Admiral Rick Hunter leads the Robotech Expeditionary Force on their trip to Tirol, the homeworld of the Robotech Masters, only to find the planet being ravaged by a faction of the Invid led by the Regent. The heroes of the First Robotech War prepare for two big events, the launching of the SDF-3 and the marriage of Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes. Various luminaries gather for the festivities, and discuss their concerns about the safety of the mission. The SDF-3 is to approach the Masters disguised as a Zentradi vessel in an attempt to get in close enough to discuss peace, and is heavily-armed enough for credible gunship diplomacy. The book also reintroduces Jonathan Wolff (a traitor in the Next Gen series but here a dashing Robotech commander leading an elite Hovertank squad) and General Edwards (present on the original incursion to the downed SDF-1, deformed during the Zentradi orbital attack on Alaska, now a bitter and hateful man).
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Meanwhile, on faraway Tirol, home of the Robotech Masters, only the old and the infirm have been left behind as the armada of the Masters seeks out Zor's fallen ship. Among those on the planet are scientist Cabell and his ward, Zor clone Rem. Thier instruments detect the approach of an Invid fleet, led by the Regis' counterpart the Regent, ready to ravage what is left of the Masters' population. The Invid easily conquer the planet, and Cabell and Rem hide in their undergound complex.
The story introduces Karen Penn and Jack Baker, two new fighter aces. Karen is the daughter of a famous scientist who objects to her being a combat pilot; Jack is an undisciplined hell-raiser with talent and a heart of gold. The two quickly develop a flirtation.
The wedding of Rick and Lisa features a performance by Minmei and her new singing partner, Janice (who is actually an android designed by Robotech superscientist Dr. Lang to gather intelligence). At the reception, Wolff, a lothario, attempts to chat up Minmei, but is rebuffed.
As the SDF-3 prepares to fold itself to Master-space, Minmei and Janice sneak their own craft to within its wake, planning to stow away with the great ship. They are detected at the last moment, but nothing can be done to stop them. The ship unfolds in Tirol's vicinity, and is immediately beset by the Invid. Wolff deploys to save Minmei's distressed shuttle, and the remaining fighters on the SDF take defensive positions. A careful barrage by the Invid damages the fold engines, trapping the humans in Tirol space for the time being.
The SDF sends out ground forces, led by Commander Grant (the father of Southern Cross' Bowie), Wolff, and Breetai (the Zentradi general). They are supported by the Veritech fighter compliments, include the ships piloted by Jack and Karen. On the surface, they find a horde of the Invid robotic combat drones, the Inorganics, ravaging the world. Edwards schemes to destroy his rival Grant by hiding his call for assistance. Eventually, his plan is undone when Rick discovers the messages... as well as a call for assistance made by some Tirolians, Cabell and Rem.
The Invid have also detected the two scientists' signals, however, so it becomes a race against time to retrieve them. At the same time, the humans locate the Invid command brain, and it deploys a shield to protect itself. Jack and Karen steal a couple of hovercycles and head out to rescue Cabell and Rem. They succeed, and the two Master scientists are taken to the human command. They explain that the main of the Masters fleet has left for Earth already.
The humans, armed with information on the Invid brain complex provided by Cabell, launch an assault spearheaded by Wolff's Wolfpack tank squad and Edwards' Ghost Squadron. Edwards contemplates betraying his side when offered command of the Invid by an Invid scientist named Obsim, but his xenophobia ultimately wins out, and he kills the helpless scientist and deactivates the brain, leaving the Invid fleet helpless in space.
Dr. Lang estimates that it will take years to repair the fold engines that will allow the fleet to return to Earth, making the victory bittersweet. As the humans attempt to relax, an unknonwn ship enters Tirol space, and the humans rush to contact it, uncertain if it is friend or foe.
Best part of story, including ending:
The Sentinels saga, never actually made into an animated series, had to be added to the Robotech story by other means. McKinney's novelizations form what I believe to be the definitive version, taking the raw ideas behind the ill-fated series and adding depth and complexity.
Best scene in story:
The wedding of Rick and Lisa pays off the romantic turmoil of the Macross saga enjoyably.
Opinion about the main character:
Freed from the process of maturation that form his plot arc in Macross, Rick Hunter here is a very fully realized character, uncomfortable with his new command responsibilities but doing the best he can to safeguard the lives of those in the REF.