The Inflatable Dalek's Read-Along Eugenesis Thread.

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The Inflatable Dalek's Read-Along Eugenesis Thread.

Post by inflatable dalek » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:57 pm

Having had the files for ages now, I've began reading Eugensis (the self published decade old Transformers fan fiction novel by everyone's favourite IDW writer James Roberts for those who don't know, it can be downloaded with the authors blessing from this very site: http://tfarchive.com/fandom/features/eugenesis/) properly for the first time on my Kindle.

I am, according to the little bar at the bottom, 15% of the way through, and these are my [SPOILERIFIC and no doubt likely to be proven wrong as I go along] thoughts so far...:


The opening scene of the aliens having their sub attacked was really hard to get into, lots of creatures with silly names talking gibberish at each other before dying. Thankfully things pick up almost instantly when we reach Autobot City Earth with a much more confident and approachable prose style.

The big thing to note is that this is very much steeped in the history of both Marvel and the other TFUK stories, it can't really stand alone. Thanks to the continuity notes included with the above link I've got enough of a bluffers knowledge of the TFUK stuff for most of it to make sense, but this is something that couldn't really be taken as a complete standalone (which of course it was never supposed to be, it was self published in a small run to be sold to people who were familiar with the rest of the groups fan fics, the idea it would still be available to read a decade later on the internet is probably something Roberts' never conceived of).

You can also tell it's a first novel, the style isn't as strong as we've come to expect from Roberts and some of the dialogue is a bit ropey in places (Rodimus calling someone a bastard is a bit silly seeming). There's also a weird tendency for the characters to be very exact about the date past events happened in ("Centurion hasn't been seen since 1994!" "No, that was an FC, the original vanished in the Thames in 1987").

Also, at this stage, I'm not sure what the plot is. It feels like what was intended to be three or four short story fan fics loosely linked together. Some threads are begining to pull together (with the three mysterious Decepti-jets meeting the Death's Head story) but it's all feeling very disparate thus far. I've the faith in Roberts to have it all link up nicely though. Mind, I'm baffled as to what the return of the dull Professor Morris-less Ancient Relics version of Centurion will have to do with anything, within a couple of pages he's pretty much reduced to generic background Autobot, unless the book winds up doing something with him that could only be done by that character it's going to feel a very odd inclusion.

Oh, and Soundwave actually having designs on the Decepticon leadership before Galvatron even vanishes doesn't feel very like the Marvel version to me.

Now, as all that sounds a little harsh, lets talk about the good: All the stuff with the Autobots is brilliant. The contrast between the brow beaten Cybertron based troops and the more relaxed and breezy Earth based ones and the conflict that creates has been very nicely handled thus far. Bar some of the rough edges everyone is very well written, with the often under used Wheeljack being an especially nice surprise.

Nightbeat's plot and trauma at being back from the dead is interesting, and the mystery what's making various Transformers disappear without a trace (even if Longtooth is the only character this has obviously happened to I can't see Galvatron and Thundercrash being out of the book for good) is building nicely. It's nice to see Rung mentioned as well, even if this version seems to be a Decepticon (I can't see either Galvatron taking the time to sit on the couch with an Autobot psychiatrist, nor Soundwave caring what he thinks).
REVIISITATION: THE HOLE TRUTH
STARSCREAM GOES TO PIECES IN MY LOOK AT INFILTRATION #6!
PLUS: BUY THE BOOKS!

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Post by Auntie Slag » Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:49 pm

The Decepti-jets I find particularly interesting. I won't say anymore though, unless you've read it all by now. I loved the characterisation of Death's Head, the spectacular deaths of certain robots and the inclusion of fan-made ones who I find as much, if not more so interesting than well established characters. In this case I'm referring to Sygnet, Rev-Tone and Quark.

I also love the description and imagery, those colossal railguns, Sideswipe wading into a hundred Quintesson troops and the horrible situation inside the Reddy's prison.

Lots of lovely one-off cameos too, Treadshot, Motormaster, Blitzwing.

I think there's loads to like about this book, and the way Primus is dealt with is very cool I think.
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Post by Ulcrain » Tue Jan 17, 2012 7:18 pm

I agree Slag, it's an extremly good story. The little touchs, Soundwave Vs Sixshot, Kup, oh, and so much else make it great. Plus it breeds high octoc mightmare fuel.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:00 pm

I've now finished the book, and have been having some enjoyable back and forth with Denyer on Facebook about it, so forgive me if I just repeat some of what I've said there (as well as adding some new stuff...).

This is very much a book of enjoyable bits. Open, point at a paragraph and it'll almost certainly be well written. But as a whole, it just doesn't work as a novel. Nightbeat is the only character who gets a proper throughline from begining to end and is in any way changed by the experience. And tellingly he's the best thing in it.

With the rest, characters either get killed off before their subplot comes to any sort of resolution (more of that in a second), vanish for large chunks of the book (Ultra Magnus, Rodimus), or simply have the events have no impact on them whatsoever (Death's Head is just making time till he can go fight Doctor Who and only seems to be there so as to explain a minor inconstancy in The Incomplete... series, and Optimus is left with no memory of anything he experiences whatsoever).

What's annoying about all the many deaths, is that it repeatedly feels as if Roberts doesn't know how to resolve a subplot and just decides to kill everyone involved in order to deal with it. Any time as a reader I invest in, Prowl and Kup's rivalry, whether or not Rev Tone will be found out for disobeying orders, Sixshot's cowardice (which was actually one of the more interesting things in the book) is completely wasted by them all being killed off (well, except for Prowl somehow getting a magical cure for his certain death on the last page) before any pay off. Once or twice that could have been a nice twist of expectations, but it just gets silly by the end. And why was Centurion in it?

And the P.R.I.M.U.S thing was silly on many levels. Firstly, the Quintessons already have a really good motive for hating the Cybertronians and wanting their planet, giving them another one in the last segment is just pointless. Especially as it kills the action as the Galvatron and Ultra Magnus politely stop to listen to a lengthy exposition and theological speech as a planet blows up around them.

But most importantly for me, despite being disguised in a more complicated backstory with more technobabble, it's the cartoon origin story. With added silly acronym. Now, I think the cartoon backstory is fine for what it is, but it's much more ordinary and straightforward an origin for robots. The Primus backstory Furman created is more epic, more interesting, and a lot more powerful (especially at the point this book was written before Hasbro went a bit silly and you have people try and claim with a straight face the Marvel and TV Unicron's are both the same as each other and the Armada version).

I also think I had a slightly unfair problem with it due to its tie ins with TFUK. Now, I know Roberts wrote this with mainly people who knew that stuff inside and out in mind and with no idea the book would one day be available online for the whole world to read. But it does leave it feeling like the first X-Files film, loads of tie ins and pay off to the series that are off putting to anyone new coming in, and with all the toys pretty much back in the box by the end so the next "Episode" can carry on as normal.

Also in terms of stuff apparently from TFUK, I didn't buy the idea that everyone would regard the real Optimus Prime as dying in 1987 and Powermast onwards as a fake. That's completely at odds with how he was portrayed in the comic, and indeed, as early as Skids Hoist and co being awakened it's clear the Autobots have no problem with copying brains to make new versions of troops. Plus, the "Fake" Prime would have gotten some serious kudos for killing Unicron and saving everyone from the Swarn as well surely?

Another possible one is how Prowl is written. Oddly he seems far more like the later Dreamwave/IDW version than the capable, strong willed and clearly passionate (chasing Battlecharges halfway across America because he's pissed off) Marvel version.

Now, I did like the Redie stuff, the Quinticon time loop (which I was smug about guessing before the really obvious "How did this inhibitor chip get in my leg? Ow! I've just been shot with an inhibitor chip!" bit. Though oddly for something seeming to be trying to tie in with Beast Wars the idea time is fixed is at odds with how it works in that show) and the battle of Autobot City was brilliant. And, possibly unintentionally, the way that after all the fuss with the mind purge on Optimus, Thundercracker just kept the secret of his future knowledge to himself for 30 years was hilarious.

The actual biggest sign of how much Roberts has grown as an author is comparing the scene of Optimus confronting the captured Galvatron to him doing the same with Megatron in Chaos Theory. In the later, he's worked out, that's the story. The meeting of minds between two people who hate each other but know each other better than anyone. In Eugenesis it's used to swap cheap threats and exposition before going back to a dead end plot of some Transformer who can jump Universes being poorly or whatever.
REVIISITATION: THE HOLE TRUTH
STARSCREAM GOES TO PIECES IN MY LOOK AT INFILTRATION #6!
PLUS: BUY THE BOOKS!

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Post by Denyer » Tue Jan 17, 2012 10:11 pm

Literally reposting... will add more if I get time...
Nightbeat is the only character who gets a proper throughline from begining to end
It is very much Nightbeat's story, but I didn't expect most characters to change over that space of time, even with what happens -- most Cybertronians being virtually indestructible even with such abuse.

The Quintecons (and to an extent time travel) are some of the weaker parts for me... I think it's partly down to tying in with TMUK fic as much as TFUK. There's a lot of stuff such as nanobots and other plot points that gets touched on, mostly buried in the background -- including Centurion being with the Autobots, and the spawning -- that puts things "to rights" in place for stories by other authors. I've never gotten far enough reading the related material to catch half of it.

P.R.I.M.U.S. on the other hand (as well as Prime's speech just before) really makes it for me. The fairly trite gods thing from the comics and what it's become with Hasbro's multiverse concept hold Transformers back as kidfic -- whereas having in-story religion built on fragments of truth, schisms and different takes rounds out the backstory and offers harder science fiction.

Until IDW came along (although most of that went tits up) I've never had much interest in other continuities, so Eugen works as an appropriate capstone for Marvel UK for me, and the nod to BW is just a nod to say that that could happen if you want it to. Prime from the past, who hasn't acclimatised to the war as it carried on during his nap on Earth or what his contemporaries have dealt with in the last couple of decades, is the POV character; both factions are one mass pushed beyond breaking point by senseless trauma, and it's unlikely they'll ever get back to "normal" -- whatever that'd be for such alien beings.

It's not perfect, and apparently got a lot of rewrites and edits, but is still the best bit of extended TF fiction I've come across. Oh and there's a contemporary interview at http://web.archive.org/web/200501211013 ... berts2.htm that's worth a read if you haven't already, now that you've read the actual story.
all the toys pretty much back in the box by the end
Well, the "end of the movie" of the continuity is likely to be explosive mutual destruction or unhappily-ever-after warfare dwindling into a handful of survivors à la Peace. The irony, a bit childish and simplistic though it is, is that they can't change.

What held my interest in Primus as a "god" in the comics wasn't so much the epic scale (though as a kid that really helps) but that he/it's fallible, less-than-pure and all-in-all an ancient, powerful but delusional alien force capable of creating life... which isn't far from Roberts' spin on things. The geodes take us into Culture territory with leftovers of sublimed/elder civilisations, and the Quints just have one more flawed understanding of what might have happened. The idea's put out there, but Primus/Unicron aren't endorsed as a literal truth and ultimately it doesn't matter in relation to the rest of the narrative... the TFs don't have living deities, extradimensional wellsprings of life and other spiritualist bollocks detracting from focus on characterisation. That sort of "the gods are real" take fits better with swords-and-sorcery fantasy.

Sorry, I appear to have gone off on a well-worn rant.

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Post by Summerhayes » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:46 am

Wait, so I've been sat here desperate for a new printed copy and it was on the sit the whole time?

Well, my phone managed to download it alright. so now i just need to work out how to navigate it or move it to my laptop.
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Post by Cliffjumper » Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:53 pm

I'm pretty sure I never got that far into Eugenesis. I'd remember more of it, so I'm pretty sure I've just finished it for the first time (I also struggle to remember what dates I was at university, so...). I must have read some of it because I seem to have (sub)consciously(?) lifted a lot, and I mean a lot, for a god-awful fanfic I was writing some time ago which I've just tracked down and binned in shame.

Certainly reading it on the Reader (epic thanks to Mr. Denyer here :):):):):)) is the first time I've enjoyed reading it.

Excellent, excellent book. I'll get the negatives out of the way first:

- Several pages of the Quintesson (the Quint names just didn't stick) expounding on P.R.I.M.U.S. and the like was tediously done, IMHO - the idea that Ultra Magnus and Galvatron would stand in silence in a collapsing base on a dying planet listen to a Quint ramble on about some alternate origin for Transformers just wasn't credible in the way it was told.
- Death's Head. He felt like he was parachuted into the story and only seemed to be mentioned when it suited the plot to mention him. He's superbly written in terms of capturing the tone of the character - specifically the bastard who turned up in Transformers rather than the watered-down anti-hero of his own series (and I'm not just talking about the DHII shit; the DH of his own series is a shadow of the scary ****er who blew Bumblebee to bits, chumming around with the Fantastic 4, Iron Man and some dwarf cosplaying at Sylvester McCoy), but in terms of the narrative he's an indulgence. Hard to begrudge it, though.

The pluses (the major pluses, anyway; to list them all would take forever)

- My Christ can Roberts write Optimus Prime. Simon Furman can't, or at least hasn't been able to for a long, long time. Roberts manages what few others have for any great length of time - to make Prime utterly awesome and believable at the same time. Like Bay (yes, Michael ****ing Bay) he shows us why Prime's so great in the first place, but this time the format means we can see inside his head a bit - the conversations with Nightbeat especially.

I adored, adored the idea of post-People Power Prime being this clone, because to me that's largely when the character has been its' most... irritating. Not bad, because he's three-dimensional. But time hasn't been kind to the self-doubting, neuroses-stricken ineffectual whiner of the 1990s, as dated as Sunbow's strutting moral slave, and TBH the revelation that Furman hadn't evolved him one bit played a big part in turning me off the IDW comics. If nothing else, TF:P and the films have understood what he means to TF fans, and here Roberts understands it too. And then he gives him emotional depth to match his grandeur and still doesn't turn him into a whiny bitch.

- The prose. My God, the prose.

- The 'new' characters. Been too long since I read much TMUK so I've no idea who Roberts invented and who was extant, but he makes the likes of Quark and Emyrissus as deep and important as Wheeljack and Siren (that's his Wheeljack and Siren, not the shallow versions on show elsewhere). I'm terrible with TF fiction - I root for Smokescreen because I had him as a kid. I watch episodes waiting for Sunstreaker to have lines. But I'm here caring for guys I've never even set eyes on because they're so well-written. Together with the off-hand mentions of Fan Favourites (c. Dreamwave around 2003 when real people stopped buying their comics) like Grimlock, Jazz and Swindle it keeps tension high.

- Sixshot gets utterly humiliated. I always love it when this happens (unless I'm remembering disproportionately, this was a minor TMUK staple - at one point Cliffjumper beat him up). He's the biggest paper tiger in Transformers history, and as a result any half-decent writer should leave him looking like an absolute tit.
inflatable dalek wrote:But as a whole, it just doesn't work as a novel. Nightbeat is the only character who gets a proper throughline from begining to end and is in any way changed by the experience.
Isn't that enough? To me, that makes it a book rather than a rogue fanfic. It's the story of Nightbeat told through the Eugenesis Wars, not some wet-brained Sunbow/Marvel homage where lines are doled out because, hey, Cliffjumper hasn't done anything for, like, three chapters.

I also think it's intentional. One of the running themes is that the Transformers never change, or at least not for very long. By the end of the book the truce is becoming brittle despite the cataclysmic events of the story; factions are back in bases, Autobot City's still being closed down and many of the casualites are back in business. It's like the end of the Unicron war all over again (and let's be honest with ourselves here - the sole reason Scorponok and Prime aren't repaired there are for dramatic reasons).
Another possible one is how Prowl is written. Oddly he seems far more like the later Dreamwave/IDW version than the capable, strong willed and clearly passionate (chasing Battlecharges halfway across America because he's pissed off) Marvel version.
I thought the book made it a little too explicit that he's nature's 2IC and that he's swiftly overwhelmed by a responsibility he only thought he wanted (or that Grimlock only thought he wanted; loved the fact the that particular worthy but utterly mined out character was only in about one scene); once Rodimus is blown up he unravels rapidly.

It's worth noting most of the IDW Megatron/Prime stuff I read is outright cribbed from TMUK work ("The Bubble", IIRC).
P.R.I.M.U.S. on the other hand (as well as Prime's speech just before) really makes it for me. The fairly trite gods thing from the comics and what it's become with Hasbro's multiverse concept hold Transformers back as kidfic -- whereas having in-story religion built on fragments of truth, schisms and different takes rounds out the backstory and offers harder science fiction.
I find Primus and Unicron worked well as a "...the ****?" dive-bombed into a kids' comic advertising plastic transforming robots which usually only had one big fat leg. The problem comes with all the stuff grafted onto it since, including Furman's inability to leave any good idea he has alone until everyone's completely ****ing sick of it (Hi, Grimlock! Hi, Selfdoubtimus Prime! Hi, shitty IDW comics!). P.R.I.M.U.S. was a nice antidote to that, even if the execution was perhaps lacking a bit

Did TMUK actually take BW/BM at face value, or did they cannibalise it a la RiD/Armada? I remember reading Graham Thomson's (brutal, bleak) post-BM stories, but they didn't really address it.
What held my interest in Primus as a "god" in the comics wasn't so much the epic scale (though as a kid that really helps) but that he/it's fallible, less-than-pure and all-in-all an ancient, powerful but delusional alien force capable of creating life... which isn't far from Roberts' spin on things.
The Xaaron/Primus always felt a little bit more like a Dr. Frankenstein-style character than a God to me, whether by default or design. He's build these guys to do what he says and seems a little taken aback by the fact they've grown and won't just mindlessly do as he says.

I like the idea of a slightly apocryphal origin corrupted by the years (it reminds me of the bit in Miracleman where instead of telling us where he and Aza Chorn get the power they need from we're presented with four different sects' myths). In retrospect it's a bit mental the various parties told the origin by Unicron/the Keeper just take it at absolute face value, because obviously the people telling it are 100% trustworthy and have no vested interests at all. That Primus and Unicron are presented as immutable fact surely makes them less than gods anyway? You can't 'believe' in a god if he's asleep in the middle of your planet with his big useless multicoloured face sitting there.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:12 pm

Cliffjumper wrote: - Several pages of the Quintesson (the Quint names just didn't stick) expounding on P.R.I.M.U.S. and the like was tediously done, IMHO - the idea that Ultra Magnus and Galvatron would stand in silence in a collapsing base on a dying planet listen to a Quint ramble on about some alternate origin for Transformers just wasn't credible in the way it was told.
The fact they ultimately don't care doesn't help either, after all he doesn't have any proof of what he's saying, is clearly bonkers by the end and Quintessons have a tendency to lie anyway. He's no more likely to particualrly sway the religious beliefs of Magnus and Galvatron in the long term than the mad man with the placards who shouts outside Smith's is going to affect my atheism.

- Death's Head. He felt like he was parachuted into the story and only seemed to be mentioned when it suited the plot to mention him. He's superbly written in terms of capturing the tone of the character - specifically the bastard who turned up in Transformers rather than the watered-down anti-hero of his own series (and I'm not just talking about the DHII shit; the DH of his own series is a shadow of the scary ****er who blew Bumblebee to bits, chumming around with the Fantastic 4, Iron Man and some dwarf cosplaying at Sylvester McCoy), but in terms of the narrative he's an indulgence. Hard to begrudge it, though.
Though in fairness, DH is only really that bastard in his first appearance, ironically for something that adds so much to the mythos a large part of the Legacy arc is revamping him into a character who can carry his own series.
- My Christ can Roberts write Optimus Prime. Simon Furman can't, or at least hasn't been able to for a long, long time. Roberts manages what few others have for any great length of time - to make Prime utterly awesome and believable at the same time. Like Bay (yes, Michael ****ing Bay) he shows us why Prime's so great in the first place, but this time the format means we can see inside his head a bit - the conversations with Nightbeat especially.
Yep, despite my reservations with how the other characters react to him, he's exceptionally well written, with some of the best "In his head" writing he's ever got. Arguably him being much more shocked by 2012 Autobots than he was/will be by 1985 Autobots doesn't really gel with the idea the Transformers don't change very much, that culture shock and disgust is still well handled.

But...
I adored, adored the idea of post-People Power Prime being this clone, because to me that's largely when the character has been its' most... irritating. Not bad, because he's three-dimensional. But time hasn't been kind to the self-doubting, neuroses-stricken ineffectual whiner of the 1990s, as dated as Sunbow's strutting moral slave, and TBH the revelation that Furman hadn't evolved him one bit played a big part in turning me off the IDW comics. If nothing else, TF:P and the films have understood what he means to TF fans, and here Roberts understands it too. And then he gives him emotional depth to match his grandeur and still doesn't turn him into a whiny bitch.
I really thought this attitude on the parts of the Autobots made no sense at all. Why wouldn't they regard PM Prime (and indeed, HQ Prime as well, which would technically be a third under the theory the book works on, but doesn't get a mention) as the real deal? As said, the Autobots have previous had no problem with copying minds, but regardless or whether or not the P.R.I.M.U.S. thing is true or not, they tend to regard themselves as having some form of immortal soul which presumably got carried over between Prime's (which would be backed up by the Matrix working for both of them equally well).

Also, PM Prime had by far the more impressive record. The original managed to hold off Megatron for a while before disappearing in an ambush that ultimately led to the Decepticons left on Cybertron winning the planet, and then died in a pretty much stupid way almost immediately after he turned out to be alive after all. Post resurrection Prime on the other hand, almost single handedly saved the entire race twice, single handedly turned the tide at the 2005 Autobot City battle and along the way killed the devil and God. If they are different characters, he's the one you'd want in your corner more.

I also don't think there's a real difference in how PM Prime and the original were written, just more a difference in how Bob and Furman wrote the character. The inrospective doubtful version tends to show up in the UK stuff more before Furman went to the US book (Prey, and pre-Furman Crisis of Command).

- Sixshot gets utterly humiliated. I always love it when this happens (unless I'm remembering disproportionately, this was a minor TMUK staple - at one point Cliffjumper beat him up). He's the biggest paper tiger in Transformers history, and as a result any half-decent writer should leave him looking like an absolute tit.
I think the reason Sixshot's characterisation worked for me, is that this was before the character became over exposed (or indeed, in terms of Western fiction, pretty much exposed at all). Done today, this would feel like a really over forced gag, and a very easy target. Like shooting cyber ducks in a barrel.


Isn't that enough? To me, that makes it a book rather than a rogue fanfic. It's the story of Nightbeat told through the Eugenesis Wars, not some wet-brained Sunbow/Marvel homage where lines are doled out because, hey, Cliffjumper hasn't done anything for, like, three chapters.
I'd have no problem with a book that's evenly split between the Nightbeat plot and "day in the life" style subplots if they were handled better, but most do get that same resolution of just killing the characters involved before they get anywhere. Sixshot is brilliant, but his cowardice gets no pay off. And that's one of the better examples as at least his stuff is an excuse for the main Decepticon forces to hold back till their needed.

I think the most pointless thing in the whole book is that Universe hopping character. We get several paragraphs on him and his technobabble before he's completely forgotten about (I don't even think he gets a death does he?). I suppose it could be argued Roberts was setting up a clever double bluff there to make the reader think this wasn't going to be the real reality, but as with the people going on about the cliffhanger and its resolution to MTMTE 1 as if it was intentionally clever comedy rather than a crap cop out I'm not convinced.
It's like the end of the Unicron war all over again (and let's be honest with ourselves here - the sole reason Scorponok and Prime aren't repaired there are for dramatic reasons).
I think comparisons to the Marvel (or even regular TFUK issues) stuff aren't completely right, because the medium is different. The comic was an ongoing narrative with a new issue every month/week, having long running over arching plots that don't always fully intersect is far more workable in that format. A one off novel has a different format, and I don't think Roberts fully gets that here. Which is why I do think a large part of it would have worked better as separate TFUK stories rather than a novel.
I like the idea of a slightly apocryphal origin corrupted by the years (it reminds me of the bit in Miracleman where instead of telling us where he and Aza Chorn get the power they need from we're presented with four different sects' myths). In retrospect it's a bit mental the various parties told the origin by Unicron/the Keeper just take it at absolute face value, because obviously the people telling it are 100% trustworthy and have no vested interests at all. That Primus and Unicron are presented as immutable fact surely makes them less than gods anyway? You can't 'believe' in a god if he's asleep in the middle of your planet with his big useless multicoloured face sitting there.
It's not helped by it always being a bit confusing over whether or not anyone knew about any of this stuff beforehand, was it a shocking and amazing revelation or something they already have a full religion formed around with monks and cults involved?

So, with you pretty much having loved everything you've read by Roberts now, are you more inclined to give his ongoing a try, or is the shadow of IDW in general still too strong over it?
REVIISITATION: THE HOLE TRUTH
STARSCREAM GOES TO PIECES IN MY LOOK AT INFILTRATION #6!
PLUS: BUY THE BOOKS!

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Post by Cliffjumper » Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:02 pm

inflatable dalek wrote:Though in fairness, DH is only really that bastard in his first appearance, ironically for something that adds so much to the mythos a large part of the Legacy arc is revamping him into a character who can carry his own series.
He's still a huge git in "Headhunt", even if it would have been nice to have Dinobots and Wreckers rather than generics waiting for him in the Autobase. While he is turning in Legay, he's still miles away from the superhero who asks for money every now and then (like the way Wolverine threatens people every now and then but hardly ever actually kills anyone) of the solo material. DH's TF appearances are pretty much about the only ones that are any good, though at least the solo series got Arno another airing and allowed Geoff to draw the F4 (every time I read that issue I'm amazed he never got a big US gig).

[qoute]As said, the Autobots have previous had no problem with copying minds[/quote]

Haven't they? We don't know either way how they treat Skids & co, and anyway they were duplicated by Cybertronian technology which is probably more advanced than Ethan Zachary's massive disc.
Post resurrection Prime on the other hand, almost single handedly saved the entire race twice, single handedly turned the tide at the 2005 Autobot City battle and along the way killed the devil and God. If they are different characters, he's the one you'd want in your corner more.
Prime V2's main ability is to attract Furman's plot devices like flies to a turd. The first one stopped Megatron's advance without resorting to Matrix magic. Prime V2's G2 attempts to surrender to anyone going are borderline embarrassing, and he's incredibly lucky cards fall his way (like the way the generic Cybertronians Megatron attacks are 10-15 times more powerful than the ones the Autobots have been butchering).
I also don't think there's a real difference in how PM Prime and the original were written, just more a difference in how Bob and Furman wrote the character. The inrospective doubtful version tends to show up in the UK stuff more before Furman went to the US book (Prey, and pre-Furman Crisis of Command).
Only on occasion and it's swiftly catharised, generally by beating up everyone going instead of pacing around the Ark and trying to reason with any mental evil git who he comes across.
I think the reason Sixshot's characterisation worked for me, is that this was before the character became over exposed (or indeed, in terms of Western fiction, pretty much exposed at all). Done today, this would feel like a really over forced gag, and a very easy target. Like shooting cyber ducks in a barrel.
Mmm, agree there - I read the TMUK stuff when all he'd really done that I'd seen was the single scene in The Rebirth. Today though it doesn't bother me - IDW and Headmasters don't count for any more than the Ladybird books or someone else's fanfic.
Sixshot is brilliant, but his cowardice gets no pay off.
I'm not sure what payoff is really needed - he's a coward pretending he's got a strategy, and gets rumbled by Soundwave and killed off in three seconds flat. Personally I thought it was a nice subversion of the early possibility of a Scorponok-style "No! I AM hardcore!" comeback
I suppose it could be argued Roberts was setting up a clever double bluff there to make the reader think this wasn't going to be the real reality
Personally I thought that was exactly the intention, to link in with Prime as well. Throwback gives a possible out for either killing or keeping Prime (as a general note, when I say Prime, I mean Optimus; if I say Hot Rod, I mean Rodimus).
So, with you pretty much having loved everything you've read by Roberts now, are you more inclined to give his ongoing a try, or is the shadow of IDW in general still too strong over it?
Nope. I wouldn't join the BNP if David Bowie did, so I'm not buying IDW comics just because Roberts write for them. IDW are a cancer on Transformers, and anyone buying their comics is part of the problem, bluntly. And it's basically fanfic in a universe I find to be stale, pretentious and built on poor foundations - I wouldn't read a comic continuing the cartoon or Cybertron or Animated or Kiss Players, I'm not going to read one continuing IDW's shit-stain of a continuity. I've a whole disc of TMUK I need to start making inroads into; that'll keep my Roberts fix ticking over nicely.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:10 pm

Just finished my second read through due to it being set now (if anyone's a fast reader and wants to join in the book ends on January 3rd).

Improved hugely on a second reading. Indeed for something I first read less than a year ago the amount of extra detail that didn't click the last time round is rather shameful. For starters, Centurion is in a lot more of the book than I remembered, sure he doesn't wind up with the central role the time and effort put into his recovery suggests he'll get (considering most of his bits just require someone who misses Earth it could just as easily be Hound doing his stuff) but he's often there as a sounding board for other characters when they need someone to talk to. His rooftop chat with Sygnet is especially lovely.

The P.R.I.M.U.S and "The 84-87 Prime was the best one" stuff still doesn't really work for me.

The latter especially in light of my current rereading of the early Marvel stuff where Prime is more than a bit rubbish (scores on the door: First arc day saved by Sparkplug; Enemy Within- Ignores Mirage completely until the last second and decides the best way for Brawn to prove he's not a killer is to have him try and kill Starscream; Raiders: Megatron is the more proactive of them in trying to get out of Aunties trap and then Windcharger has to solve all the problems whilst Prime watches; Second US arc day saved by Buster and Prime doesn't even bother to mention where he's put the Matrix to Ratchet when they're alone. I think Man of Iron is the only "real" story he's shown up in that doesn't make him look as least as weak and useless as PM Prime could be argued to be).

This is still, a genuinely top notch book though despite the rough edges here and there.

And in other MTMTE lead ins I spotted: Fulcrum; the Quints wanting to turn their POW's into- amongst other things- missiles- and the conversation about whether it's worth trying to save Prowl if he committed suicide.
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Post by dubbilex » Sun Dec 30, 2012 10:46 pm

I read this for the first time just recently.
inflatable dalek wrote:Improved hugely on a second reading. Indeed for something I first read less than a year ago the amount of extra detail that didn't click the last time round is rather shameful.
Even as someone who read this only once, I'm not the least bit surprised. You could clearly tell this was the sort of story where lots of details would take on new significance in a re-read.

For example, until that one Roberts interview, I completely missed that apparently, if you connect the dots, the story reveals whose body was used to form Straxus' clone Megatron. And I suspect I missed what the connection is between the various Autobots who birthed Quintessons. At least I assume there is one, based on the way Red Alert looked away (IIRC) when it was mentioned that no connection could be found.

For starters, Centurion is in a lot more of the book than I remembered, sure he doesn't wind up with the central role the time and effort put into his recovery suggests he'll get (considering most of his bits just require someone who misses Earth it could just as easily be Hound doing his stuff) but he's often there as a sounding board for other characters when they need someone to talk to. His rooftop chat with Sygnet is especially lovely.
He's sort of a proto-Tailgate, isn't he? His ignorance makes him a useful tool for exposition. I found it interesting how the story constantly elides that he has the mind of an elderly Earthling. If this was your first exposure to him, you'd think he's just an AI. I guess Robert wanted to avoid the whole issue of Furman's continuity snafu.
The P.R.I.M.U.S and "The 84-87 Prime was the best one" stuff still doesn't really work for me.
The P.R.I.M.U.S. stuff was one of my favorite parts. One of the few places the author got to showcase his knack for crazy sci-fi Big Ideas. Though like with so much of the novel, I find myself wondering how much is original and how much is adapted from previous TMUK material, none of which I've read.

For example, I kind of assume that the real Optimus having died in the computer game is a TMUK thing. It's not treated remotely like a revelation, and everyone just acts like it's a given. The whole "Well, *of course* the real Optimus died then" attitude, like it's a debate long ago settled.

I do wonder how 2012 James Roberts feels about the book. I can easily imagine the guy who now scoffs at "grimdark" thinking Eugenesis is all too histrionic and self-important. At one point, wasn't he requesting it be removed from the internet? Maybe that was just for practical/legal considerations now that he's a published TF author, but I can't help but wonder if some embarrassment's involved as well. If you compare the writing here to his text stories in the LSOTW collection, the prose style in those has a much more... casual flavor to it?

Personally, I think some MTMTE-style wit would have benefited the story. One of the stand-out moments is Optimus' surreal PA about Micromasters helping out lost Decepticons, one of the few non-Death's Head comedy bits in the novel.

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Post by Denyer » Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:15 am

Not sure if anything came from James -- it did go away for a while, so I assume someone asked someone, but nothing's been mentioned to me before or since it got restored from backup along with some other files.

Hopefully just a contractual and/or temporary issue... certainly once anything's in digital form the cat is hard to force back into a bag and it'd be a great shame to. Files are always passed between people even if not hosted in parts of the world it's difficult to influence, and that sort of thing isn't much effort to arrange.

It's something I seriously considered either re-typing or doing OCR on photos of (wasn't really up for destroying a copy of the book by scanning) way back when. Artificial scarcity sucks, particularly where it toes into historical revisionism. We aren't the people we were on discovering newsgroups/forums or wherever our first contacts with the net were, but wiping records should be a last resort.

(Insert separate rant about preserving licensed fiction that can't officially be republished due to the melting pot of invisible property rights -- although a little bit's made it back from properties such as Shadowrun and Who, which is nice to see and support.)

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Post by inflatable dalek » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:11 pm

dubbilex wrote: For example, until that one Roberts interview, I completely missed that apparently, if you connect the dots, the story reveals whose body was used to form Straxus' clone Megatron. And I suspect I missed what the connection is between the various Autobots who birthed Quintessons. At least I assume there is one, based on the way Red Alert looked away (IIRC) when it was mentioned that no connection could be found.
Whilst I got the reference to the half rebuilt trooper Blitzwing remembers seeing any hints as to who he actually was whizzed over my head as well.

He's sort of a proto-Tailgate, isn't he? His ignorance makes him a useful tool for exposition. I found it interesting how the story constantly elides that he has the mind of an elderly Earthling. If this was your first exposure to him, you'd think he's just an AI. I guess Robert wanted to avoid the whole issue of Furman's continuity snafu.

Ohhh, Tailgate is a great comparison. Though it also makes Centurion's death seem even more heartless.

With the reference to a story involving a Centurion clone I just assumed Morris got dealt with there. Though with the Ancient Relics version I always liked to think Swoop was a bit of a bastard and never told anyone about Morris and Wheeljack just wound up building a proper AI for him.

For example, I kind of assume that the real Optimus having died in the computer game is a TMUK thing. It's not treated remotely like a revelation, and everyone just acts like it's a given. The whole "Well, *of course* the real Optimus died then" attitude, like it's a debate long ago settled.
Whatever the source I can see why Roberts went with it- A Prime who has been dead for a quarter century (and, as he barely ever got off Earth most Autobots wouldn't have seen in 4 million years) is bound to have more of a dramatic impact than one who has only been dead for six years. I just wasn't so keen on how it was done.
I do wonder how 2012 James Roberts feels about the book. I can easily imagine the guy who now scoffs at "grimdark" thinking Eugenesis is all too histrionic and self-important. At one point, wasn't he requesting it be removed from the internet? Maybe that was just for practical/legal considerations now that he's a published TF author, but I can't help but wonder if some embarrassment's involved as well. If you compare the writing here to his text stories in the LSOTW collection, the prose style in those has a much more... casual flavor to it?
Foolishly and like a proper fanboy at this years AA I just went off at him about what I thought of the book rather than asking what he felt about it now. But I do know at the first AA he attended he had a very dog eared copy of the book on his desk, almost like a security blanket to protect him from crazy fans (I am not a crazy fan).

Whatever he might feel he'd do differently now I suspect he's still very proud about having done it. And of course, it's been a source of inspiration for an awful lot of his current work (hardly surprising as he was clearly assuming it was going to be his last great statement on Transformers and put just about every idea in his head in there).

He did talk at one point about trying for some sort of official release for it, but I can see why that's faltered. Whilst I can see IDW being fine with backing an Ebook version as a small scale vanity project I don't think they have the rights to prose Transformers fiction, and whoever does currently publish the books is likely to be less than keen considering the reaction to the last TF book full of violence and swearing that tied into one of the comic Universes. Not to mention getting Hasbro approval and having to rewrite it to remove Marvel owned things like Death's Head and the Savage Land.
Personally, I think some MTMTE-style wit would have benefited the story. One of the stand-out moments is Optimus' surreal PA about Micromasters helping out lost Decepticons, one of the few non-Death's Head comedy bits in the novel.
I loved the bit where he gets confused about handshakes (and the image of Galvatron and Magnus cos-playing as Waverider is hilarious).

Actually, I was critical about the swearing in my first post, but on this reread I that was all from characters who've spent a good chunk of time on Earth. Along with things like the handshakes it's all part of the idea they've been changed by their time on the planet and in that context it works much better.

I think the ending is much more optimistic than I thought at first as well. For all the talk about things being the same and the war being likely to go on, the unexpected surrvival of Nightbeat and especially Prowl shows things don't always go as expected and there is some hope for the future.

I don't know what TFUK did after this, but it does feel like the set up here could easily lead into the period of peace that existed before Beast Wars (which I suppose we do get hammered over the head a bit too heavily with at one point when Hound and Ratchet are talking about what might come next and their time being done).

EDIT: Oh, and with the constant descriptions of Prime being a giant did anyone else picture him as the Barry Kitson-twice-the-size-of-Grimlock version?
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Post by dubbilex » Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:04 pm

inflatable dalek wrote:Whatever he might feel he'd do differently now I suspect he's still very proud about having done it.
Oh, no doubt, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. Whatever my problems with the story, its an undertaking on a scale that hasn't been matched before or since. He really ought to be proud.
Not to mention getting Hasbro approval and having to rewrite it to remove Marvel owned things like Death's Head and the Savage Land.
Plus, since he wrote it before there was any contract, it'd be impossible to classify as work-for-hire. I could see that giving Hasbro hives.

Huh, now I wonder what would happen if he tried to port someone like Sygnet into MTMTE. Not just the name but the full character. Assuming Hasbro even realizes it (which is perhaps a big assumption), would they let him?
I loved the bit where he gets confused about handshakes (and the image of Galvatron and Magnus cos-playing as Waverider is hilarious).
That actually reminds me of something that bugged me. Did it seem to anyone else like the prose frequently forgets that group is supposed to be wearing shells?
I think the ending is much more optimistic than I thought at first as well. For all the talk about things being the same and the war being likely to go on, the unexpected surrvival of Nightbeat and especially Prowl shows things don't always go as expected and there is some hope for the future.


Did you read the version that included Telefunken? Man, that was a weird thing to include with the novel. Spoilers for Telefunken:
SPOILER! (select to read)
Including it made the ending so schizophrenic. First it's all "Maybe there's hope for the future after all," then suddenly "What were you smoking? Haha, everything went horribly awry afterward."
Incidentally, what was with that glowing figure-eight in Longtooth's quarters? I mean, yeah, the Quintessons abducted him, but why's there a glowing figure-eight? I kept expecting *some* explanation.

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Post by Death's Head » Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:42 pm

Did you read the version that included Telefunken? Man, that was a weird thing to include with the novel.
Telefunken (a brilliant story) was the prologue to a fanzine series called "The Prime Sacrifice"that reached three issues before being stalling, though the events of future issues are still considered to have occurred. My own claim to fame regarding that is that I scripted the second issue, "Fly Me to the Moon", illustrated by a certain Nick Roche. My claim to shame is that issue #4 was scripted by James Roberts, to be illustrated by myself, but I dragged my heels for far too long and the project sort of fell apart for reasons I now forget. :(

The future that 'Telefunken' introduced was well-mined by text fanfics, however. I produced quite a few set in this era where a brutal, fascistic Star Saber rules over a cowed cyberpunk-inspired Cybertron, as did many others, culminating in the return of the one true Optimus Prime and the rise of Shockaract as well as the conclusion of the Beast Warrior's tale in Graham Thomson's "Globequake" and "Following Earth".

Ah, three whisky macs into new year's eve and already I'm reminiscing - someone pass me a towel. And another drink!
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Post by Death's Head » Mon Dec 31, 2012 7:49 pm

Actually, I missed this...
And I suspect I missed what the connection is between the various Autobots who birthed Quintessons
It was Decepticons as well, and the answers can be found here....
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Post by inflatable dalek » Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:03 am

dubbilex wrote:Oh, no doubt, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. Whatever my problems with the story, its an undertaking on a scale that hasn't been matched before or since. He really ought to be proud.
Oh absolutely, and the whole TMUK thing does amaze me slightly in and of itself. Fan fiction has existed since... oh, at least Star Trek (certainly many of the standard fan fic terms originate with Trek, such as Mary Sue and Slash).

But, what those guys did in the '90's, before real widespread internet access and easy rapidfire instant communication between authors, is fairly amazing. The various writers managed to work together and create a shared fictional Universe in their free time without pay that by all accounts seems to have gelled pretty well. IDW have trouble doing that now.

To a certain extent, by being published close to the start of the century when that sort of mass communication became easier, Eugenesis does represent an end of an era in and of itself. Presumably many hands helped set up the book and a lot of coordination went along to keep all the various bits of fiction pulling in the same direction (because it must have had a hell of a lead in time), after that the potential for doing a shared fan Universe gets a lot, lot easier.

Plus, the ad in the back of the last issue of the UK G2 is the first time I was aware of a Fandom with a capital F. Even if it would be another decade before I joined it.


Huh, now I wonder what would happen if he tried to port someone like Sygnet into MTMTE. Not just the name but the full character. Assuming Hasbro even realizes it (which is perhaps a big assumption), would they let him?
I suspect that horse has already bolted. Technically, the very very stupid Spinster in MTMTE is, officially, the same character as the smart Mayhem Attack member trying to protect his friend Needlenose in the Marvel stuff. Or the gibbering broken idiot in the Dreamwave Armada comic.

So what makes Fulcrum the missile in MTMTE any different from Fulcrum the assistant doctor in Eugenesis? Or Rung the Decepticon psychiatrist from Rung the Autobot psychiatrist? Quark could actually be the same character in both Universes, all he really did in MTMTE was have Nightbeat talk at him.

IDW and/or Hasbro are either fine with it or don't know, Roberts presumably wouldn't try to pull any sort of stunt now ("Ha, I actually created Quark so I demand a royalty payment every time that issue is reprinted!). The only real potential sticking point would be if he's reused any characters or ideas created by other people prior to his book, and that's likely more of a morally dubious area than one anyone could easily sue over.

EDIT: Though I've got the faith that if any of the character names or ideas that have crossed over into official fiction with Roberts were created by other people, it's been done with their OK.

That actually reminds me of something that bugged me. Did it seem to anyone else like the prose frequently forgets that group is supposed to be wearing shells?
I think that's what made it work though. You couldn't do that as a comic, the constant visual would make it really, really hard to take the (presuambly) straight faced talk about P.R.I.M.U.S seriously. In prose the idea is put in your mind, and it's still there throughout, but it's not going to distract from the important stuff however funny it is.
Did you read the version that included Telefunken? Man, that was a weird thing to include with the novel. Spoilers for Telefunken:
SPOILER! (select to read)
Including it made the ending so schizophrenic. First it's all "Maybe there's hope for the future after all," then suddenly "What were you smoking? Haha, everything went horribly awry afterward."
I see that's on the page with the other PDF's now, but I don't recall hearing of it before, so it likely wasn't there a year ago. Time for a download.

One thing that is worth mentioning for anyone who hasn't seen the physical book [And I'm guessing Denyer and- possibly- Death's Head are the only people here who might have actually read one?]... It's a bloody big bugger. I know that's fairly obvious when you're reading it on your Kindle/Other EReaders Are Available but I don't think the reality of exactly how chunky it is really sinks in unless you've looked at the book. Especially as it's not an oversized paperback of the sort most are there days. It's not so tall you couldn't fit it in your pocket. You'd just need Combat Colin's pocket to do it.
Incidentally, what was with that glowing figure-eight in Longtooth's quarters? I mean, yeah, the Quintessons abducted him, but why's there a glowing figure-eight? I kept expecting *some* explanation.
in fiction I just took it as the side effect of a teleport. In terms of deeper authorial meaning... It just sounded cool. And Quints have more than a bit of the octopus about them so it may have been playing that up as well.
Death's Head wrote: My claim to shame is that issue #4 was scripted by James Roberts, to be illustrated by myself, but I dragged my heels for far too long and the project sort of fell apart for reasons I now forget. :(

Well there you go. Because of you, instead of writing fan fiction Roberts had to go off and get an official job on the franchise where he's had to endure the love of millions (mainly me).

I hope you're happy with yourself.
The future that 'Telefunken' introduced was well-mined by text fanfics, however. I produced quite a few set in this era where a brutal, fascistic Star Saber rules over a cowed cyberpunk-inspired Cybertron, as did many others, culminating in the return of the one true Optimus Prime and the rise of Shockaract as well as the conclusion of the Beast Warrior's tale in Graham Thomson's "Globequake" and "Following Earth".
Every time Eugenesis comes up in a thread, someone will mention Globequake sooner or later. That's really one I have to read as well at some point because it seems to be regarded on the same level (indeed, IIRC I've seen a couple of people say its better).

With my only knowledge of the TMUK stuff coming from the book, I can easily see Star Sabre as an out and out bastard. Returning Optimus after such a fuss was made of it being utterly impossible to bring the real McCoy back to life under any circumstances must have been a bugger though.
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Post by dubbilex » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:13 am

Death's Head wrote:It was Decepticons as well, and the answers can be found here....
Ah, interesting. Thank you! Out of curiosity, what was the name of the story that established all that? (And it's too bad that the typo listing Hound among the birthers muddies the waters.)

You know, it's a shame no one ever did detailed annotations for the book, showing all the little references and connections to other stories, both Marvel publications and fanfics. Even as someone who found the book merely "okay" -- though with moments that truly shined -- I'd kill for something like that. I think its because the story's sheer intricacy and eye for detail is so impressive that you can't help but marvel at it, and knowing all the connections would just let you appreciate that quality all the more.

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Post by dubbilex » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:35 am

inflatable dalek wrote:I suspect that horse has already bolted. Technically, the very very stupid Spinster in MTMTE is, officially, the same character as the smart Mayhem Attack member trying to protect his friend Needlenose in the Marvel stuff. Or the gibbering broken idiot in the Dreamwave Armada comic.

So what makes Fulcrum the missile in MTMTE any different from Fulcrum the assistant doctor in Eugenesis? Or Rung the Decepticon psychiatrist from Rung the Autobot psychiatrist? Quark could actually be the same character in both Universes, all he really did in MTMTE was have Nightbeat talk at him.
Yeah, but the fact that the Spinisters all look the same makes it impossible to argue they're unrelated. Neither Quark's appearance in the Eugenesis comic prologue or his description in the novel are anything like MTMTE Quark's. Nor does he change into a microscope. He's not a scientist. The only thing they share is a name, and that name's just a pre-existing word in the English language. Ditto all that for Fulcrum. Rung, I'll grant you, but he was just a blink-and-you'll-miss-it name drop, more reference than character.

If Roberts were to bring in a developed character like Sygnet -- same alt mode, appearance, same personality and history with Wheeljack -- that might be a different story.
I think that's what made it work though. You couldn't do that as a comic, the constant visual would make it really, really hard to take the (presuambly) straight faced talk about P.R.I.M.U.S seriously. In prose the idea is put in your mind, and it's still there throughout, but it's not going to distract from the important stuff however funny it is.
I'm referring to moments like this: "Death’s Head wrenched the Decepticon’s arm from its socket. It dissolved the moment it hit the
water. ‘Now we’re even, yes?’" I can't picture how that would work if Galvatron's still in a Pretender shell.

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Post by Denyer » Tue Jan 01, 2013 12:15 pm

Presumably the shell's like a wetsuit, but isn't necessarily impermeable in both directions. And once it's broken you've got a floppy skin that no longer contains an arm, at best.
inflatable dalek wrote:it likely wasn't there a year ago
2007. It's also in the 2001 book. On that note, IIRC (I can dig back into email if really wanted) there are minor differences between the print edition and those files.

edit: 559 numbered pages, and the same thickness as an old copy of LoTR that was printed on much thinner paper than 'modern' books and has 1077. Thinner stock than something like Voice of the Fire, which is only about 300 pages but almost as wide.

Will take snaps of the original foreword, etc. if of any interest.

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