Finally read Eugenesis. Anyone want to talk about it?

Discussion in 'Transformers General Discussion' started by ZacWilliam, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. ZacWilliam

    ZacWilliam Well-Known Member

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    Yes, i am WAY behind the times.

    I've known about Eugenesis (James Roberts old self-published, with Hasbro UKs permission, UK TF novel, for anyone even farther behind then me) since it came out many years ago, and given the very good reviews it was always something I figured I would snag if I came across it at a Con. Then more recently, when I learned it was available as a free Kindle PDF I snagged it for my IPad. My initial interest has, of course, grown exponentially since Roberts became the star writer of LSotW and MtMtE. Finally got to read it this past weekend.


    I know I'm miles behind the curve here but I wondered if anyone was up for some discussion?


    First off, it's good. I've read every officially published TF novel, from the awful DW era stuff to the recent, interesting but flawed Aligned books. This is easily better than all of them. It feels like a real novel. It has depth and arc and theme and thought provoking moments, and real emotion and tragedy and all that good literary stuff. If it had nothing to do with Transformers. If you changed all the names, (and if you ignored all the UK comic backstory) it would STILL be an interesting, thought provoking, and moving novel. Roberts knack for lovable character and humor is not quite as developed as in his IDW work and his taste for tragedy is a little blunter but he's already on the track to being the writer of those later works.

    Second thing to be said, it's absolutely brutal. Now I can hear the "Duh"s. After all this is the guy who wrote LSotW and the latest (poor Rung) issue of MtMtE. But honestly both those books don't steal a step on Eugenesis. Take LSOTW and crank the brutality and stomach turning violence up a couple notches and then take it from the intimate small group in that book and make it a planet/species wide horrorshow. This is a book that makes our toy's war every bit as horrible, adult, and stomach turning as the real thing.*

    I'm not a big fan of that sort of thing honestly, and Eugenesis took me right about to my limit. There were bits where I really started to resent Roberts for what he was doing to EVERYONE. (No one is safe. Not 84ers, not fan favorites. No One.) It almost turned me against the book. Almost. Almost. But the great characterization and writing making you care about everyone's fate and what happened to them, and the planet and the race and the mysteries and all. It was always enough to bring me back and keep me reading. But yeah, this book is about real war. No one is safe and no one gets a fairy tale happy ending. To paraphrase Dawn Weston: "This book is brutal."

    But there ARE moments of real heroism. And, to be fair, he does a good job of showing how ridiculously durable and resurrect-able all these horribly fated TFs are. It's a strange dicotomy and he manages to show a War that has real terrible consequences and a race that is really good at pulling themselves back from them. That shouldn't work, but it does. Completely. And there's moments of hope too. They are few and far between and tentative, but they're there.*


    Ok, I don't know if it's appropriate to bother with Spoilers after the decade point passes, but since *I* just got around to reading it I'll be careful and say Spoilers Ahead for the rest of the post.


    Speaking of "Moments of Hope", the one at the end... Has anyone read Catch 22? ...the last paragraphs gave me the exact same moment of redemptive hope after the darkness of war. (It's actually a fairly good parallel, and I wouldn't be surprised if Roberts was influenced there.)

    While I've gone on about it's strength as a novel, it IS also Fanfic. That shows in some places. The most obvious to me was the lengths the book goes to in trying to merge the Comic's Primus mythos with the G1Cartoon's Quintesson slave origin. I wont say he doesn't do a passable job of it, it's just something I've seen tried in old fanfic a billion times. Heck, I've done it myself. Somewhere over the years, with all the Multiverse stuff that developed long after this book came out, I stopped wanting to see that. I like both origins fine, but I kinda prefer they stay in their own corners now I guess. Again, he does it well, it was just kind of a "ah, this old bit" moment.

    The other place it shows its origins, or rather Roberts origins, is in how connected it is to the Marvel UK comics. I've read most of them and read about the rest so I was fine here, but it definitely shows its roots coming out of his UK comic fan club stories, doesn't it? I wonder if someone less steeped in those could follow it as well.


    Going in I was really curious for any connections to Roberts modern stuff.

    Yeah, as frequentlynnoted, Rung gets a 1line mention. Delphi is a big part of the story, but it's a Delphi that's on Cybertron and very different from the one in MtMtE. He has the penchant already for teaming two characters and giving them exceptionally deep bonds of friendship. There seems to be a definite foreshadowing of Chromedome/Eject and The Duobots in several different "couples" here.*

    There's a few Robertsian terms that show up as well... the most interesting is a TF being "cold cast" which has been mentioned as important in his IDW books but not defined. In this book it IS defined as a TF who is built piece by piece and assembled by hand for a specific purpose. (Nightbeat is one here.) It is contrasted with biomorphic reproduction in the book (G2 style budding) where in the IDW books they contrast it with forging (IIRC, yes?) which has yet to be explained in depth. (I'm guessing it's mass production-y, though that's just a guess.)

    Other thoughts... Hmm... Saw the time paradox Seeker thing coming from really early. It's interesting but as in most time travel plots the how the paradox got started question looms.

    Oh, and The Quintesson Budding Babies bit at the end. I'm not sure I really understood that. I get that it underscores the connection between the races, but why was it happening? What was it supposed to imply about the future? The repetition of a few terms led me to wonder if it was meant to tie into to the coming of the Maximals/Predicons (foreshadowed a little) but if so, I didn't really get how. Anyone help a guy out? It was a weird thing at the end of a long road, and another sign that things were always changing, but again why and what did it mean? That's the only bit of the book that I felt like I might be missing an implication on... Thoughts?


    Anyway, in the end I enjoyed it, and was glad I read it. It's dark and brutal like LSoTW, it has a few lingering fanfic tropes, and it's steeped in UK Comic lore, but it's also well written and honestly moving, and it was interesting to see Roberts when he wasn't quite as developed a writer as today, and *interesting to see the TFs war suddenly (sometimes shocking or off-puttingly)*treated like a real, honest, terrible, brutal, stupid, ugly, horrific, bloody, murderous, tragic war.

    Anyone else read it recently enough to want to share some thoughts or impressions?


    -ZacWilliam, Didn't expect this to go on this long, but it is a novel, a real one, and it's Roberts, so there's so much there!
     
  2. mrgalvaprime

    mrgalvaprime #BanTJ

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    I need to reread this. I haven't read it for two years. It was a great story though
     
  3. The Crazy Collector

    The Crazy Collector Well, that's just Prime!

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    This has been on my "must read" list for a long time, but I've put it off because I've never read all of the UK comic stuff (I've read the entire US comic run) and I've heard that Eugenesis relies somewhat heavily on a working knowledge of the UK comic run. In your opinion, is that true? Tackling the entire UK comic run (over 300 issues, right) has always seemed kinda daunting, not to mention that those issues are a little harder to get here in the States.

    Edit - I didn't read your entire post, so if you address my question somewhere in there, I appologize. I was trying to avoid any potential spoilers. :)  I read through the paragraph were you compared Eugenesis to Catch 22, but stopped after that.
     
  4. Strarf

    Strarf Toy Battles Reloaded TFW2005 Supporter

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    I've been wanting to read this for sometime, but the biggest thing preventing me from reading (in addition to concerns about needing to know the UK continuity) is that I would have to have a printed copy. I just cannot read on a computer screen.
     
  5. The Crazy Collector

    The Crazy Collector Well, that's just Prime!

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    There's a PDF version somewhere on the net that can be printed out. That's what I did. I even went to the trouble of having it spiral bound so when ever I do get around to reading it, I'm good to go!
     
  6. Strarf

    Strarf Toy Battles Reloaded TFW2005 Supporter

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    I have the PDF and I'll probably print it out sometime. It's just that printing out and organizing nearly 300 pages is something I really don't want to do, especially if I need to have read the UK comics.
     
  7. Anguirus

    Anguirus Well-Known Member

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    I liked it, but it was so relentlessly dark I couldn't do it in one sitting. It feels a lot like a "darker and edgier" version of Space Pirates. And I didn't like the Quintessons much as villains--their defining trait is only nastiness.

    Also I get the feeling Roberts doesn't think much of Grimlock or Springer. :lol 
     
  8. Greyley

    Greyley Well-Known Member

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    Hey, I just downloaded this the other day! Looks like MTMTE has spurred new interest in this story.

    I'd like to know the answer to this question too. Reading through the UK comics is one of those things I've always meant to do, but I just never got around to it. There's probably a torrent with all of them out there, but that's a whole lot of comics to slog through...

    Aw, is that all? I was led to believe he was an actual character in the story. Boo.
     
  9. ZacWilliam

    ZacWilliam Well-Known Member

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    Let me put it this way.

    It is most DEFINATELY intended to be set in UK comic continuity. There are a lot of references in passing to things that happened in the UK (and US) comics. Most of these aren't super important to the story being told here. Kup recals when he first met Blur and Hot Rod and saved Rod, from the UK book, for instance. Death's Head recals the last time he met Bumblebee. Centurion plays a role (though not a particularly important one.) The Ark computer is Auntie. That's all UK comics stuff. But it's mentioned in passing only.

    Of all the UK stuff, only "Space Pirates" and "Aspects of Evil" have a lot to do with the plot here. Especially Space Pirates. "Time Wars" comes up now and again as well. Those are the three UK stories with really strong ties here. I woud recomend reading them first if you can.

    Could you read Eugenesis and understand it without knowing the UK books? Probably, but I feel like you'd feel you were missing stuff the characters were talking about at times. It'd be less nuanced an experience, and some of the whys and wherefores would be less developed.

    If your OK with knowing Soundwave will reference the last time he and the Autobots teamed up without knowing what happened there then you'r probably ok. But if you CAN read the UK comics first, then Eugenesis will likely feel more complete and understandable and developed.


    -ZacWilliam, personally I recommend reading Space Pirates, Time Wars, and Aspects of Evil first if you can, all the UK books first if you have the patientce or opportunity, but if you don't think either of those things are gonna happen, and just want to read some early Roberts, you can probably get by with maybe some quick wiki checks. :) 
     
  10. Anguirus

    Anguirus Well-Known Member

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    I just re-read it...hopefully this necro is not too egregious (less than a month). I think I liked it better this time...half-remembered, it sucked me in more than it had the first time. I just picked it up to see if it foreshadowed IDW stuff, and there went two days!

    Anyway, not going to do a full review here. I still feel that one of the basic flaws in the book are that the Quintessons are just terribly generic as villains, leading to a feeling that this is "Space Pirates 2: Electric Boogaloo." But to give credit, Roberts really does his damnedest to overcome this flaw. In fact his "Quintecons" are a twisted way to resurrect specific Quintessons from Space Pirates and make them more interesting. However I didn't find the time paradox stuff compelling at all, in fact it just leads to characters existing who were never created in the first place.

    There is also a huge and disturbing mystery at the end of the book that AFAIK is never resolved, anywhere. It annoys me that this "plot hook" was added to a stand-alone epic fic, and I simply must make sure to beat it out of Roberts some day.

    Another couple of goodies that would be incredibly divisive in official work (but are just intriguing here): the strong idea of the Optimus Prime from 1987 being the only "real" Optimus, with his resurrection being treated as a different and inferior being (though the end arguably repudiates this), and the secular origin of the Transformers. There is a lot to like with Roberts' origin, and quite a bit not to like, but it is interesting enough so that I hope IDW/Hasbro let him flesh out the origin of the TFs in THAT universe.

    I also hope that if Roberts writes much for Prowl in the future, that his character flaws aren't as grotesquely exaggerated as they are here. Ditto for Kup, who turns out to be a unique nexus of Transformers memory...then a combative old coot...then who gets a brilliant death scene that the character certainly earned, but not for his actions in THIS story.

    Last but not least, at least from a TFUK perspective we find out about "constructed cold," but nothing to shed light on "forging." :D 
     
  11. Star Saber

    Star Saber Cybertron 5th Commander

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    Just finished reading this book the other day. Decided to look for it after all the mentions here. What can I say except, wow, that was brutal! It was an interesting read for me, to see how Roberts work his magic during his early days. I caught the Rung reference, as well his tendencies to do buddy teams i.e. Quarks and Rev-Tone, Optimus and Nightbeat and use those as a springboard to give insights into one another. The traces of his great character work were already present. I can see why he wanted Wheeljack during the bot draft for the comics. He lacks a quirky gadget maker on the Lost Light! You can also see he certainly knows how to use his Decepticons. I loved his Soundwave and Galvatron, particularly Soundwave taking on Sixshot and Galvatron breaking his inhibitor lock! Just great stuff. Of course he also knows how to write his battle scenes. LSoTW was a cakewalk compared to this.

    I do agree the idea that the Optimus Prime we got after his death in 1987 was a different and well, implied to be inferior version was quite interesting. It is a bit sad when you consider the dialogue, that an Autobot of his stature was cut down a mere 3 years after being reactivated, replaced by a disk personality, and later a Nebulon hybrid of one. I was expecting a more direct approach from Prime, taking on the Quint leaders in dramatic battle and showing them his mettle, but that was probably asking for too much given the circumstances. The showing we did get still reflected the Prime we all know, confident, brilliant, charismatic and awe-inspiring.

    It was also nice to see him give mention to Jap TFs like Dai Atlas and Star Saber. It gives me hope that Roberts will continue to bring them out in the comics like he did Black Shadow, though hopefully in a better light than the UK fanfic community did by turning Star Saber and Thunderclash into former Decepticon Warlords, each controlling a fraction of the Liege Maximo's former domain.
     
  12. Galvatron II

    Galvatron II I can type whatever here?

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    Bump. I'll do like a review thingy later and talk about how it's my favorite piece of media ever, but seriously, WTF with the whole morph birth thing.

    At first I thought that was what was up with the whole A through D experiments, that they were altering Cybertronians in case they lost and GOD was destroyed, to continue their race against their will, but they never got their hands on Soundwave, did they? I'm a slow prose reader, so I might have just forgotten, but I don't remember them capturing him.
     

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