Book Report> Robotech: Before The Invid Storm

Leave a comment

Robotech: Before The Invid Storm

By James Luceno (as Jack McKinney)

published by Del Rey Books (April, 1996; 1st edition)

I was going to have this for next week but due to new events I finished it up this week. As usual I did a chapter by chapter review of the book for my other site, but with only the epilogue left and needing to take July off from said site due to a busy month and some “backstage” stuff I’ve been wanting to do I moved things up. So this week is the final review.

Robotech was a US TV series born of desperation. Originally Harmony Gold wanted to simply adapt the Japanese animated series Superdimensional Fortress Macross into an American dub but there weren’t enough episodes for a full weekday series (about 13-16 weeks worth at the time) and not enough for a weekend run without multiple seasons, if the show took off at all. So they grabbed two other anime, Superdimension Calvary Southern Cross (no connection) and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, and created Robotech, using the name of a series of model kits by Revell that used Macross and other anime mecha as their product. Comico The Comic Company produced the comic adaptations back in the 1980s.

Ever since then comics and novels have continued the story when attempts by Harmony Gold to build on the lore producer and head writer Carl Macek came up with to merge the three shows as seamlessly as possible, trying to fill holes like where the heroes of the first war disappeared to or tying the three invading forces together through the alien Robotechnology and the protoculture power source that allows the pilot to handle transforming airplanes as well as other genetic experimentation. The biggest was Robotech II: The Sentinels, an attempt to explain what happened to the heroes of the first war among other elements important to the other two, as the Invid again became the threat. Due to various financial issues and some miscommunication it never got past five episodes but again comics and novels took Macek’s plans and ran with them. For our purposes the novels were handled by “Jack McKinney”, the pen name for the writing team of James Luceno and Brian Daley. They had previously worked on the novelization of the Robotech episodes (the books collecting a group of episodes to form a full-length novel) as well as making original stories and their own take on Sentinels, sometimes contradicting the comics I hear, but this was the only novel I picked up.

Robotech: Before The Invid Storm is an 18 chapter novel with a prologue and epilogue. It seeks to explain the fate of the heroes of the Second Robotech War and the transition Earth was going through as it awaited the coming of the Invid. By this point Daley had passed away from pancreatic cancer, just after finishing a series of audio adaptations of Return Of The Jedi. Luceno retained the pen name when working on this book and it’s his story alone. I’m assuming using the pen name was both (or either) a tribute to their joint friendship and working partner ship as well as making it easier for the long time readers to know at least one of the authors was the same “guy” from the previous novels and novelizations. I think that’s enough intro, though. Let’s get into the book itself.

More

Book Report: The Unofficial Guide To Transformers (1980s-1990s)

Leave a comment

In this time of the internet I can easily go to a website like TFU.info and look up pictures of Transformers figures, with a list of all accessories, remolds, repaints, redecos, all official alternate modes, and name reuses. Back in 1999 this was not the case. The internet was just getting started in the public sector, storage and bandwidth were smaller, and the web site design software was still rather privative compared to today.

So Transformers fan J.E. Alvarez got together with some fellow collectors to create The Unofficial Guide to Transformers: 1980s Through 1990s, a collection of photos and trivia published by Schiffer Publishing. Alvarez had previously worked with them on a similar book on action figures. The book goes through the history of this toyline that managed to stick with adults as well as find a home with the new children that took their place. During the previous project I stumbled upon it and thought this might be a good book to review.

More

Book Report> Star Trek: Prime Directive

Leave a comment

I have quite a few Star Trek novels, mostly from the original series but I do have a few from The Next Generation while the only Deep Space Nine or Voyager novels I have were part of that crossover horror storyline “Invasion”. I didn’t get anything from the other series, including at least one series that was original to the Simon & Shuster novels. The last Star Trek novel I reviewed was a possible first mission for the USS Enterprise with Jim Kirk as captain, which I thought was okay but things were a bit off for me. I’ve also reviewed a comic trade collection that revisited the Mirror Universe. So now that we’re caught up with Star Trek book reports it’s time for the next one.

Published by Simon & Shuster’s Pocket Book division in September, 1991, Prime Directive is one of many novels written by the wife and husband team of Judith And Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Told in four parts over numerous chapters, you would think by the title, especially if you’re a Star Trek fan, that this is a story involving the titular Prime Directive, Starfleet General Order #1. A response to colonialism and not wanting to repeat old mistakes when there are so many new ones to make, the order sets ground rules for when to get involved in the affairs of non-Federation worlds, especially ones that haven’t had first contact yet. As a storytelling tool it’s often been abused by writers. I recommend checking out SF Debris’ examination of the Prime Directive in writing in the follow-up video to his review of the Enterprise episode “Dear Doctor” for more on that. This was a book I couldn’t remember if I had read, though as I went through it I realized I had read it a long time ago so it was a semi-new experience for me. I was curious how two well-praised writers of novels and television including and beyond this franchise handled the Prime Directive. The short answer is…they didn’t.

More

Book Report> BattleTech: I Am Jade Falcon

Leave a comment

click for larger view

You may recall I reviewed the one sourcebook I have for BattleTech, based on the animated series. BattleTech is a tabletop role-playing game set in the future where a group of space colonies are cut off from far off Earth. The game franchise started with the colonies degrading into civil war based on various houses, but at some point a new enemy is created for the “Inner Sphere” in the form of the Clans. These are remnants of the original peacekeeping force for the Inner Sphere known as the Star League who got pissed off at what these idiots were doing and went off to start their own group. Now they’re back and ready to conquer the Inner Sphere with superior mechs, giant robot-like combat vehicles, and a method of combat rules that makes Marquis Of Queensbury look like anarchy. This is where the show got their stories from and where our book review comes from.

BattleTech: I Am Jade Falcon features the more well-known of the Clans thanks to their appearance in the cartoon as the main antagonists, the Jade Falcons. Written by Robert Thurston and published by Penguin Books “ROC SF Advance” chapter (no pun intended) in 1995, the book follows one particular former falconer–the Falcons’ term for a trainer–looking at the twilight of her life and looking to die on the battlefield as a warrior. It follows her struggles but are they worth following? I mean, this is essentially one of the bad guys in the franchise, right?

More

Book Report: Hyperspace (a Choose Your Own Adventure book)

Leave a comment

click for larger image

A long time ago I took a look at a Superman “Which Way” book, a book that you don’t read like a normal book. Instead of reading straight through at different points you’re asked to make a choice and turn to a page connected to that choice. Your decision affected the flow of the story. This is part of a form of book known as a “gamebook”, and while many other publishers have produced them the most famous is the Choose Your Own Adventure series, originally published by Bantam Books as a continuation of Vermont Crossroad Press’ “Adventures Of You” series. Author Edward Packard, who created the Adventures Of You and Choose Your Own Adventure series, was inspired by stories he told his daughters, according to an interview in the Beaver County Times.

I had a character named Pete and I usually had him encountering all these different adventures on an isolated island. But that night I was running out of things for Pete to do, so I just asked what they would do.” His two daughters came up with different paths for the story to take and Packard thought up an ending for each of the paths. “What really struck me was the natural enthusiasm they had for the idea. And I thought: ‘Could I write this down?'”

Nowadays Packard has a new series called U-Ventures while the Choose Your Own Adventure brand is now owned by Chooseco. However, it’s only part of a larger series of these gamebooks, which I talked about on my other site a few days ago. So I thought I would look at the book that introduced me to this form of book that is also a game. Packard’s Hyperspace is the twenty-first book of the original CYOA series and the first one I ever saw. After all this time I don’t remember where I got it or why it appealed to me enough to get it, or if I was even the one who bought it. All I know is I looked almost like the kid on the cover, which got me more into this story than the others I own. Yes, even the one with Superman or the ones with the Transformers.

More

Book Report: Doctor Who–The Time Travellers

Leave a comment

While the new version doesn’t have the same spark for me (especially recently), I still love the classic Doctor Who series. The continuing adventure of the alien from the planet Gallifrey and his revolving door of Companions, who travel in a time machine called the TARDIS (stuck in the form of the now obsolete police box from England, where the show is made) is fun to watch and even though Pluto TV has a channel dedicated to the show and I have a few DVDs I miss having time to watch it. The Doctor himself has been played by numerous actors over the years thanks to regeneration, a process the Doctor’s people use to restore their bodies with different physical and psychological characteristics becoming more dominant. This allows each Doctor to be his (or currently her) own Doctor but still be the same person. It was a process born of necessity when the original Doctor, William Hartnell, became too sick to continue the role.

While the majority of my collection are novelizations of episodes, including one American-produced novelization, I do have one original to books tale. If you’re a fan this doesn’t come from the “wilderness years”, the time between the original and current TV show, but features the aforementioned original Doctor and his original Companions. There’s the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, and two of her schoolteachers, science teacher Ian Chesterton and history teacher Barbara Wright. The show was originally intended to teach science and history to kids but it fell from that game plan rather quickly and became a series that only died after decades of being on the air because the new head of the BBC’s TV network hated science fiction even when it gained them a worldwide audience. Who needs money when you have snobbery?

Simon Guerrier’s Doctor Who: The Time Travellers, published by BBC Books in 2005, follows the crew of the TARDIS (standing for “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space”) in a story where they aren’t the time travelers of the tale. (And yes, the book has two “l”s and the word only one. I guess it’s either a mistake on the cover or another one of those spellings that different between us Americans and England, like “colour”.) I did a Chapter By Chapter review of the book if you want my immediate thoughts while reading through the book (there are spoilers in that form mind you) but here is a spoiler-free review of the book as a whole.

More

Book Report: Spider-Man–Carnage In New York

1 Comment

While comics being turned into movies and TV shows are nothing new I wonder how many people realize that even prose has seen superheroes cross over from the panel to the text? Here at The Clutter Reports I’ve already reviewed The Death & Life Of Superman by comic writer and novelist Roger Stern. I have very few prose stories based on the DC and Marvel heroes but most of them are DC, mainly Superman and Batman. (I also reviewed a “Which Way” gamebook starring Superman.) I only have one Marvel novel, a co-authorship between a comic writer and a novelist.

In the 1990s Marvel published a series of novels starring their superheroes through Byron Press, one written by another crossmedia writer, Peter David, focused on a character he knew very well, the Incredible Hulk. David Michellie is mostly known for his run on Iron Man in the comics but did spend some time on The Amazing Spider-Man so he does know the character. (I do not know if there was a novel about Iron Man but if there is I hope he worked on it.) Aiding him was novelist Dean Wesley Smith. Together they penned a story about Carnage, an offshoot of Venom. Venom has a long backstory even before Marvel tried to fill out the symbiote race. Symbiotes are goo-like beings that bond with hosts, forming a sort of costume and granting the host special abilities while symbiote feeds on his I think adrenaline and sometimes uses the host to feed on other lifeforms. Carnage is a spawn of that symbiote that found a willing host in mass murderer Cletus Kasaday, forming a bond so perfect Carnage speaks in “I/me/my” rather than “we/our”. He is one of if not the most dangerous foe in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, making him a good choice for this novel.

More

Book Report: The Merry Adventures Of Robin Hood

6 Comments

 

You may think you know the legend of Robin Hood, but what you know is not quite accurate. I had heard questions of whether or not the real Robin (or possibly whomever the character was based on as there’s a debate as to whether he was real or fictional) was indeed a hero. The legend of Robin Hood goes all the way back to the 13th Century but the version you know came from Hollywood, most likely inspired by Errol Flynn’s interpretation or some more recent version that adds characters for social commentary, has Robin fighting witches (I saw one series I think was from the UK that was very dark in tone but also quite good–I think it was from the 1990s), or otherwise tells the tale of a rich man who came home from the Crusades to find the wicked Prince kingdom-sitting for his uncle, King Richard, had stolen his lands and taxed the people to the point of poverty. Now Robin must gather a band of Merry Men to defeat Prince John, his wicked Sheriff or underling Guy Of Gisborne (who may actually be said Sheriff), and win the hand of the fair Maid Marian.

To quote “Weird Al” Yankovic: everything you know is wrong.

A little closer to our timeframe is Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures Of Robin Hood Of Great Renown In Nottinghamshire, an 1883 collection of the tales of Robin Hood and his Sherwood Forest friends. I happen to have a copy of this, a book now in public domain, and I’ll link to a Chapter By Chapter review of the book I did for my other website that includes links to find the book online free and legal at the end of this review. This is going to be an overview as well as a discussion of my copy because that’s pretty interesting itself.

More

The Non-Fiction Book Stack

2 Comments

old picture

Last week I cleaned up one of the bottom shelves, but I was hoping to get two of them done. It turned out the one shelf was more work than planned. It might be because of my condition lately or that there was more stuff there than I realized but regardless it meant doing the other shelf this week. I stacked this well enough the last time I went over all my books but somehow it ended up in a mess. I don’t even remember how. They were decent enough stacks. Maybe they fell over while I was doing something else? At any rate this week I wanted to turn this…

new picture

…into something closer to the first picture. No, I can’t figure out how it got all messed up. The point is it did and I want to do it over.

More

Book Report: Transformers Armada: The Battle Begins

Leave a comment

After the last book I read I wanted something short and lighter…and something that understood how to create chapter breaks. So for the recent Chapter By Chapter book review over at my other site I took a look at a book aimed for younger readers. I don’t know if I expected it to be this young when I bought it. This was something I would have picked up from the Weekly Reader’s Book Club as a kid. (My mom encouraged me to read.) That may be why I didn’t pick up the next book but I probably wish I did now.

Although I’ve reviewed some of the Transformers toys in my collection I really haven’t discussed Transformers Armada outside of my love of the Mini-Con figures, smaller Transformers that could connect to the larger Transformers, and my review of the last of the classic Mini-Cons, the Assault Team. I’m sure I’ll get to one of those boxes in the future, but here’s the important parts. In this toyline the Mini-Cons not only linked to larger Transformers but in toys specific to the line, some of the “active” hardpoints could also activate special gimmicks, usually an additional weapon but sometimes unlocking alterations to their robot or vehicular modes. My complaint was always that the Mini-Cons themselves could also serve as extra weapons, armor, or tools but unless they combined into a larger robot or weapon this was not acknowledged in the media. The book, by author Michael Teitelbaum and illustrated by Dreamwave Studios (so no credits on individual illustrations, which appeared once per chapter like many books for the 5-7 age group), is yet another take on the origin of the Autobots, Decepticons, and Mini-Cons in the Armada multiverse (Armada gets to have its own multiverse within the larger Transformers multiverse–it’s not really important to most of you out there) following the cartoon, the Dreamwave comics, and the UK comics.  So how is the book?

More

Older Entries