Transformation by James Gunn

Transformation by James Gunn
Transformation by James Gunn

The novel “Transformation” by James Gunn was published for the first time in 2020. It’s the third book in the Transcendental trilogy and follows “Transgalactic“.

Riley and Asha have reunited but when they return to Earth, they discover bad news. At the borders of the Galactic Federation, various planets have stopped sending communications for mysterious reasons. The Galactic Center’s pedia indicates an almost certainty of an invasion but by whom?

The galactic bureaucracy is slow to decide countermeasures, to say the least. Riley and Asha take the lead and force Federation authorities to give them the official assignment to investigate. The help of the Earth’s pedia is useful but the group becomes quite uneven with the addition of Tordor as a representative of the Federation and Adithya, who is part of a group that intends to eliminate the pedia.

In the final novel of the Transcendental trilogy, the protagonists find themselves investigating a mysterious threat that struck a series of planets on the borders of the Galactic Federation, reducing them to silence. For this reason, after the initial part, the plot consists mainly in the chronicle of a journey among planets in search of an explanation of what happened on them.

Already in “Transgalactic” there were journeys that led the protagonists to meet different species but they weren’t very in-depth chronicles. In “Transformation” the flaw is the same, with stories of various planetary populations that might be interesting but are literally left behind to move on to the next planet.

The novel’s short length leads to a fast pace in an action-packed storyline. This only partially covers the flaws of what is the final part of a not very homogeneous trilogy, in which each novel seems to have the protagonists in common with the others and little else. For example, among the protagonists of “Transformation” there’s Adithya, a sworn enemy of the pedia, who reminds us of that artificial intelligence’s role in the second novel. The problem is that it’s another theme that hasn’t been developed anymore. These references seem more like a way to give Adithya at least a bit of characterization.

Honestly, as a finale to the Transcendental trilogy, “Transformation” seems pretty dull to me. With all of his experience, James Gunn went for the adventurous element but the previous novels promised something more. This final novel is above all the story of the dangers the protagonists face on each of the planets they visit trying to understand why they stopped communicating with the Federation.

The protagonists’ investigation has a conclusion but it’s hasty exactly like everything else in the novel. It can be considered an appropriate conclusion of the trilogy in the sense that it follows the same pattern: James Gunn comes up with an idea that may be interesting but doesn’t really develop it. Avoiding at least one of the steps of the protagonists’ journey would have been more useful to better develop the ending but evidently, the author had other ideas.

In the end, the Transcendental trilogy looks like a typical example of an author’s late works: he wrote excellent stories in his prime but has little to offer by the end of his career. James Gunn will certainly be remembered for other works. If a bit of space adventure is enough for you, you might still like this trilogy.

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