Ghosts of Yesterday - Transformers Movie - Novel

I got this book several days ago, and haven't heard many people talking about it, so I thought I'd go ahead and post my thoughts / feelings about it.

First of all, let's handle the basics:

Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday is a prequel novel to the Michael Bay Transformers movie. The original version of the novel was written by David Cian (who wrote TF2: Annihlilation and TF3: Fusion) but for whatever reasons, the project was given to Alan Dean Foster to rewrite (possibly for name recognition or possibly because Foster has done a LOT of movie-to-book novelizations: see Alien, Aliens, Clash of the Titans, The Last Starfighter, Starman, etc., even a novelization of the video game The Dig).

The novel is set in the year 1969. On the same day that the missle that would launch Neil Armstrong & company to the moon, another craft is launched secretly from Sector Seven. This is a spacecraft created using technology based on "The Ice Man" (ie, Megatron). They believe that if everyone is watching the Apollo mission, no one will be paying attention to other parts of the sky. The crew is to survey the solar system and see if there are any other creatures like Megatron that might pose a threat to Earth. However, something goes wrong and they accelerate much faster than they believed possible--this sends them through a worm hole and lands them right smack dab in the middle of a confrontation between the Autobots and Decepticons.

Both sides of TFs recognize the craft as being of Cybertronian design, but are perplexed by it. Bumblebee tries to make first contact, but is thwarted by Starscream. Starscream pretends to befriend the humans (hoping that by doing so he will make the Autobots attack the ship--and thereby make Optimus feel stupid when the truth is revealed) and learns that both Megatron and the Allspark are on Earth. Starscream does not want Megatron back, so he keeps this information to himself. He convinces the humans to join with him to crush "the evil Autobots," and Starscream and the human ship attack Bumblebee and Optimus Prime (who had come to rescue Bumblebee).

The humans soon realize their mistake when Starscream leaves them to die (their ship being stuck in alien quicksand), and join with the Autobots, who they tell about Megatron (but not about the Allspark). Realizing that they cannot risk going home (for they would lead the Transformers to Earth), they do what they can to help the Autobots in battle and are killed saving Optimus Prime.

While this is going on, there is also a subplot dealing with Megatron being transported from the arctic to the United States, and an attack by the Soviets who want the technology for themselves. During this period, Megatron reawakens and tries to attack, only to be covered in liquid nitrogen and put back to deep sleep.

Okay, now that a basic plot summary is out of the way, let's get to specifics.

Conceptionally, the story isn't bad. It was a quick read and offered mild entertainment. Starscream acts like Starscream, Bumblebee acts like Bumblebee (though mute, of course), and Optimus Prime acts like Optimus Prime. The characters are there. If you've ever read a movie novelization before, you know what to expect. It's decent entertainment, as long as you don't try to think too much, or examine it too closely. Because this novel is not "deep," it is very surface level.

Unfortunately, I'm someone who likes to think, so I notice a lot. The first is the time period. 1969. Yes, there are a few references to the Vietnam War and Star Trek, but on the whole, the era itself is ignored. The human characters could easily have been from the '80s, '90s, or today. On board "Ghost 1" (the human ship), there is a Latino female communications officer, which is something you would probably not see in this time period. The language is kept at a PG level and free from much technical jargon, as if the author is worried that children might be reading.

The Transformers themselves are all portrayed as having very intelligent vocabularies, so you won't see any of the Decepticons acting like dumb brutes. I believe much of this was done so that the TFs wouldn't use "human" type words such as eyes, noes, legs, etc. While this works in some places, in many it just makes their dialogue sound unnatural. For example: "You pustulant inflamations on the fabirc of space-time can do better than that, can't you?" Guess who that was? Jazz. Or how about this rather modified quote by OP: "You should know first and foremost that we believe, above all else, that individual freedom of thought and movement is the right of all sentient beings regardless of shape, size, or evoluationary origin."

Bumblebee can't speak. While yes, I know that this was something established in the movie, it has been CENTURIES now. As Ratchet is on board, and able to fix up the other Autobots, one would THINK it wouldn't be hard to build a speaker and something to transmit sound (heck, even my old Apple computer from 1995 (which I bought USED) was able to take text and make it into sound...).

The Autobots and Decepticons are aboard two different ships, The Ark and The Nemesis. Yea, nice nod. But while this ships are described as being very large, each only contains a handful of Cybertronians (the cast of the movie). There is lot of talk of the Autobots "ending the war, right here and now"). Um... I know these are tough Decepticons and all, but I can't see how defeating a whole six Decepticons (especially when two are Frenzy and Scorponok) is really going to "end the war." In fact, there seems to be very little discussion of there even being any other Transformers, other than vague references to them being from Cybertron and that there world is dying.

The humans... are stupid. I'm sorry, there's not much else that can be said in their defense. One would think that Sector Seven, a very hush, hush, secret government facility would have the best and brightest working for them. However, much of the book is taken up with humans going, "Uh... sorry, we don't know how you got there... we don't know how this communicator is allowing us to talk to you... we don't know how to get you back... we don't know how the Russians were able to infiltrate us... we don't know everything about how this ship works..." uggh... Not once do any aboard Ghost 1 even begin to sound like scientists and they only give a very basic report to Earth (you'd think they'd want to transmit some more information to them... first contact with alien life, etc.?). They also seem to be WAY too trustful of Optimus Prime, considering their recent betrayal by Starscream... I believe there was a line where the captain states he didn't think Prime would download so much as a recipe if he felt it would be an invasion of privacy... (shakes head...)

The humans escorting Megatron are no better. They put someone they BARELY KNOW in charge of driving the truck that has Megatron on board (and this person, of course, ends up being a Soviet spy). Furthermore, they drive the convoy of trucks during an extremely nasty blizzard. What's the rush? Thirdly, the "revelation" that there is still some liquid nitrogen available to deal with Megatron comes out of nowhere: "No way, the tanks all ruptured in the crash." (this spoken by the guy who has been in charge of the convoy for the last few hours, has been keeping Megatron on ice by melting snow and pouring the water on him, and was told several hours earlier that all the trucks were damaged) "Maybe not all. This one looks okay." (says the guy who JUST arrived on the scene... who I guess can see things that a whole GROUP of people missed the last few hours).

It doesn't help that many of the "heroes" in the book are all old farts who gripe about how old they are and how they can't do what they use to be able to. You barely miss them when they get killed. And just about all the humans do.

They also have the most rediculously easy code when talking between the space ship and Sector Seven. Sierra Echo Lima Foxtrot. Line break. Sierra Alpha Charlie Romeo India Foxtrot India Charlie Echo. Gee, I wonder what the message is... could it be... Self Sacrifice? No... that would be too easy... wouldn't it...?

Oh, did I mention that the Autobots fight giant space worms? For all Optimus' talk about not wanting to attack sentient life forms, the worms definately SEEMED intelligent in the book... but they're worms. Space worms. Oh well... the less that is said about them the better...

I could go on, but I won't. Like I said, this is a very surface book. If you're able to read it as such, and do not hold high expectations, you'll do fine with it. But there's nothing earth-shattering, no cool revelations, no great lines, nothing you'd miss out on if you decided to skip it entirely.

ReviewerBlack Bumblebee  
DateMarch 25th 2007  
Score 6 stars (6 out of 10)  
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