Not so much a Novelization as an Alternate Continuity, the Gundam novels, written while the TV series was still in production, represent Tomino's original vision for the series before all the Executive Meddling from the sponsors to make the show more Toyetic. As such, the novels are much Darker and Edgier and quite a bit Hotter and Sexier as well, not to mention having less focus on giant robot battles to make room for more character development (and a heaping helping of New Age-y philosophy).
Originally released as three books, entitled Awakening, Escalation, and Confrontation, the novels have the distinction of being the first Gundam media officially released in English, with translations courtesy of legendary Japanese culture scholar Frederik Schodt. Published by Del Ray in the early '90s both as an attempt to cash in on the interest in Humongous Mecha stirred up by Robotech and its well-loved series of tie-in novels and as a tie-in itself to a failed Hollywood film project with designs by Syd Mead (who would later go on to work on ∀ Gundam). The novels were later re-edited and collected into an omnibus edition after the the TV series was released in English published by Stone Bridge Press (interestingly, the original publisher, Del Ray, was translating the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED tie-in manga at the same time).
Tomino has also penned novelizations of several subsequent Gundam stories, most notably Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack (which started as a novel, then got another novel based on the movie which Tomino also wrote). None of these are sequels to the original trilogy though, but rather follow on from the anime, for a very good reason.
Tropes in the Gundam novels include...
- Authority in Name Only: Degwin is even more so here than in the original story. In the anime, he lacked the will to openly reprimand Ghiren for actions he disapproved of. In the novels, Ghiren had seized control of their political party years before the war started, leaving Degwin a figurehead.
- Beige Prose: According to Schodt's notes Tomino's writing style, at least at the time of the original Gundam novels, was exceedingly dry, and his translations follow suit.
- Big Beautiful Woman: Canon Foreigner Margaret Ring Blair, Kycilia Zabi's assistant and Char's love interest after Lalah dies.
- Bittersweet Ending: Despite all the major characters who buy the farm, the war ends with the Zabis all dead or removed from power but with the Federation recognizing Zeon's independence, under the moderate Prime Minister (now President) Bakharov, paving the way for more equality between Earth and the colonies and preventing the intermittent Neo-Zeon wars flaring up every decade or so that plague the anime Universal Century.
- Canon Foreigner: The novels feature several characters not present in the anime, most notably Elmeth pilot Cuzco Al.
- Canon Immigrant: Zeon Prime Minister Darcia Bakharov and Gihren's secretary Cecilia Irene were given cameos in the third Compilation Movie and both play extremely important roles in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Plot to Assassinate Gihren and other spinoffs. Cuzco also shows up in some of the Gihren's Greed games.
- Chubby Chaser: Depending on your definition of "chubby". Margaret Ring Blair is said to be plump with full lips and a full waist. It's the closest any incarnation of Char comes to falling in love. His anime incarnation's love interests tend to be very thin.
- Demoted to Extra: Since the novels leave out the whole story arc set on Earth, Garma instead appears in charge of the Zeon forces that intercept White Base en route to Luna II. Things don't work out any better than the anime and he dies within ten pages of his first appearance.
- Death by Adaptation: Poor Amuro...
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: ... He doesn't even get a very dignified death, getting picked off by a Mauve Shirt in a Rick Dom because Challia Bull's attempt to communicate telepathically using an outdated, malfunctioning psycommu was giving him a psychic freak out. Ryu Jose also gets a pretty miserable death compared to his dramatic Heroic Sacrifice in the TV series. He's shot down by a random Zaku during a chaotic battle and nobody even notices he's dead until he fails to come back to the hangar afterwards.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Beacause the Del Ray translation came out before the anime was officially released, Schodt had to come up with his own renderings of the character and mobile suit names. Highlights include "Sha Aznavel" and his customized red "Zak".
- Falling into the Cockpit: Downplayed. Amuro wasn't supposed to be the Gundam's pilot, but in this version he is a military cadet.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Gihren never had anything like a love interest in the original series, but here it's mentioned that he has a wife and is cheating on her with Cecilia. Oddly, while Cecilia becomes a major character in a few spinoffs, Gihren's wife is never mentioned again and may not even exist in the anime continuity.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: In the original anime, the connection between Char and Sayla, along with the reason behind Char's vendetta against the Zabis, was one of the big twists of the series. In the novels, it's explicitly spelled out in their first appearances. Similarly, the concept of Newtypes is introduced way earlier than it was in the anime.
- Midseason Upgrade: The RX-78-2 gets trashed at the end of the first book, so Amuro moves on up to the G-3 Gundam, which is basically the same thing with improved motors and a darker grey paint job.
- Mind Rape: An after effect of Gihren's laser cannon killing so many people at once is that all the Newtypes and Newtype sensitive people feel or see the souls of the people killed. All that mixed with Gihren's malice puts a lot of them on edge or nearly hysterical.
- Promoted to Love Interest: Sayla was Amuro's Implied Love Interest in the anime, but they get a Relationship Upgrade in this version.
- The Purge: In the backstory, Ghiren brought about the supremacy of the Zeonic movement by murdering two hundred thousand people associated with rival political parties in Gestapo-esque purges. Zeon Deikun did not approve and was actually on the verge of expelling the Zabi family from the movement over this when he had his sudden heart attack and allegedly left control of the party to Degwin. This actually provides plausible credence to Jimba Ral's theory that Zeon was murdered by the Zabis (or at least Ghiren): why would Zeon leave the movement in the hands of someone he was on the outs with, and if Ghiren was willing to murder that many people to gain power, what would stop him from killing one more to hold onto it?
- Spared by the Adaptation: Degwin Zabi, Ramba Ral, and ultimately Char, since the events of Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack can't happen with Amuro dead.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Fraw Bo and the kids, along with the other refugees from Side Seven are dropped off at Luna Two not long after the beginning, though the story does check in on them from time to time.
- Super Prototype: Downplayed. Unlike the original where the mass-produced GM series are disposable Mooks and the Gundam is basically a god, in this version they're said to have at least a few improvements. Their armor is made with sturdier construction methods (though cheaper materials) making them at least as resilient as the Gundam if not moreso, at the cost of speed and maneuverability. Tomino also sneaks in a Take That! at the shows' sponsors when Amuro notes how silly and impractical the humanoid "eyes" on the Gundam are and that the face-covering visors on the GM, which was designed for practicality rather than as a showy tech demo, have a much better range of vision.
- War Is Hell: You think Amuro and friends got it bad in the original?
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Zeon's opening campaign involved the mass murder of four billion civilians through liberal applications of nerve gas on multiple space colonies. After which Ghiren followed up by using the now empty stations for a Colony Drop.