Robotech #1: Genesis

GenesisThere is science fiction and then there is geeky-science fiction.  Robotech falls under the latter.  I finished reading book one of the Robotech novel series and felt truly geeky doing so.  It’s one of those really geeky science fiction “universes” that those of us growing up in the 1980s could feast upon (along with Star Trek and Star Wars).  However, it’s not so simple for someone in 2012 to figure out. So I think a small introduction is in order here.

Robotech is anime.  Let’s just call it “cartoons” and offend vast numbers of people.  It started in the early 1980s in Japan.  Then, in 1985, an American named Carl Macek (1951 – 2010) was hired to supervise and produce an 85-episode series culled from the Japanese versions. Macek is considered an early pioneer in the bringing of anime projects to American audiences. In 1987, novelizations were begun of the series.  The author Jack McKinney is credited as the author, however, this was a joint penname used by authors Brian Daley and James Luceno (both of Star Wars fame).

The original twelve novels were written in a twelve-month deadline, the books were released one per month. Under this deadline, Daley and Luceno divided the Robotech timeline into twelve segments and worked on different segments simultaneously.  As part of the research project, they watched the TV series many times, and consulted heavily with Carl Macek.  There were 21 books total, Genesis being the first.

A lot happened with this franchise – expansions, cancellations, etc.  And, like in any good franchise, there are disputes and disjunctions regarding canonical storylines.  Most of the “Jack McKinney” storylines have been ret-conned or removed from the canon. Frankly, this is all more information than the casual reader needs or cares about. So, argue canonicity somewhere else.

Genesis was roughly 200 pages and I paid .50¢ at a used book store for my copy.  I read it in about a day and a half and enjoyed it for being a 1980s franchise novel.  Also, it is a good read for really hot and miserable indoor summer days.  I really liked the first half of the book more than the second.  The first half is believable and involves a first contact scenario. The author is decent at writing tense action “jet fighter scenes.”  I like that the aliens are not necessarily unthinking barbarians. I enjoyed reading about the robotech – and I can easily see how this sort of concept can be latched onto by every science fiction franchise.

Now, I am going to talk about geeky things – you may skip this paragraph if it starts to hurt you.  So, I remember GoBots (produced by Tonka toys) back in the early 1980s. I remember that I owned one GoBot. (I owned the GoBot named Turbo, which was a little red racing car.) I know that I knew about GoBots before I knew about Transformers – which works with the timelines.  I think GoBots were in the 1982-1984 range and Transformers (Hasbro bought out Tonka) came on the scene sometime in 1984 or 1985.

Robotech is, basically, about Robotechnology, which refers to the scientific advances discovered in an alien starship that crashed on a South Pacific island.  With this technology, Earth developed robotic technologies, such as transformable mecha, to fight three successive extraterrestrial invasions.  Transformers, at it’s bare bones is about factions of transforming alien robots (the Autobots versus the Decepticons) in an endless struggle for dominance or eventual peace.

I have never read the novels before, but I think I’ve watched some random smattering of the TV episodes.  I read the first half of Genesis and then watched the first episode (Boobytrap) of the TV series via Netflix.  Both go together quite well – some characters are a little different (Captain Gloval being a bit odd in the TV series). Other characters are perfect in both – the attacking aliens, especially Breetai.  This is the write up for the first episode:

In the year 1999, an abandoned alien battle fortress crash-lands on the planet Earth. Our most brilliant scientists and engineers spend the next ten years reconstructing the damaged ship, and studying its highly advanced technology, known as Robotech! A race of warriors from deep space, the Zentraedi, enter the scene, bent on recovering the lost ship and destroying Earth’s civilization.

The novel was good – I feel that writing novelizations of anime would be a difficult task – particularly in 1987.  After all, those people in 1987 were so primitive and lacked technology! *LOL* So the concepts of mecha (transforming robots) would be a big deal to them.  I think that the book helped me understand the TV episode better – the start of the episode seemed really rushed, whereas the novel has a bit more lead-up and background.  I think the first half of the novel was good, but I disliked the “love-interest-teenagers” storyline that develops around Rick and Minmei.  Also, she’s really an annoying character in the novel. I do intend to see if I can watch and read the rest of the stuff in this franchise.

3 stars

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