It has been several centuries since Cybertron's golden age of space exploration and planetary colonisation, and its society has declined into stagnation. Almost every Space Bridge has gone offline due to sabotage or years of neglect, so contact with the other planets the Transformers colonised during the golden age has been lost. When a new Transformer is born from the Well of All Sparks, they are assigned to a caste and guild from which they may never deviate. Castes are separated into a hierarchy, with the highest castes relating to science and politics while the lower castes are given to manual labourers in factories and mines. Those in the lowest castes are not given individual names.
In the industrial city of Kaon, gladiatorial combat grows in popularity among the lower castes. One of the gladiators - a labourer who completely opposes the caste system calls himself Megatronus after one of the original Thirteen Primes - rises to power and becomes a local celebrity due to his skills in the gladiatorial pits. Megatronus fans and followers shorten his to Megatron in their chants, and the name sticks.
Understanding that the social hierarchy instills tensions the must be relieved somehow, the High Council turns a blind eye to the proliferation of underground gladiatorial combat.
In Iacon a clerk named Orion Pax - who works in Cybertron's Hall of Records and also dislikes the caste system - is assigned to eavesdrop Megatron's political speeches and file them appropriately for the High Council's knowledge, finds his championing of a free Cybertron where each individual determining their own path in life highly appealing. Orion turns for guidance to his supervisior and mentor Alpha Trion, encourages him to meet with Megatron, cryptically stating that a great destiny awaits them both. Orion travels to Kaon and meets Megatron in person, along with two of his followers the amoral mad scientist Shockwave and the devious spymaster Soundwave. Orion and Megatron engage in intense but friendly debates over the nature of free will, and they find broad agreement in the need for a new form of Cybertronian government. However, Megatron favours confrontation and revolution, while Orio hopes to inspire the masses to change the system from within.
As Megatron's political movement gains power, it also grows more violent. Terrorist professing allegiance to him commit multiple bombings across Cybertron. Megatron repeatedly states in public speeches that he does not know the terrorist and did not orchestrate these attaxks. The terrorist then attack a casino in the city of Altihex, where Sentinel Prime is attending a show. When the bombings start, Sentinel relies on his three Seeker bodyguards - Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker - to escort him to safety. However, the bodyguards instead take Sentinel to Kaon and present him to Megatron. Starscream flirts with joining Megatron's forces, but sees Sentinel as a potential bargaining chip and does not allow Megatron to kill him, ordering Skywarp and Thundercracker to take him to Trypticon Station, a floating strategic asset bearing a powerful secret that he understands and that Megatron. for the moment, does not.
To prevent all-out war, Alpha Trion helps Orion and Megatron secure an audience before the Cybertron High Council in order to plead their case. The council is hostile to any notion of change and view Megatron as a criminal. Megatron continues to disown the terrorist attacks but continues to appeal for the removal of the caste system, including the council itself. His words are supported by the lower castes in the council itself. His words are supported by the lower castes in the council's audience, who have started calling themselves Decepticons. By contrast, Orion makes a more noble appeal to the council. He proclaims the Transformer's fuller potential as a race if each individual were to be acknowledged as an autonomous robot, using the ancient term Autobot as an expression of this ideal. Impressed by Orion's morals, the council appoint him as the new leader of Cybertron, Giving him a new name and title: Optimus Prime, with his mission beingthe retrieval of the long lost Matrix of Leadership. However, Orion's sudden elevation outrages Megatron, who believes the situation to be a set-up. He kills council member Halogen, but as the crowd marshals for war Optimus Prime manages to convince him not to commit further violence within the council halls. The two sides reteat from the halls and begin the war for Cybertron.
The war is brutal and largely one-sided; the Autobots retain control of two cites, Iacon and Kalis, while the Decepticons take over the rest of the planet. Out of desperation, the Autobots launch the Allspark into space. Megatron orders Starscream to give him access to Trypticon Station's stockpile of Dark Energon, a power-enchancing substance. The Decepticons consume the Dark Energon and become extremely powerful gaining a combat edge and overwhelming the struggling Autobots. Megatron then seeks control of the Plasma Energy Chamber at Cybertron's core, planning to flood it with Dark Energon, which would permanently empower his own forces while poisoning Cybertron and starving the Autobots to death. He murders Sentinel Prime and steals the key to the Chamber, but before he can access it, the Autobots reactivate omega Supreme, an enormus robot that transforms into both a rocket and a city. Omega Supreme takes the Plasma Energy Chamber and attempts to fly it to safety, but Starscream leads an ariel assault which shoots him down, and after Megatron empowers himself with Dark Energon, he effortlessly defeats the Autobots and Omega's robot mode. He floods the Chamber with Dark Energon and sents it back into Cybertron's core.
As the Dark Energon flows throughout Cybertron, Optimus Prime ventures into the core to fix the Chamber, accompanied by the Autobots Bumblebee and Jetfire. Once they find it, Bumblebee extractsthe Chamber, stopping the flow of Dark Energon, and Optimus receives a mental communication from the core itself, who is in fact a being know as Primus. Primus will eventually be able to heal himself, but the process will take centuries, and in the mean time he will be unable to generate enough Energon to sustain the population he currently does, so the Transformers will either have to abandon Cybertron or risk starvation. Primus bestows Optimus with the Matrix of Leadership, which contains the collective wisdom of all past Primes. Optimus orders a mass exodus of the Autobot army, but most of the ships are shot down by Trypticon Station. One ship, the Eight track is able to link up to the station and force it to crash into Cybertron. As it falls, however, the station transforms into an enormous, reptilian monster and goes on a rampage.
Alpha Trion grows ever more despairing for Cybertron, and he sets a radical plan into motion: the construction of the largest spaceship in Cybertronian history, the Ark, on which most Autobots may escape. Several Autobots - including Alpha Trion, Jetfire, and a newly repaired Omega Supreme - volunteer to stay on Cybertron and protect what little territory the Autobots still hold. As most of the Autobots flee to the Ark, Megatron commands Trypticon to transform into an equally large spaceship, the Nemesis, in which he and most of the Decepticons will give pursuit. The Ark takes off into space, and the Nemesis pursues. They fly to the last intact Space Bridge, but because no one alive knows how to use it, there is no guarantee it will work. As the two giant spaceships get whitin range Space Bridge, it does indeed activate and teleports them to an uncharted part of space. With no Decepticons in sight, the Ark detects energy from the AllSpark. Optimus orders the Ark to pilots to follow the signal, and the Autobot's adventure in space begins.
- Orion Pax/Optimus Prime (1)
- Sentinel Prime (6)
- Jazz (11)
- Omega Supreme (24)
- Lightning Strike Coalition Force (25)
- Sideswipe (34)
- Prowl (36)
- Ironhide (37)
- Ratchet (38)
- Protectobots/Defensor (39)
- Bumblebee (40)
- Revo (43)
- Jetfire (50)
- Cliffjumper (51)
- Megatron (2)
- Soundwave (3)
- Shockwave (4)
- Insecticons (7)
- Barricade (12)
- Lugnut (13)
- Trypticon (22)
- Ratbat (26)
- Drixco (31)
- Autoclave (42)
- Catalycon (46)
- Blackout (49)
- Transformers: Exodus ties in with the War for Cybertron video game and is partially adapted into IDW's War for Cybertron comic, namely chapter 12 through 15.
- Despite this intended tie-in, the stories of Exodus and War for Cybertron are largely incompatible, other than sharing a MacGuffin and some set pieces. Even the name of the Prime before Optimus differs between the two (Sentinel versus Zeta), though Hasbro representatives at BotCon 2010 attempted to reconcile this by suggesting the character's full name is "Sentinel Zeta Prime".
- Regardless, Hasbro had said War for Cybertron was to be the basis of its new continuity, not the beginning proper. All things considered, Exodus is an adaptation expansion.
- Irvine said he had not played the game. He also said that differences between the novel and game were not due to miscommunications but, rather, resulted from deliberate choices as both products moved in slightly different directions; Hasbro was aware of and approved all of them.
- The synopsis boldly declares "everything that happened before Optimus and Megatron arrived on planet Earth—has always been a mystery", which is a bit of a fib: Various Marvel UK strips since the '80s (especially 1986's State Games), several cartoon episodes, and reams of Dreamwaveand IDW Publishing comics had already been set pre-Earth.
- "Bumblebee at Tyger Pax" is an apocryphal follow-up story by Alex Irvine about how Bumblebee lost his voice.
- For a book about Transformers, a society of varied and colorful robots of all sorts and sizes, it is strangely sparse on visual descriptions of characters aside from battle scars and weaponry. Nothing is ever said, for instance, of Shockwave's cyclopean features or any characters who may or may not have mouthplates. Orion Pax/Optimus Prime's appearance in particular is strangely left vague throughout. Irvine said that this too was deliberate, as he felt that any attempt to describe these ancient aliens to modern human readers would risk using Earth references and idioms that would not be appropriate. He later added it also allowed fans to imagine their particular favourite incarnations of a character when reading the novel, e.g. older fans seeing Generation 1 characters or younger ones seeing ones from the live-action films.
- On a similar note, the verb "transform" and its forms are rather painstakingly and curiously skirted around throughout the entire book, always replaced with either "proto-form" (the first usage of such term as a verb) or "alt-form", depending on the mode into which a Cybertronian is shifting. This is most likely a continuing trend on Hasbro's part to prevent the Transformers brand name from becoming a genericized trademark. Similarly, the word "robot" is also avoided; Cybertronians are instead referred to as "bots" or "mechs".
- In context of Exodus, proto-form refers to a Transformer's robot mode, as opposed to the usual meaning.
- At the end of chapter six, Orion Pax has traveled to Kaon to meet Megatron. At the start of the next chapter, when the terrorist bombs go off, he is specifically described as being back in Iacon and speaking to Megatron remotely over a videolink:
- On the videolink, he watched as Megatron registered the events. snip... "You are in Iacon, correct?"
- Orion Pax nodded.(pg. 46).
- Then, three pages and only moments later, he is suddenly "still" back with Megatron's troops in Kaon.
- Fort Scyk is misspelled as "Fort Scyx" once on page 118.
- Bruticus Maximus and Onslaught are referred to as "Constructicons" (p. 122). The Constructicons here are a larger team than normal, but given that this description shortly follows a paragraph talking about definite, actual Constructicons and that the Combaticons' team name is mentioned later (p. 134), this seems a likely error.
- Speaking of which, the book describes battle activity involving the defeat (though, not necessarily the destruction) of Bruticus Maximus (p. 122) before it talks about his awakening by Megatron (p. 125). The wording of his reactivation implies that this is the first mentioning of him in the book, introducing Bruticus Maximus to the readers, as though he hadn't been spoken of on the previous pages.
- Optimus seems to suffer some memory loss during the war. Alpha Trion tells him twice that he spoke to the High Council and inspired them to appoint him Prime. (p. 130, 227).
- Starscream's backstory is entirely contradictory:
- Not even Starscream, who had spent much of his scientific career in the labs contained within these refracting walls... (p. 78).
- "See what?" Starscream asked. Neither Starscream nor Megatron were scientists." (p. 158).
- When asked via twitter, writer Alex Irvine stated "Let's say he's always been scientifically curious."7
- As with Starscream, Trypticon seems to have two contradictory "origins" within Exodus itself. Early in the novel, Orion Pax researches the station and discovers that it was secretly "recreated" from a simple space station and was given a spark (pg. 82) when Dark Energon was hidden aboard by an ancient iteration of the High Council headed by Sentinel Prime. But elsewhere, it is only called semi-sentient and a drone. Later in the novel, Shockwave is credited with giving it multiple sparks and turning it into a Transformer.
- When asked whether Trypticon was alive after that first sparking or not until Shockwave, Alex Irvine passed on commenting on the grounds that to do so would give something important away...8
- It is hinted (p. 226-7, 233) that Project Generation One was a contingency plan that had been in place since the Breaking of the Primes and had been a subject of discussion between Prime and Trion after the Core's corruption. Later, Optimus tells Jetfire the Core itself told about Project Generation One (p. 242), though it never uses the term in its entire speech.
- Not actually an error
- It seems on page 81 that Crystal City's scientists were reawakening Omega Supreme. The key word is "seems": Omega Supreme lies inactive until the end of the war.
- The number of Autobot Seekers is handled puzzlingly, but one should note that in this continuity Seekers were mostly neutral until Vos was bombed:
- "All of the Seekers loyal to the Autobots were out on patrol... The sole exception, Jetfire, the sole Seeker to have defected to the Autobots..." (p.204).
- Practically everything.
- But to be more specific.....
- Elements in Exodus have come from: The Transformers: Megatron Origin, with Megatron as a working-class rebel, a corrupted Cybertron government, and the exposure and subsequent murder of Autobot spies Bumper and Fastback; Transformers: The War Within, with Optimus as a data clerk; "State Games", with Megatron as a warrior-gladiator who used the games as a way of inspiring the masses to follow him, a mention of the State Games themselves and the destruction of Vos and Tarn at the warheads of photon missiles; the Cybertron cartoon, with the long-gone era of Cybertronian colonization and the Space Bridge network; "The Rebirth" and/or Beast Machines for the Plasma Energy Chamber; and the 2007 film and its comics, with Optimus and Megatron being allies, the All Spark being sent into space and then everyone leaving the planet in big ships; and most surprisingly, The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, with the assertion that the Great War began over the Matrix being reconciled with Megatron's mining rebellion. The explicit caste system, however, is original.
- On the last page, Optimus Prime notes that he and his Autobots "will wage our battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons", a familiar refrain from various Transformers theme songs.
- Megatron taunts Omega Supreme by saying "First Sentinel Prime and now you, Guardian. You die so easily, it is difficult for me to take any pride in the killing." (p. 214). This is a clear reference to a similar line spoken by Galvatron in the animated movie.
- Megatron's oft-repeated refrain is "I still function!", another line made famous in the animated movie.
- Megatron's Generation 1 catchphrase "Peace through tyranny" is subverted by Orion in his speech during the High Council hearing when he states there can be no such thing.
- When facing off in Iacon, Optimus states "One shall stand, one shall fall", a line from the animated and live-action films.
- The Fallen's original name is Megatronus, and it is from him that Megatron himself took his name, shortening it after the gladiatorial crowds' chant. In most fictions, The Fallen's name was lost to history or changed. Jetfire states in Revenge of the Fallen that after one of the Primes (the one who would become the Fallen) betrayed them, "His name forevermore was The Fallen."
- Page 218: "Never had Bumblebee wanted anything more than he wanted to fight and die at that moment." Seems like the author was channeling "you-know-who" in that line.
- Devastator Winds and the fact that Devastator was named after it were first mentioned in the bio of ROTF Devastator.