In the late eighties the Transformers where at their
height of their fame. 1986 saw the premier of the movie, which
had the vocal talents of Orson Wells, no less. As a franchise,
the television show continued and the toys, from Hasbro, were
everywhere. Launched in eighty-four the line of toys was backed
up by a comic from Marvel and an animated show from Sunbow
Productions. The show, in its various incarnations, ran until
recently making it one of the most successful shows to date.
The show's popularity meant that it was only a matter of time
and technology before a live action film went into production...
For those that missed the event, Transformers related
the story of two robot races - the Decpeticons, lead by the
evil Megatron, and the Autobots, lead by the more altruistic
Optimus Prime - whose war had all but destroyed their home
planet of Cybertron. The two races vie for power and position
until their war spreads out from their own planet to engulf
the Earth. Their name derived from their ability to literally
transform their bodies into different configurations. You
would have robots that became cars or planes; the only oddity
with this is that often for an alien species the vehicles
that they transformed into were decidedly earth-like.
This year (2007) sees the release of the Transformers
film, whose trailer has been all over the net - and lets be
honest the trailer looks great. Lets hope the actual film
by Michael Bay (Armageddon, The Island) can
live up to the hype. As is traditional with summer blockbusters
a new slew of books and merchandise have been produced.
Ghosts of Yesterday is a prequel novel from Alan Dean
Foster, which sets up some of the back story for the movie,
presumably aimed at those who were unaware of the original
show or its rich mythology, Foster has set out to write an
engaging and exciting story which will bring you up to speed.
In part the book succeeds in its remit; Foster is a well-known,
multi-award winning, author of original works as well as genre
novelisations, which means that you're expecting a certain
level of story, which frankly just isn't delivered here:
It is the dawn of mans leap into space, whilst the relatively
primitive Apollo reaches for the moon a far more secret
launch has taken place. A ship, reverse engineered from
a giant robot found frozen in the arctic wastes, launches
itself into the unknown, the crew full of apprehension about
what they might find. Following a fateful accident the crew
find themselves in the middle of a war, a war between the
Autobots and the Decepticons, a war they are unlikely to
survive. Far from home the crew must protect themselves
and the location of their home world, a home world already
threatened by the reawakening of the frozen robot.
As plots go this is not a bad one, problem is that the book
feels like it's two different things squashed together. On
the one hand we have the quite interesting plot regarding
the crew of Ghost 1, the reversed engineered ship and
their encounter with alien intelligences. This part of the
book is well written with good characterisation and plot development.
On the other hand you have the Transformers themselves who
are little more than two dimensional characters. You get the
feeling that Foster already had a great little tale about
meeting aliens and tacked on the Transformers to create the
As you would expect from a show that was pretty much based
on the 'fight of the week' premise, there is a lot of action
in the book, in fact pages and pages of the stuff, which should
please some fans. The biggest problem for Foster is finding
more interesting ways to describe something which was ultimately
a single wow factor, the transformation.
In the end it's an ok novel, fit for purpose as one would
say, but it doesn't really hang together as a book.