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.
For all the problems I have with the Disney era of Star Wars one thing I don’t really fault them for is not sticking to the extended media. Ignoring the fact that the comics, novels, video games, and animated works in the movieless period of the franchise (the equivalent of the “wilderness years” for Doctor Who fans) could contradict each other they were made at a time when the series was believed to be done officially. The trilogy was made and while there was talking of doing the first three episodes the extended media took on a life of its own and trying to keep track of all that is not easy even with the various fan wikis and story bibles. There are elements that could and possibly should have carried over to the Sequel Trilogy, like Han & Leia’s kids continuing the legacy but try explaining Mara Jade to the movie-only fans. That’s a task.
I’m kind of seeing it here in this Robotech book, which had a similar struggle. There was more unused official ideas like The Sentinels they were able to build off of, but compare the Aftermath and Clone/Mordecai comics we’ll be coming up to later versus The Shadow Chronicles, the first official Robotech tale to be released since the original series thanks to the Movie and Robotech II: The Sentinels not seeing the light of day without comics and novels. So those comics and novels built on the stories that were told, trying to fill the necessary gaps between the three unconnected shows and then building on them with events such as the “Malcontent Uprisings”. From what I’ve heard, as I haven’t had the opportunity to read them directly, this was a period of adjustment for the Zentraedi not going well, which makes sense. Getting used to a life without war is hard enough but you have the refugees of the defecting Zentraedi, which may not all have approved of it if they missed Minmei’s music, those who still followed Dolza’s ways of sticking to all war all the time, and the acolytes of crazy-go-nuts Khyron now living in a world where was was part of history but prefered to be avoided and yet the threat of a second war on the horizon if the REF failed in their mission. That’s three different powder kegs and then you have humans who have to accept their former invaders as allies after their cities got blasted from orbit.
And yet following all those events, chronicling Dana and Bowie’s path to joining the Army Of The Southern Cross division of the RDF, and even stories like Dante knowing a Zentraedi mercenary named MechAngel, were not stories Carl Macek had planned but turned out to be fascinating stories people enjoyed. If you followed this deep lore. For people who picked up this book having just seen the shows and not even knowing about Robotech novels (the closing credits only promoted the Comico books, with only one original story) or Eternity/Academy Comics tales there must have been a lot of confusion. Heck, I know about some of this stuff and I was still confused with Dana and this mysterious doctor, and Misa, and I only caught Terry Weston by chance. At least the idea of Nova last chapter asking for Dana to help with the Zentraedi (an explanation of why they weren’t part of the Second Robotech War that at least was further developed in the Malcontent Uprising stories) last chapter made sense. While the second half of the chapter was mostly unnecessary lore it does end with the Zentraedi that didn’t go with Breetai and the Robotech Expeditionary Force coming back…but for how long? Well, let’s dig into chapter five and see.
Unlike previous chapters this one isn’t in two segments with two different groups. There is a division between Dana, Louie, and Terry meeting up at the airport and them in the limo heading towards the Shimada headquarters, but that’s just the traditional scene change. It’s more an observation than a critique. The short blurb at the start of this chapter (every chapter seems to have one) tells us Louie is now a tech whiz with Shimada’s corporation after the war, though it doesn’t say if his commission was up or if he was one of the deserters we’ve heard mentioned in the past.
I’ll also give this chapter a bit of credit for closing in a few more gaps for those of us who haven’t followed all the extended media. In my case this is my only novel in this series and my comic collection is incomplete. We get some more information about Dana and Terry’s history, but we also get more about Leonard having communicated with the Masters’ previously, hoping to use them to take over and I guess only going to war when that failed. This goes back to what I’ve said in other Robotech reviews, that Anatole Leonard is/was already a good enough antagonist as a xenophobic blowhard with a crap strategy. Now they’re trying to turn him into a less successful version of T.R. Edwards, the human antagonist from Robotech II: The Sentinels. I don’t think that’s necessary.
They also drop the “Starchildren” cult name, which if they’re not new to the extended media franchise this book is the first I’ve heard of them.
Meanwhile we get a bit more about the underground and Dana makes a good point about the underground city domes being glorified bomb shelters. It is kind of sad between the third World War that was happening when the SDF-1 first crashed on Earth and the two Robotech Wars that followed. Anyway, Dana meets with the daimyo and other heads of the Shimada family. (A daimyo is the head of that particular yakuza clan…I think. I’ve seen them in a few anime and the handful of Gokusen episode I managed to catch and just learned there’s a live-action version as well.) He seems to think Tokyo can broker a piece with the Invid (good luck with that, pal–considering they don’t even bother saying hi before repeating the Zentraedi attack strategy, just with smaller guns) and thus aren’t willing to give the RDF access to their Protoculture-less mecha. At least he picks up that they told Dana to mention they could take it by force, but apparently Shimadas are a peaceful crime family…however the heck that works.
We do learn that Dana is respected for both her actions in the war and the first (and possibly only if I’m catching the hints right) human/Zentraedi hybrid on Earth. Dana does mention the information learned from Major Carpenter when he arrived on Earth, which apparently even the Shimadas haven’t learned before, as proof of how the Invid won’t be friends, which the daimyo waves off. I’m hoping the next chapter gets to see Misa (who was in intendence as she has a high position in the Yamada family) gets to spend time with her friends Terry and Dana next chapter. This was a good one, though, and helped clear a couple of the lore problems for newcomers. Whether or not this leads the reader to explore the other comics and novels I can’t say for certain as I was already exploring the extended comic stories by then. We’ll see where this all goes next time.