACINTO’S REMNANT fulfilled that need for me just fine.