By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The Covenant of Primus is one of those holy grails that fans of the Transformers series are waiting for. It delves into the biblical origins of how the Cybertronian race came into being and what the wars first fought were like.
As for where this book release fits in the many universes, namely from the original Generation 1 series to Michael Bay’s interpretation, this book is problematical. The movie talks about only seven primes. Who “The Fallen” is gets addressed only briefly, and as for how this modified history fits into to the Hasbro defined universe could benefit from a couple more pages of exposition.
At least this book belongs to the mythos established that began in the video game Transformers: War for Cybertron and ended in the televised CGI spectacular. Even the origins of the Predacons get revealed.
Hasbro made its series bible available to author Justina Robson to write The Covenant of Primus. When Alpha Trion is the narrator, he`s like Uatu the Watcher from the Marvel Comics Universe. And what he pens is a detailed account about the rise and fall of the 13 Primes and foreshadow of the eventual war on Cybertron between the Autobots and Decepticons. This author’s writing style is easy to digest, but it seems to lack the added depth to make the characters larger than life. When considering the fictional tome of the same name is written in an archaic language and described as difficult to translate, Robson did a very good job in conveying that sense. She writes it as simple as possible so it can be understood by a fifth grader than an academic. But for a literary reader, the grandiose world that should be conveyed is less than perfect.
The Hobbit this book is not and it could have benefited in being more epic, with characters that readers can empathize with. Not even the Thirteenth Prime was engaging. He’s a character that readers can not care for until his resurrection as Orion Pax / Optimus Prime. Even then, the way the series is recapped just does not have the same scope without the music playing in the background.
If this Convent was translated to proper Earthspeak, author Alex Irvine (Transformers: Exodus and Exiles) is a better choice to translate this Cybertronian bible to the next Iliad. The imagery he creates is far more engaging. He did an exceptional job in creating the pathos that defined the relationship between Optimus and Megatron. In this book, with thirteen characters to deal with, perhaps the 150 or so pages is not enough to get in depth without turning this book into its own mini-series.
One good aspect about this book is that owners do not have to read it in chronological or sequential order. Some historical details are better off not known and others are. For example, fans will know who the thirteenth prime was, is and will be. The description and candour reveals that he is the spiritual essence of what will become Optimus Prime. Megatronus is no doubt Megatron minus the mentality of a mad dictator. As for the other Primes, they are totemic representations of what future generations of Cybertronians can become if the elder mechs were to be made into gods.
But in a robotic universe, perhaps the bigger question needs to be asked: just how did Primus and Unicron come into being? Are they agents of a higher force that split to become the yin and yang of a galaxy or are they something more? Instead of a Big Bang, there was simply a statement of sentience: Dutch philosopher René Descartes said it best, “cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).”
At least Robson is putting her degree in philosophy to good use in her interpretation of Hasbro’s property. However, certain fans may want to nitpick at what she added about the ratio of male to female ‘bots being very skewed (Arcee, Solus Prime and Arachnid are the only known female agents), but that may be something that Hasbro might have insisted that she write in. When considering the recent news about Paul Dini’s experience within Hollywood on Kevin Smith’s radio show about how the studio system “devalues female viewers and female characters,” her insertion may be not altogether surprising.
But for fans interested in learning what the history of the Cybertronian race is about, they are definitely treated to a well packaged product. No part of the box should be thrown away. The red Autobot logo in the black packaging disguises the impressive case that holds the book. Sadly, its construction is not as solid as people can hope for. The plastic is thin and painted grey than silver. The way the enclosure ‘transforms’ to reveal the Convent is simple, and the way the sound effects activates is a nice touch. However, replacing the sliders with aluminium parts would have made this case far more durable. When the price ranges from $59.99 (online at Amazon) to $99.99 MSRP (retail), not everyone will think this item is worth its weight in gold. A solid enclosure would have been better to help sell this product.
Owners may well wonder if its worth breaking the bank to own an imitation piece of the Ark of the Convent and the Ten Commandments stored within. If the enclosure actually lit up internally, maybe. But as for the book, that would have made a great analogy if only ten chapters were written than eleven.