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Not the book I was expecting
on 13 December 2013
A few years back, word came out through the nerd grapevine that Hasbro was retro-engineering its TransFormers property, writing up a new "bible," containing maps, pictures, blueprints, historical data, and an insane amount of detail on everything TransFormers (right down to characters' hometowns!) in preparation for a multi-media blitz that resulted in the "War for Cybertron" and "Fall of Cybertron" video games, the "TransFormers Prime" cartoon, and of course, more toys.
This is not that book. While detailed in places, there are also huge gaps between eras and events.
TransFans may recall Megatron and Optimus Primal quoting impressive and prophetic passages from The Book of Primus in the "Beast Wars" cartoon.
This is not that book. In fact, none of those great quotes appear anywhere in this tome.
What you get here is a well-written "journal," ostensibly penned by Alpha Trion, one of the original Thirteen Primes, and simplified for us Humans. It begins with the creation of the Primes themselves, and covers in broad strokes the various eras of the planet Cybertron, with some occasional details and scenarios thrown in. This is not a be-all, end-all ultimate resource guide, but it does fill in some gaps, showcases some lovely artwork, incorporates all kinds of details from various TransFormers franchises in the past into one big mythos and history, and is generally a treat to read. Unless you're a die-hard G1 fan, that is. In which case, grit your teeth and deal with it: this is what TransFormers is going to be for the foreseeable future.
The electronic vault the book comes in is a bit of a let-down. If you've bought or at least seen the various "Star Wars" vault volumes, this doesn't seem quite as good. It's roughly the same size: in other words, unwieldy and slightly too big for practicality, but a nifty display piece. There is no push-button, motorised, spring-loaded or hydraulic action: you simply pull the three panels out by hand (in a very specific order, or breakage may occur), with each panel activating its own sound effect. There are no actual lights, but some reflective holo-glitter eye panels. The construction seems cheap, flimsy and easily breakable when compared to the "Star Wars" vaults, which is why the item comes encased in several layers of protective wrapping and boxes and sleeves and spacers and bags and shipping crates and mailers and insert trays. Be very careful when handling this storage unit; it is definitely not a toy for children (nor some of the more ham-fisted adults). There are also no extra inserts, posters, artefacts, or anything like that: you just get the book. The one area where this Autobot-themed vault improves over the "Star Wars" ones is that it has three volume settings for the sound effects: High, Low, and Off. Also, this particular case can be mounted on the wall like a clock as a display piece, although the instructions recommend that it be empty should you choose to do so.
Is it worth the expense for casual TransFans? Not really. You might want to wait and see if they produce a cheaper, non-vault paperback version sometime down the road. For G1 Purists? Probably not. Might get your blood pressure up, and again, you might want to wait and see if a paperback edition comes out later before you make any purchasing decisions. For completists and fanatics and those who like to have nicer or more expensive things than the other childr - er, serious collectors? Very likely.
The book I'd rate at 4 or 4.5 stars, the electronic vault gets 2 stars, 2.5 at the most. If you want outstanding and insanely detailed TransFormers books, I would recommend the Allspark Almanacs (Volumes 1 and 2) instead. Granted, they're based in the "TransFormers Animated" universe, but they're crammed full of great stuff, each page bursting with information and fun. Unfortunately, they are now rare and highly collectible with secondary market price tags that reflect such a status.