Book Review: Gundam – Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation

For those of you who aren’t familiar with me, I’m a huge fan of giant robots in any form. Ever since I was a tiny gent, it was always something that captured my attention and imagination (a feat which could prove quite difficult at times…) Whenever I would come across one, whether in a comic book or on television I would drop whatever I was doing and focus only on that, including one unfortunate instance involving a dropped egg while helping in the kitchen.

Today’s review of the novel Gundam: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation not only fuels my aforementioned obsession but also holds a special place for me, as the Gundam franchise was my first introduction to the Japanese genre of “Mecha”.

Gundam is arguably one of the most recognized Japanese cultural icons having established itself as a multibillion dollar industry over the past 30 years. It has garnered a fan base of millions, been featured in a dizzying number of tie-in products, and has even spawned a life-size 1:1 scale model of the RX-78 Gundam featured in the original series. Brightly colored humanoid robots fighting for the salvation or ruin of humanity, striking memorable poses, and giving an unusually relatable sense of the characters daily struggles. Gundam is nothing short of a tour-de-force.

So, after all that hype what did I actually think of the book?

I loved it. Absolutely 100% loved it.

Gundam: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation is actually a reprint collection of the three volume novelization of the original series “Gundam” first printed in English in 1990. The volume for which this review takes place is the second edition, which was just printed in early 2012 and has been translated by Frederik L. Schodt, an author of numerous texts pertaining to Japanese culture. The original print was also a monumental point in the history of the franchise as the first offering of any Gundam works to be translated into English. That’s correct, before the show, before the manga, before the model kits, toys & movies there was this book and only this book.

Written by the series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, the book offers an in-depth look at his history of the early Gundam saga, delving into details which have been left out of the television show either due to time constraints or censorship. The story, told in three parts and from multiple points of view, deals with a fictional point in history called the Universal century in which humanity has finally reached out into space and established a number of colonies in geosynchronous orbit around Earth. Though even in this future there is still no peace. Conflict abounds between the Earth Federation and the dictatorship force Zeon, driving both sides to develop new weapons, each more superior than the last… resulting finally in the birth of the RX-78 Mobile Suit Gundam.

As I alluded to before, the book is certainly aimed at a much more mature audience then the television show was. Numerous battle scenes include every artfully written detail, regardless of its gory outcome, and features a number of, shall we say, “adult” encounters. The reader also gains a more psychological understanding of the series main characters, as we see what drives individuals such as the main character Amuro Ray, or antagonist Char, to take such extreme actions or remain motivated despite the world around them in literal breakdown. The book also introduces the concept of the “Newtype” which would not only have a much larger baring over all future Gundam series, but speaks to the human potential and the possibilities of what’s yet to come.

Certainly this is an amazing way for any fan of the series to get a new look at where it all started, as well as being a fantastic read for any sci-fi fan. I highly recommend it to all of our readers out there, it has been one of my favorites.

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