Coming off the cusp of War For Cybertron mania, Alex Irvine's Transformers: Exodus assumes to lay out the history of the current Aligned Continuity. While it does accomplish what it sets out to do in that respect, it's not perfect by any stretch and in some ways, only serves to offer yet another splintered variance of what is supposed to be accepted as the status quo so far as what facts are concerned in this new blanket continuity for the Transformers franchise. The current 'Aligned' continuinty (as it is being referred to by fans, I suppose) incorporates three principle facets of currently marketed media: The 'War For Cybertron' video games (and potentially it's successors), the Transformers: Prime cartoon and supplemental media, and this book (also with it's potential successors, including the recently released Transformers: Exiles by the same author). While there are some glaring inconsistencies (the most notable of which being that the WFC game appears at first glance to be a precursor to the original G1 series, while the 'Prime' cartoon seems to draw from more elements of the Michael Bay movies' visual aesthetics) I'll not spend time pointing them out; you can go here for all of that malarchy.
This book presents the 'beginning' of sorts for the entire current series; depicting Megatron's rise to power and Optimus' imminent 'Primehood' being granted. It draws heavily from already established mythos elements from various sources (most notably, the UK G1 comics, the current IDW comics and the Michael Bay movies) in order to present its case for the 'definitive' story of the Transformers history. Even on a surface level, this is a pretty ambitious undertaking, and although I can't necessarily fault the writer for being given a list of fanwank plot points to incorporate into a cohesive storyline, reading this book is an undertaking that proves to be less brisk than it probably should be. It's not that the book is too long, it's just that it's relatively boring and hard to get into.
There's an underlying feeling that Irvine has been simply given a production bible with some character bios and to "make sure to include 'this', 'this' aaaaaand 'this'". He does his job amicably enough, but when I was finished with the book, I came away from it with the impression that he had no personal love for the characters. It's not wholly his fault; there's plenty of macguffin elements crammed into such a small space that there's scarcely room for any character development; but the dialogue is mostly flat and uninspired. I did not grow with any of the characters or experience any great understanding for their goals. This is a kid's franchise after all, but for the angle of attention being given to it on a supposedly more mature level, I suppose I was perhaps expecting a bit more to knock my socks off.
Some of the story is an adaptation of certain parts of the WFC video game, while other parts of the book have already been incorporated into the Transformers: Prime cartoon. While this book potentially serves as a suturing element between those two facets of what is intended to be a cohesive continuity; there's simply too many differences between the two: I often found myself wondering whether to envisage the more G1-centric Starscream of the WFC game or the thin, lanky scuttler of the Prime cartoon. There's other things about the way certain characters were handled that I flat out didn't like (simply from a fan's perspective): I disliked that Trypticon is the Nemesis, for example... but this isn't necessarily a reflection of whether or not the book is a decent read; it's just something that I found to be more fanwanky than necessary (why not make Omega Supreme the Ark too?) There's also far too much going on in the way of artifacts here: the AllSpark, the Matrix, the Plasma Energy Chamber (as well as its two keys), Vector Sigma (and the key to it), Teletraan-1, the Well, the Covenant of Primus (as well as adding some new ones such as 'The Quill')... there's a few more in there, but it just seemed like all these devices were simply name-checked to provide an unnecessary fan-service. Well, to me at least.
Perhaps my main problem with Transformers today is that I've come to realize that I don't necessarily need a new explanation for everything. I've been realizing that the most annoying part of the franchise over the last decade or so is that the mythos itself is far too convoluted and constantly evolving. I was fine with the Chaos Bringer and the Lord of Light and that being the end of it. Maybe I'm just old. However, while I enjoy the WFC game and the Prime cartoon on their own, this book bored the hole off of me. If I read the next one, it will probably be just to complain about it.