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The Transformers Movie Prequel Reviewed by: Sunstar Edited by: Thunderscream
Ghosts of Yesterday By: Alan Dean Foster. Based on a story written by David Cain

Ghosts of Yesterday Back Cover Ghosts of Yesterday Front Cover

Ghosts of Yesterday, written by Alan Dean Foster, is the prequel book to the 2007 live-action Transformers movie, dealing with the events that bring the Autobots and Decepticons to Earth. The novel introduces most of the characters who would appear in the film, some with familiar names and others whose names are brand new.

In 1969, with the world's attention focused on the Apollo 11 voyage, a secret government organisation called Sector Seven launches its own ship, Ghost One from a secret base somewhere in the Arctic, well hidden from any aerial surveillance of the day. It is this uncharted location where something interesting, ancient and highly advanced is kept, something considered so inherently dangerous that Sector Seven uses every precaution to keep it frozen: the Ice Man.

The Ghost One is created from technology taken and reversed engineered from this frozen mechanoid creation. The ship's technology is so advanced that even those who designed and engineered the vessel barely understand what it can do. Even the crew - Captain Sam Walker, Executive Officer Jacob Thompson, Science Officer Michael Avery, and Communications Officer Maria Gonzalas - don't even know the technology's limits. The mission is simple, at least on paper: slingshot around the sun in order to gain enough speed to reach Jupiter in a reasonable amount of time and check to see if there is an invasion force of "Ice Men" amassed beyond the solar system. However, during the slingshot phase, the ship is sucked into a wormhole and spat out on the other side, somewhere in deep space.

It isn't long before the Ghost One attracts what could be considered unwanted attention. Nearby, the Decepticon transport Nemesis is cruising through the area when it picks up a faint Decepticon signature in the vicinity. The readings worry the ship's commander, Starscream as it may mean trouble for him. The Decepticons' commander, Megatron, has been missing for aeons and the readings might mean he's back. Starscream has been commanding the Decepticons in Megatron's absence, in his own, vainglorious manner and he's not real eager to relinquish that power. But his worry turns to curiosity upon closer inspection of the Ghost One; the ship clearly uses Cybertronian technology, but the design is horrendously primitive by modern Decepticon standards, yet strangely familiar.

Also in the area is a small Autobot ship named the Ark, commanded by Optimus Prime and crewed by four others. They have also detected the Ghost One and identified it as Decepticon. They remain on alert as the ship activates is defence systems, but they're puzzled by the way it's acting. It does not behave in a manner indicative of what they know about the Decepticons. Further scans reveal something startling; the ship contains organic life forms.

Back on Earth, Sector Seven has become concerned. Ghost One is two hours overdue for their check-in after what was supposed to be a six-hour communications blackout, the length of time the ship should have taken to complete its slingshot run. Finally, they receive a message from the ship, but the communication is not one they would have liked to receive. Ghost One is lost somewhere outside the Solar System, possibly outside the galaxy, and they have made contact with an alien race that might be the Ice Man's relatives and are requesting instructions. Sector Seven is at a lost as to what to do nextů

I have been a bit sceptical about the movie since the character designs were leaked and remained so when I first picked up this book. I admit to being pleasantly surprised by how well the characters were portrayed, especially those Transformers characters with canon names. I could almost hear the voices of the characters I've been familiar with since G1 in the writing, especially the wheedling voice of Starscream. One could easily imagine Chris Latta speaking in the infamous tone as Starscream as he speaks and laughs. His portrayal was very close to the smooth talking, deceptive character fans might be familiar with, particularly as he befriends and then betrays the crew of the Ghost One. These characterizations might not ease the worries and doubts of many hardcore Generation One fans, but it should peek their interest.

The book borrows several elements from popular science fiction series, particularly Star Trek and Farscape. Of particular interest to me was the author's exploration of Decepticon culture, something few series in the history of the franchise have explored, particularly the aspect concerning leadership. In this novel, Starscream's orders and leadership is constantly being challenged, particularly by Blackout, one of the new characters created for the movie. It's an interesting and amusing role reversal for Starscream, who was in Blackout's position in the original animated series. It does suggest that, like a wolf pack or Star Trek's Klingons, leadership challenges are an accepted facet of Decepticon culture, ensuring that only the best and strongest lead.

The book basically creates a small skirmish that will have repercussions later when the movie opens, perhaps even on a galactic scale. There are other aspects of the novel I did not cover, such as events back on earth involving the "Ice Man." It's also not entirely clear how the book relates to IDW's prequel comic series, but that may become clear as that series progresses. In the meantime, pick up Ghosts of Yesterday from the bookstore or your local library; I highly recommend it.