Author Greg Keyes on new Pacific Rim: Uprising prequel novel, Ascension

Contributed by
Mar 13, 2018, 5:30 PM EDT

Steven S. DeKnight's Pacific Rim: Uprising is set to assault theaters on March 23 with its badass brand of giant mechs grappling with killer kaiju and causing irreparable collateral damage.

So before you mount up and march into the theater to behold the monstrous maelstrom, you might consider studying up on all that's happened between the years after the last rampage in 2013's Pacific Rim. A new prequel novel written by sci-fi/fantasy veteran Greg Keyes will help set the global stage for the main event with a precursor tale detailing the lives and situations centered around the Pan Pacific Defense Corps and the best and brightest new cadets.


Here's the official description:

It's been ten years since humanity's war with the monstrous Kaiju ended and the Breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean was sealed. The Pan Pacific Defense Corps remains vigilant in anticipation of the Kaiju's return, expanding and advancing their fleet of massive mechs known as Jaegers and accepting the best and the brightest candidates into the Jaeger Academy Training Program to forge the next generation of heroes. Training is competitive and positions are few.

Ou-Yang Jinhai and Viktoriya Malikova grew up in the ashes of the Kaiju War and followed different paths to join the latest batch of cadets at the Moyulan Shatterdome, the most prestigious PPDC training location in the world. Yet not long after their arrival, tragedy strikes as a deadly act of sabotage casts suspicion on the new cadets. Together they must work to clear their name and discover the truth as dark forces conspire against them and new threats surface from both sides of the Breach.

Keyes has a ravenous reader base and is best known for his trio of Star Wars: The New Jedi Order titles, the Babylon 5 Psi-Corps trilogy, four The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone novels, and a pair of dark fantasy books based on the enormously popular The Elder Scrolls video game franchise, 2009's The Infernal City and 2011's Lord of Souls.


Titan Publishing unleashes their bold prequel novel on Tuesday, March 13.

SYFY WIRE spoke with Greg Keyes on what lured him into this clash of titans, learned what readers can expect in his tie-in adventure, and found out exactly which Jaeger was his favorite ride. Enter the Shatterdome and power into our exclusive chat with Keyes, then tell us if you're pumped for Pacific Rim: Uprising next week and if you'll snag a copy of Ascension to guide you into the epic heavy metal entanglement.


How did you come to this project for Titan and what is the basic plot?

GREG KEYES: I was asked if I wanted to do it. I had done some media tie-in books for Titan in the past, and the editor Cat Camacho and I had worked together on a Planet of the Apes book. She thought I might be interested, and I was. The book covers the lives of two of the young cadets featured in Uprising – Vik and Jinhai, the events that led them to enter the pilot training program. Once in the program, they are accused of a fatal act of sabotage, and decide to try and clear their names. I also delve back in to the period before the Breach was closed, examining the Jaegers and Kaiju that shaped these young people's lives.

What can Pacific Rim fans expect from your story as it leads into Uprising?

Lots of Jaeger/Kaiju fights, for one thing. But also a good bit of context about how the world has changed in the ten years between the movies. Vik and Jinhai live through those years. More to the point, they survive them. We also get to see more about Mako Mori, how she's dealing with her grief while trying to prepare the PPDC for what's to come. The story I've written ends just days before Uprising begins.


Were you a fan of giant kaiju and mechs in video games, film, or comics before getting this prequel gig?

I've always had a fascination with these giant things. When I was very young – I think about five – I was with my parents at the house of some of their friends. The television was on. We didn't have one at home, so I was glued to it. There was this huge giant, towering over mountains, crushing little men in sandals under its feet. The man finally beat it by unplugging something on the back of its heel. It started bleeding sand, and finally died.

For more than thirty years, I had no idea what that movie was, but it haunted me. I described it to friends, but it didn't seem familiar to anyone, until finally someone told me it sounded like Jason and the Argonauts, but he didn't remember the thing bleeding sand. I rented the movie, and that's exactly what it was. Only I had watched it on a black-and-white TV, so I hadn't see that the "sand" was actually molten metal. I also read a comic very early on that featured Fin Fang Foom, a sort of giant bipedal dragon, which I dreamed about constantly.

How was this book different than writing your titles set in high fantasy realms?

Not so different, in some ways. Both tend to be about the triumph (or failure) of character than about the particular trappings. I think Pacific Rim rises from the same heroic strata that gave us – for instance – Beowulf. Not the young Beowulf who knows he's going to beat Grendel, but the older one who goes against a dragon, alone, knowing he will lose – but he must do it anyway. I'm drawn to telling stories about people who are a broken in some way, but still manage to do the hard thing. And people in armor fighting monsters is a pretty old idea. Making the armor a giant mech doesn't change the fundamentals.

However, it was fun to take real locations and cultures and try to imagine how this particular future history would shape them. And writing Kaiju battles is just plain fun, because of the scale and the fancy, crazy weapons.

Being a blockbuster Hollywood franchise, what were your restrictions or instructions on this Ascension backstory?

Well, no spoilers, obviously. The book comes out a little before the movie, so certain reveals had to kept under lock and key, even though I was allowed to drop a few hints that might make sense in retrospect. The general idea was always that I would cover the backstories of some of the cadets. But within that frame I got play around a good bit.

Were you in communication with Guillermo del Toro or Steven DeKnight on this novel's direction?

Not directly, no. That sort of contact at the top is relatively rare. It has happened – I had a phone conversation with Dean Devlin while writing my Independence Day book, for instance, and I got to chat in person with J. Michael Straczynski before doing the Babylon 5 Psi-Corps trilogy. But usually there's a team of intermediaries to deal with books, and most communication comes through my editor. Sometimes the script writers weigh in.


If you were a Jaeger pilot which mech would you want to get behind the controls of most?

I developed a real affection for Cherno Alpha while writing this book, but I also got to customize a couple of Jaegers myself. One of those was Shaolin Rogue, which would be pretty cool to pilot.

Why do you think we have such a fascination with colossal monsters battling it out with towering robots?

Like I said, it's old stuff. In Greece, the gods fought the titans. In Norse mythology the gods are fighting giants. I lived on the Navajo reservation, where I learned stories of the giant monsters the hero twins defeat. Monsters so big they became mountains and such when they died. These giants, I think, represent chaos – everything that is out of our control, too big to handle. The storm (an analogy made in Pacific Rim), the tsunami, the nuclear blast made into something tangible, something that can be fought and beaten. There's just something about this image of seeing something so big you thought it was a mountain, but instead you're watching a living thing rise up from behind the mountain.

The Jaegers, I think, represent culture. Our ability to work together, to plan, to invent – to stand against these ancient, chaotic forces of destruction. On another level, I think its just a fascination with scale, with a fistfight that can destroy a city.