Spores, Molds, and Fungus

Pop Culture Miscellania


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If I Ran the Zoo
exedore
incisivis
Well, now I have physical copies of all the Sentinels novels, and End of the Circle, and have re-read them all. I’m not going to tell you what I paid for them, though I do wonder, if nearly all the Robotech fans hated them, where are all the used copies that I could have grabbed cheap. Eh?

Being that I seem to be mostly alone in liking the Sentinels novels, I sometimes wonder if I've missed something in them, but, no, still enjoyable.

I posted once that the real reason I liked the Sentinels was because it did more with my favourite parts of the series than any other thing, therefore I wasn’t “really” a Sentinels fan as a whole. But you know, at least as far as the novels go, I mostly found its direction and concepts satisfying. Highly dubious science and highly uncreative aliens, but you know, I liked it. It was fun. It reminded me of the third season of the Transformers cartoons, with the main difference being that with the Sentinels, it was the older characters that I liked.

I don’t expect Robotech to be of any high quality, and I’m sick of hearing “Robotech can’t be [fill in blank]” or “Robotech can’t have [fill in blank]”. Why not?, I keep thinking. Why not? True, when I re-describe certain events to myself, they sound ridiculous, but in context, when reading, I found them mostly gripping. Even when reading them off my damn computer screen.



I’ll try not to cover the same ground as I’ve done in my past reviews. You know why I like the Sentinels novels: they give the Zentraedi a past and a future, and a makeover and story arc for Exedore which does not suck (which seemed like a gift from above, after I’d slogged through the Shadow storyline and Macross 7). It gave me Kazianna Hesh, the first female Zentraedi that I found likable, and Lantas, whom I have had great fun shipping with Exedore, tailoring it more to meet the personalities of the characters rather than convention. (I’m not done with them yet)

That last act, I might owe to the novels, not just for putting Lantas into the story, but for this line:

Exedore couldn't get over the two of them, sitting there like living-room hosts. He was aware of just how far he had moved away from his own conditioning; but there were areas where Breetai had surpassed him, emotional realms he might never experience. He was glad for his former commander nonetheless, and in some ways envied him his newfound treasure.

And in the next book, we’re briefly introduced to a female scientist clone who is said to take a protective attitude towards Exedore and his creator, Cabell. Lantas only gets one generic line, but, this opportunity was too good to pass up, once I made enough of a peace with the squick factor.

How well things worked out for Exedore are more of a surprise when some of the choices made for more popular canon characters are far more dubious than his story, and that a few of the epigraphs for the canon-based novels, and of course The Zentraedi Rebellion, make the character look harsh and contemptuous. I tried to work some of that aspect into my fanfics, so I wouldn’t feel as though I was treating Exedore as perfect or a woobie, but they are still jarring in comparsion to the Sentinels novels

With all that I enjoy, that’s not to say I don’t find flaws in the novels. There are hell of plenty, both the justifiable and the more personal.

The more and more I read them, the more I think Minmei should not ever have been involved in the Sentinels storyline. She doesn’t seem to have grown at all, and indulges in pointless anguish over her singing. Minmei should have been left in cameos at the beginning and end. I would have noticed earlier, but the fact is I just didn’t care, after the initial flash of annoyance at of her going up and being caught in the spacefold.

We don’t need Minmei’s songs to have a literal power: even as I accepted all the other stuff, that seemed incredibly far-fetched, and an asinine way for the Zentraedi to be mowed down--even if I appreciated the perversity of it. Minmei as a siren of song instead of an ordinary pop singer didn’t work in the Macross continuity and it doesn’t work here. And it’s disappointing for her to end up the Eve of a new universe, because it suggests that away from everything is the only place that Minmei can be happy.

From a fan-pleasing viewpoint, I don’t see why she’s there, either. Isn’t it the Macross Minmei that everybody’s drooling over?

With Minmei gone, a lot of the more skeevy aspects of T.R. Edwards are removed, since most of what makes him scary comes from how he treats Minmei, acts which have some very unpleasant real-world connotations. Edwards is like a combination of Snidely Whiplash and Caligula, and even though I’d like for him to have some compelling motivations, and reasons why anybody would give such an obvious nutbag a job of any kind, I wouldn’t throw out his power-hungry craziness, but make it more of a slipping mask, combined with insanity from being touched by the Invid brain.

(Speaking of masks, lose the Breetai-knockoff faceplate, please. We don’t need you to hate Rick for any reason, especially something that stupid, because, you are already enough of a douchebag/threat)

Unfortunately, the designs for the Sentinels aliens, as depicted in the Waltrip comic books, have invaded my brain space. The Karbarrans looked a lot cooler inside my head, I can tell you that right now, and somehow, seeing all of them visualized increases their ridiculousness, instead of when I was left to my own devices and somehow most if it passed me by.

(Though I like the idea of green Garudans, because it makes me think of them somehow carrying psychotropic plant life of their world with them, like algae grows on a tree sloth)

But aliens so obviously based on, real animals don’t have to be a washout, if they come packed with a developed culture, compelling characterization, and creative concepts. The ur-example for me is C.J. Cherry’s hani, and while Sentinels aliens aren’t on the level of C.J. Cherryh’s creations, but they compensate decently in regards to their non-visual aspects. Just fix them up with some better designs--make the Karbarrans looks as badass as the text suggested, though I also wouldn’t say no to the Karbarrans and Garudans looking less like their animal bases.

Just like with Minmei, I’m disliking the Praxians more and more. I could wank all day about how the female-only race is the most “primitive” among them, how lazy a design concept they are, and the suggestion that Lisa comes into her own only when being around creatures like that, as if a woman can only blossom in a same-sex environment; Lisa is already so much cooler than any Praxian could be. The Praxians’ only saving grace is that they have no male counterparts to oppress for the lulz.

Half-seriously, I thought the Praxians should instead resemble giant reptiles or birds of prey, with a higher technological level and perhaps still a one-gender race. (and without breasts; unfortunately I had to add that). They have a vague raptorial theme (their eyes, and Bela’s pet Hagane, not to mention that most female raptors are larger than males), and as for reptiles, well, there are whiptail geckos and parenthongenecally-reproducing Komodo Dragons.

Another “revelation” is that I’ve really turned sour on the Shadow Chronicles’ depiction of the Haydonites, because the novels are much more ambiguous about their role and intentions. Before Haydon becomes active, and in the initial period following, they are portrayed sympathetically, and the remaining Haydonites become a peacekeeping force. Even if they are artificial beings, they’re hardly the kind of evil golem minions you would expect. The Haydonites were also the most creative alien designs, and the descriptions of the planet stirred at least my imagination (the comic art couldn’t live up to this, though it was decent).

Shadow Chronicles just screws that up. The neo-Haydonites are exactly the kind of mysterious, cultish creeps you would expect. Their designs are also more boring, not more “edgy”. Poor Veidt.

(Not to mention it removes the visual parallelism between the Haydonites and the transformed Regis)

Probably if I cared about Rick and Lisa more, I would have a bigger problem with two high-ranking folks like them suddenly rushing off into a strangers’ conflict like some Flash Gordon and Dale Arden wannabes, but I really don’t bother, and even if I cared, it would not be like the other continuities were any much better. At least Lisa got to have some adventures before settling down, and she gets to have a child (and not wear her hair in that stupid matronly bun). At least they get an ending, instead of disappearing off into space and never being heard from again, as in the Macross continuity (yes, really).

I really wish that the last few chapters of the fifth Sentinels novel and End of the Circle hadn’t devolved into a long monologue of exposition. Granted, I found plenty of fanfic fodder and squee in them, but what does the teacher always say, class? Show, don’t tell. With the huge size of The Zentraedi Rebellion these novels could have been a little thicker, yeah?

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Long live The Sentinels

(Anonymous)
I wish someday we may get to see The Sentinels in some kind of flashback or OVAs in the next Robotech anime. It still seems to me like an exciting and fresh story to be told.

Thanks for reviewing The Sentinels novels, I liked them all; The End of The Circle had a very nice epic story for me, really enjoyable. And only right now I am discovering The Sentinels Waltrip comics; I browsed vol. 3 and was entertained by those little moments which were not in the novels or anime, like when Jack Baker first grunts about being asigned to the GMU and we get to see the size of those GMU vessels, or when Minmey first meets her new singing partner.

Carlos.

Re: Long live The Sentinels

Yeah, I love the Waltrip comics as an "extra", with little bits that slightly enrich the story, though as they weren't continued, I prefer the novels (I don't consider "Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles" to be a continuation, more of a continuation/reboot).

It's good to see that at least some people like the Sentinels material. I was beginning to think I was alone. :P


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