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define: space opera  
05:19pm 04/14/2015
Look out, she's got an antiquated knife!

I have been wanting to get with posting this year's Project365. Today seems like a good start. Here is the book series that has consumed me in my free time.

About 15 years ago Cartoon Network had a late-night anime block called Midnight Run. After curfew I would settle into a rocking chair and stay up watching shows. I always fought to make it to 3:30 in order to catch a mecha anime called Robotech. If you have seen it you surely remember the rough animation and the horrendous dubbing. Even so, it was an incredible storyline. A few months ago while perusing reddit, I discovered that the show was novelized in 1987. Immediately I ordered the books. Ever since, I will ramble about them to any fool who makes the mistake of asking me about them.

It begins in 1999 during what is essentially WWIII. With skyline-shattering ocean-boiling thrusters an alien ship crash-lands in a southern Pacific island and effectively ends the conflict, an effort not so easily done as narrated in the show. Macross City grows around the ship (the Super Dimensional Fortress One; SDF-1) during a ten-year period of reverse engineering. On launch day it sends out a homing signal that draws the Zentraedi aliens that have been searching for the ship, a race of Spartan giants who are cloned and groomed for nothing but war by the triumvirate Robotech Masters.
The humans attempt to launch and it continously goes wrong from there. They turn on the anti-gravity drives full power only to have the drives rip through the flight deck and fly up into the sky as the ships crashes down. Somehow they get the SDF-1 airborne and hit the hyperspace fold drive at 2,000 feet. Instead of their projected dark side of the moon, their underestimation of power finds them near the orbit of Pluto along with much of Macross City. Nevermind the blood-freezing vacuum of space, they get the citizens in the sealed shelters aboard the ship. The community rebuilds inside the ship thanks to 3D printing, recycled gasses and the vague powers of Robotechnology. Nevermind the food supply.
The Terrans take two years getting back to Earth using Lagrange points while being harassed by the Zentraedi, who could easily destroy them but have orders to capture the ship without damage, as it houses one of the few sources of a mysterious force called Protoculture.

The humans are constantly running into disaster. Once back on Earth the captain cannot convince anyone to take in the citizens of Macross since all have been declared dead by the antagonistic United Earth Defense Council, who have manipulated the media into 3 different explanations, the official statement being a Krakatoa-magnitude volcanic eruption. Captain Gloval responds by flying the ship over population centers and broadcasting open-frequency with a plea to disembark the citizens until Ontario decides to accept them. Meanwhile in orbit, the Zentraedi make their move to attack. The SDF-1's 'pin-point barrier system' overloads and destroys the city of Toronto. Naturally the people are rejected and condemned to the ship as the Robotech Defense Force is ordered to wander the solar system as a lure.

The books fill in a lot of the limited details from the anime along with the timeline. It's strange to think that the story begins in 1999 and ends in 2015; shortly before I began watching until now. Plus I don't have to endure Minmei's awful singing that powers the theme of love and emotion toppling an empire of warriors. There was a lot of death in the show, yes, but here everything is gruesomely realistic. One scene describes launch catapult officer Moira Flynn during earthbound alien attack. Blazing Veritechs are falling from the sky and she must bulldoze the wreckage into the ocean to clear room for more launches.

Most characters are fleshed out, though the main male character seems more flat than in the cartoon. I didn't realize what a brooding, jealous asshole he is until I could read inside his head. The love triangle has become a love square complete with a dead fiance's doppelganger and incestuous third cousins. The action scenes and description of the mecha are well-written, so that I can easily visualize what's happening. 97% of the earth's surface is destroyed by Zentraedi bombardment in both adaptions, though the novels describe radiation hazards and the great struggle to bring vegetation or any life back from the brink of extinction. Physics of deep space attempt to explain that which is not lost to pure fiction.

There's also character development on the enemy side. The three defective Zentraedi spies are my favorite. They are the comic relief in their failed attempts to understand the non-militaristic side of society. At one point I was cackling aloud when they mistook a tall open-top clothing donation bin for a basic survival test.

The show was adapted into short books which were later compiled. I have seen only the Macross saga, which lasts 2 compilations (originally 6 books), about 1,000 pages altogether. It has me so hooked I ordered the remaining 3 omnibus books: Southern Cross and the Sentinels. What do you know, just as I was updating this my next door roommate knocked on the door with one of the books in the mail. It's like magic.

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(no subject)
05:50pm 04/28/2015 (UTC)
Look out, she's got an antiquated knife!

Oh those Japanese and their fabulous origami machines. I'd like to get some of those toys so I can have something to refer to while reading the books, instead of just description and limited online depictions.

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