Thursday, 1 December 2011

Transformers Exiles (Book Review)

The big problem involving Transformers Exiles is it doesn’t need to exist. For those not in the know, this book is a part of a continuity involving the War For Cybertron game and the ongoing Prime cartoon. The novel before this one, Exodus, was supposed to cover aspects not shown in the games such as the buildup towards the war and giving a bit more depth to the story, such as Megatron being RoboSpartacus.  Unfortunately the author Alex Irvine didn’t bother to actually play WFC. As a result the war went in an entirely different direction, only partially linked into the game and had a completely different ending where all of the Autobots left Cybertron.
In Exiles Irvine seems to be making a real effort to link his novels into the Prime series and make up for his earlier mistakes. The problem due to the announcement of WFC’s sequel, Fall of Cybertron, which follows the Autobots’ guerilla war on the planet it’s likely this book will be completely non canon.

Even when Irvine is trying to solve continuity problems and link it into Prime just creates more flaws in the book. Bulkhead, who was not in the first book but is a main character in Prime, appears out of nowhere in the first chapter and stays with the characters until the end. He’s jarringly dropped into events with no warning and this is something which keeps happening throughout Exiles. Next to nothing is given any real introduction, things just seem to suddenly happen with little buildup and are accepted without question. This becomes almost hilarious when the Autobots show up on a colony cut off from Cybertron for millions of years, Velocitron, and its inhabitants immediately accept they’re from their long lost homeworld and bring them before their leader.
The big problem with this is something I’ve also seen Geoff Johns be criticized for in some of his Green Lantern comics: there is something big going on but Exiles does not convey the size of what is taking place. It never steps back to give descriptions to events or give major buildup and without that everything feels very small scale when looked at on their own, in spite of the big ideas in the book. And there are some seriously big ideas behind Exiles.

As well as the Autobots being on the run from the Decepticons as they hunt down the All-Spark, a lot of elements from other series turn up. To help solve a plot problem from the previous book Unicron is introduced to the plot and there is a serious look into what happened to the original transformers. Several even turn up, Vector and Nexus Prime, and the protagonists even come across the tomb of another Prime who was killed when one of their number turned traitor. These bits make the book readable but it is still visibly weighed down by its flaws, the biggest of which is the characters.

For all the fun Irving seems to have in writing about lost artifacts and ancient mysteries, he really drops the ball when it comes to characterisation. For a group which is supposed to be as bold and simplistically diverse as the transformers, all of them seem to blend into one another. You can read all of the dialogue as if it is from the same person and even when a chapter focuses entirely upon a single character’s thoughts it feels like it could be just about anyone in the book. Only a few stand out such as Megatron, but that’s only because they are exceptionally bloody minded or totally insane.

All in all this one is something fans should probably pass on. There are a few good bits here and there but the writing style and lack of characterisation seriously drags the book down. Whoever edited this one didn’t help and there are some seriously shoddy mistakes which take place from chapter to chapter. One blatant screw-up is when Optimus and one of his allies drive away from a monolith at the end of the fifth chapter, only to suddenly be back in front of it as if they’ve never left. For all the effort put into this one, it really feels like it should have been a comic rather than a text novel. At least then perhaps some of the flaws present in the writing might have been covered up by the artist.

If you want a good Transformers tale try looking into some of the Dreamwave comics or early IDW story arcs, because Exiles is painfully average at the best of times. It’s far better than anything in the Michael Bay film scripts, but that’s not saying much.


Exiles, Transformers and all related characters and media are owned by Hasbro. The book was published by Del Rey Books.

Images taken from


  1. Really hate the book, I thought it was tied to comic-book canon like "Exodus". The book sucks and so does the knock-off michael bay cartoon "Prime" since it really shows had bad transfomers has become these days.

  2. Bad book don't buy it sucks .

  3. Thanks for the review. My first question about this book was how it fits in with continuity and canon. I'm not sure if I'm going to bother reading it now, but if I do, at least I'll know what to expect!

  4. Great book and Transformers Prime is the only GOOD Transformers show in years...since G1 really.

  5. I'm Sorry I disagree I thought it was a good book but I didn't get into the video games just the movies.

  6. I dunno I thought there wasnt really anyhing wrong with it. It was quite kewl in alot of places and I enjoyed the read. Explores interesting areas thst link with The Covenant of the Primus. Im a massive die hard g1 fan amd I read the comics aswell it was a great read on my breaks at work. Think your judging a bit weirdly. I also enjoyed Prime and the games theyve been the best tf has been since g1.

  7. Glad I'm not the only one who hated this book