Last year, Jason M. Hough’s military sci-fi novel Gears Of War: Ascendance filled in the gap between the end of the 2016 video game Gears Of War 4 and its 2019 sequel, Gears 5. Now, with Gears Of War: Bloodlines (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), Hough is not only filling in a gap within Gears 5 but — as he explains in the following email interview about it — the time before the newest installment, Gears Tactics.
To begin, what is Gears Of War: Bloodlines about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the games Gears 5 and Gears: Tactics as well as your novel, Gears Of War: Ascendance and the Gears Of War comics?
There’s two storylines in the book. The first is focused on Kait Diaz, during a time period that takes place after a pivotal event during Gears 5. In the game, there’s a “Four months later…” gap — this story fills in that portion.
During this, Kait learns a lot about her own father’s past. That’s the second story within Bloodlines, and it takes up about two-thirds of the novel. Chronologically, it takes place during the Pendulum Wars [which happened before the first Gears game], leading up to the events of Gears Tactics.
When in the process of writing Gears Of War: Ascendance did you come up with the idea for Gears Of War: Bloodlines, and how did that idea evolve as you wrote it?
Bloodlines came from discussions I had with the narrative team at The Coalition [who make the Gears games and oversee the series] after Ascendance was written. We explored a bunch of options, and the two most interesting stories to me were what happened during that gap in Gears 5, and who Gabe Diaz is. Telling both in the same book seemed like a natural solution.
And in working on the story for Gears Of War: Bloodlines, did the good people at The Coalition ever say anything along the lines of, “Okay, we need this to happen in the story…and we can’t tell you why”?
It wasn’t so much that they needed specific things to happen in the book. Instead they simply told me where things stand once the game(s) pick the narrative back up, and my job was simply to make sure everything flowed nicely into that. The specifics of what happens in the novels is up to me, though of course they give feedback after a first draft is done.
And how else did the people from The Coalition influence the story in Gears Of War: Bloodlines?
The team did a really amazing job providing feedback and fact-checking on the first draft of the manuscript. Gabe’s story takes place in a time period that I wasn’t overly familiar with when I started and, as you can probably imagine, I made some mistakes in my first pass. Thankfully, the narrative team at The Coalition were able to read multiple drafts of the book and make sure everything was buttoned up.
Gears Of War: Ascendance, like everything in this series, was a military sci-fi story. Is Gears Of War: Bloodlines one as well?
If anything, it’s more of a military sci-fi story than Ascendance was, taking some inspiration from films like Hamburger Hill. In Kait’s part of the story, though, there are some very slight nods to the clandestine side of conflict. Personally, I would love to write a Gears novel that goes way more into that aspect.
Are there any writers, or stories, that had a big influence on Gears Of War: Bloodlines but not on Gears Of War: Ascendance?
Not especially. If anything, I drew more influence from earlier Gears lore, especially those set in the Pendulum Wars like the comic Gears of War: Unseen.
What about movies, TV shows, or games other than Gears Of War ones? Did any of those have a big influence on Gears Of War: Bloodlines? You mentioned Hamburger Hill a moment ago.
That had a more direct influence, but other Vietnam War films certainly influenced me as well. Nothing specific, mind you, but rather the overall portrayal of that conflict in cinema impacted to how I envisioned the events in Bloodlines.
Now, in the previous interview we did for Gears Of War: Ascendance [which you can read by clicking here], I asked if you were writing more Gears Of War novels and you said you were but that was all you could say. So, are you writing a third?
There’s been some initial talks about doing a third book, but at the time of this interview there’s nothing official to report. I’m currently putting the wraps on my next original novel, Instinct, which should be finished any day now, and once that’s done I’ll have the bandwidth to continue those discussions.
Finally, if someone enjoys Gears Of War: Bloodlines, and they’ve already read Gears Of War: Ascendance, what military sci-fi novel of someone else’s that isn’t connected to a video game would you recommend they read next and why that one?
Hell Divers by Nicholas S. Smith would be a great one for Gears fans, I think. Great action and characters.
Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series is another I really enjoyed, and he does a really great job of exploring the human side of such conflicts.