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REVIEW: Transformers by Alan Dean Foster

REVIEW SUMMARY: A marginal media tie in book that had a lot more potential.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Big robots that can turn into cars and planes and stuff come to Earth in search of a mysterious object.

PROS: The beginning of the book was well done.
CONS: Military jargon without explanation; Introduction of at least one character near the end of the book.
BOTTOM LINE: If you really are a Transformer fanboy, then read this book. Otherwise, I would avoid it and the movie.

Transformers were a cartoon and toy that I remember from when I was younger. I mean the whole concept of a vehicle that transforms into a sentient robot is just really cool. Furthermore, having these giant robot creatures doing battle with others was even better!! Mind you there was never a discussion about how many people were crushed/maimed/disintegrated by these giant robot battles, but the whole idea worked for me. Moving forward to today, Michael Bay and Steven Speilberg are doing a live action version of the series and some of the promos look very explosive. This book is the novelization of the screenplay for that movie, and it just does not bode well for the movie. The book has amazing potential and started off strong, but then started to fail in several ways for me. This matches the general feeling from around the web that the movie will not be very good, but this is not what this review covers.

The book started off on such a strong note with a very good introduction to some characters and the interaction with some obviously evil transformers. This is all done without actually applying a name to these robotic entities, and I really was enjoying the way the story was unfolding. Then out of the blue, the name Decepticon is thrown out there without some basis or some other way of broaching the topic. The term “Autobot” does not come about until much later after the introduction of Optimus Prime and the rest of the “good” transformers, and it is with the introduction of those characters where I think the term “Decepticon” can be assigned to the other side. While I admit that this is probably a small nit to pick, it was one that really bothered me about the book. I am well aware of the backstory on these two sides and I know for a fact what they are called, but in the reading of the book that was not the way to drop the name. I like stories that unfold like a mystery where the reader is exposed to one element at a time and while the narrative continues the reader is given more and more detail until the final picture is fully revealed. This book could have been done in this way but for some reason it was not.

Another element I just didn’t like is that a character is introduced very very late (in the last 30 pages) of the book. It was almost as if they decided they needed another robot and threw it in there. I am still confused as to where it came from since the setup for that is no where to be found. I mean I understand that sometimes this can be important for those sequel options, but in this was not the reason it is in there.

I could continue about other elements that would have been ignored if these issues had not been there. The use of military terms without defining them, and while our armed forces would know these – I doubt a civilian would (that would be me). The ending is also something that bothers me given how little the humans know about the transformers. In the end, the result is a book that will appeal to those real fans of the series. I am interested to see if the problem was in Mr. Foster’s writing or the restrictions placed upon him in developing a book based on the screenplay. The book advertises a prequel called Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday that may be a better book since it has less influences from a script/screenplay.

4 Comments on REVIEW: Transformers by Alan Dean Foster

  1. I started reading this one in the store and had to drop it out of boredom. Thank goodness I didn’t buy it first.

  2. Shifty-eyed Recluse // July 3, 2007 at 7:24 am //

    Non-sequitur comment: feel free to treat as spam…

    Hey, SciFiChick is pretty cute. This blog has come a long way now that you also have good-looking readership, instead of just in the “supermodel” postings! Now it’s apparent why this place exists — it’s so the pretty people would chat with all you trolls! I know, I’ve seen y’all!

    [Moment of inaneness ends] Off to work… *grumble* *grumble*

  3. And remember kids, the book is always better than the movie.


  4. >> The book is always better than the movie.

    That only applies to books adapted to film, not necessarily books based on screenplays. If the screenplay sucks to begin with, there’s only so much an author can do…

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