Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
I usually post these on Mondays but given I missed over half the week getting over a cold we get it on Thursday. This is kind of fitting given that Thursday’s comic reviews have been from the Robotech franchise and we’ll be moving them to Monday because it’s easier for me to watch the shows on Sunday. And if you haven’t guessed by my hinting to this point the next novel we’ll be looking at is from Robotech.
I didn’t pick up any of the novelizations, which combined numerous episodes into one book for the sake of having a full length book, with one episode being a half hour long. To make the point the novelization of the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the two-hour long “Encounter At Farpoint”, is barely half the size of a typical Star Trek novel while much padding is used on novelization of regular movies to get them to full novel length. I already wanted to get either the episodes on VHS at the time or the Comico adaptations so I didn’t bother with the books. Even the Sentinels books I had the comics, where you could see all the awesome mecha action. This is one of the advantages of visual media like TV and comics over novels. So I never really bothered with those either.
An original story set in the Robotech universe however I could totally get behind and that’s where this story comes in. So prepare yourselves for the next the nineteenth review in the continuing odyssey of Chapter By Chapter:
Robotech: Before The Invid Storm
by Jack McKinney
I’m pretty sure that McKinney wrote all of the Robotech novels for Del Rey. According to Wikipedia (question the source), “Jack McKinney” was actually the writing team of James Luceno and Brian Daley before Daley’s passing in 1996. Daley also worked on Star Wars novels and audiobooks and the novelization of the first Tron movie on his own. With Luceno as McKinney he also worked on The Black Hole Travel Agency. This novel (and a few other Robotech books) was written after Daley’s passing and is Luceno’s story alone though I don’t know if they had come up with it together or if Luceno continued using the shared pen name out of a sense of familiarity on the readers’ part or in honor of his friend and writing partner. Luceno’s personal work was Headhunters, a novel series about adventures in South America (where he supposedly visited a lot) among other works and also worked on Star Wars books as well as novelizations for movies. Meanwhile the pair also wrote episodes for Adventures Of The Galaxy Rangers and Princess Guinevere And The Jewel Riders, two very different shows. After Daley passed Luceno edited and released Daley’s series GammaLAW, so that was nice of him if Daley actually did want those stories to be seen.
The back of the book gives us the plot for this story:
The second Robotech War ended without victors. The Masters had been defeated, but the Army of the Southern Cross had suffered devastating losses, with Earth’s cities reduced to rubble.
If you remember our comic reviews or the show itself (or read #9 of the novel, adapting the end of the second war) it was worse than that. Zor Prime had failed to stop the Invid Flower Of Life from blooming and being picked up by the Invid Sensor Nebula, which meant that will the Masters were beaten a third war was on its way.
Then a heavily armed warship arrived from Tirol and instantly became the object of intense rivalries. To the survivors of the United Earth Government, it was a spear they could hurl into the Invid Sensor Nebula. To the decimated Southern Cross forces, it was the weapon they needed to use against the impending Invid invasion. For the Starchildren it represented escape from their planetary prison, and the Simada Family wanted it neutralised before its sabotaged their hopes for a peaceful solution.
Personally I think there would be enough conflict between the two sides with these additional factions created for the book. The Southern Cross, the current military arm of the Robotech Defense Forces, they would want to make a defensive play. This was one of the arguments Supreme Commander Leonard had made for not making the trip to Tirol, the one time he may have had a point even if it was wrapped in his xenophobia. Plus, they’re the military. Of course they’d want to build back up with weapons developed fighting the Invid and thus had a better chance of going after them. On the other hand, based only on what we see on the cover, the United Earth Government wanting to end it quickly and destroying the sensor nebula before relaying the newly seeded planet has its merits as well, though this would be another example of too late. The Robotech Expeditionary Force wanted to make peace with Tirol but the Robotech Masters had already left and the Invid conquered it along with other planets in the “local group”. I’ll be curious to see how their points are handled.
However we have the two new groups and here’s where I have concerns. We the “Starchildren” who want to go into space and I’m a bit more reluctantly curious, possibly morbidly, as to their reasoning, but I suspect I won’t be on their side. I’m actually expecting space hippies, and even Star Trek couldn’t get those right, or some kind of a cult. Yes, I have read this before and no, I don’t remember what happens. The ones I’m expecting to hate are the Shimada Family. This isn’t some pacifist group, or if they are they aren’t calling themselves the Shimada Group. It sounds like a family of I-Know-Betters who are either out for themselves or the strawman pacifist who are just asking to die in the name of peace with an enemy that doesn’t want it. Even if the Invid hadn’t proven themselves evil with the Regent, which the Shimadas wouldn’t know about, there has to be a reason both the Zentraedi remnants that had been accepted into post-Macross life and the Tirolian citizens that escaped the Robotech Masters’ cruelty aren’t waving the hello banners to their old neighbors. I’m going to be open minded but we have two unnecessary groups who already have a bad history in these stories.
But no one knew just how dangerous the ship could be. No one, that is, except for its commander, Colonel Jonathan Wolf of the ragtag freedom fighters known as the Sentinels, and Dana Sterling, heroine of the war with the Masters. And Dana had her own agenda…
Oh great, Dana has her own goals in mind. Because that never ends poorly. Dana’s always been strategic but impulsive, putting her beliefs and desires above the mission, which is terrible in a soldier but worked as the hero. That means we really have five factions all fighting for the ship, depending on what Wolf is looking for, and we know he’ll be here for his appearance in the third War, which we’ll be seeing soon enough in the comic reviews. Not having read McKinney’s take on the Sentinels versus John and Jason Waltrip in the Academy Comics side of the comic run and the comic writers that preceded them in the Eternity Comics part of the run I don’t know if John Wolf had an affair with Minmei or with Praxa, or what he did with Wolf’s wife and son in his adaptation of Wolf’s Robotech episode, but I’m guessing that will play into his part of the story.
As I said, this takes place between #s 9 and 10 of the novels, or between the Second (Masters) and Third (The New Generation) Robotech Wars. The editor’s note also that he worked with the newsgroups alt.tv.robotech (anyone remember newsgroups?) and the AOL group (anyone remember America Online?) sf.television.robotech. The choice of ships were created by consensus (he doesn’t elaborate) for Carpenter and Wolf. He also credits Michael Riccardelli and Bill Spangler for help with the idea. Spangler I know from comics but Riccardelli’s name is unfamiliar to me, and the note only says story this grew from discussions he had with them. It would also be Luceno’s last Robotech novel under any name.
I wasn’t going to do another licensed book so soon, having just done three in a row, but considering where we are in the comics the placement is already late since we’re six comics into The New Generation but I wanted to do this just after Robotech Masters. My guess is this is Luceno’s idea for explaining why the heroes of the Second War don’t show up or die in the Third, one of the inherent flaws in how Robotech was presented. Robotech II: The Sentinels was also supposed to explain why the heroes of the First War (The Macross Saga) weren’t around for the Second and make a closer connection between Dana and Bowie, best friends whose parents both left with Admirals Hunter in a failed attempt to reach the Masters before they came here. It also explains why Hunter returns in the finale of the series but ends up being lost, that story intended to be told in a third series that never happened after The Sentinels didn’t get past five episodes in production before opportunities changed.
I didn’t move the Star Trek comics to Monday doing that book, but given how many comics are left, the fact that I’m done with the DC multiverse, watching the episodes for comparison (if I can find them) will be easier for me on Sunday, and that this matches up well means Monday’s will belong to Robotech outside of the daily quickpost. It will be interesting to see if the novel’s 18 chapters and one epilogue outlasts the comics or how far I get ahead to the adaptation of the episode that introduced Colonel Jonathan Wolf. We’ll find out starting Monday as I get back to book reviews, hopefully a full week schedule, and the beginning of Robotech Mondays.