Animorphs 46-49

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Animorphs: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-19 | 20-22 | 23-27 | 28-32 | 33-37 | 38-41 | 42-45

Megamorphs: The Andalite’s Gift | In the Time of Dinosaurs | Elfangor’s Secret | Back to Before

Animorphs Chronicles: The Andalite Chronicles | The Hork-Bajir Chronicles | Visser

It’s been ages since I posted one of these and for that, I can only apologise. However, I think that its about time that I take another look at K.A. Applegate’s classic science fiction series. Please note that this post is a retrospective and so will contain spoilers for the novels in question. For the purpose of this review, I’m going to be talking about books forty-six through forty-nine: The Deception, The Resistance, The Return and The Diversion.

Everything has changed for the Animorphs since the rescue of Marco’s mother. With the original Visser One dead, Visser Three has been rapidly promoted to take her place. Now, the Earth is in greater danger than ever before. Visser Three does not favour stealth and has always wanted to take the planet in open warfare. Now that he is in charge, there is no one who can stop him from pursuing this goal.

For the first time, the Animorphs are forced to decide whether or not they want to reveal their secret to the world. They have managed to slow the invasion so far but the six of them know that they will not stand a chance against the full force of the Yeerk army. However, revealing themselves will only put their loved ones in greater danger. If the Yeerks know who they are – and that they are human – they will surely target their families first.

However, as the Animorphs contemplate this difficult choice, they are hit by a number of other challenges. Rachel struggles with her dark side as the Crayak pits her against an old enemy, Jake contemplates what it means to be a leader as he protects the Hork-Bajir valley from discovery and Tobias finally learns the truth about what happened to his mother. Relationships between the Animorphs start to fray as they are forced to confront the very real prospect that they could lose the war…

When I reviewed The Reunion a few months ago, I called it a game changer. This was an utterly unprecedented string of events that lead to Marco faking his own death and Visser One – the most powerful Yeerk on the planet – finally being destroyed. However, I was disappointed to find that this gripping instalment didn’t quite spice things up as much as I would have expected.

Perhaps this is a problem with too many good cooks. As I mentioned in previous reviews, a lot of the novels at this stage were ghost written by several different writers, with Applegate largely only writing the Animorphs Chronicles and Megamorphs specials. I personally felt that this causes a lot of trouble as the different writers seem to interpret events quite differently, leading to slight inconsistencies arising between novels.

On a small scale, this is starting to lead to minor continuity errors. In The Deception, we see that Ax is able to communicate in thought speech while he is in human form. While this does make sense (for him, this is a morph like any other), it’s not something that he’s ever really done before. It is also immediately contradicted by The Resistance, which expresses the fact that the Animorphs are unable to use thought speech at all while in human form.

On a wider scale, the problems are more…well…problematic. Some of the ghost writers take a more extreme view of the invasion than others, as well as differing wildly in their opinions of the dangers of revealing themselves to normal humans. In the heat of battle in The Deception, the Animorphs reveal themselves to the crew of an entire aircraft carrier with no apparent repercussions, but the same Animorphs freak out in The Resistance when Jake makes the admittedly bizarre decision to inform a small group of campers about the invasion. This just felt weak to me. At this stage in the series, I would expect for events to be consistently escalating towards the climax. It felt a bit as though the ghostwriters were still largely trying to write stories that stand-alone.

But hey, on a positive note, we’re starting to see the back of introductory chapters! That’s right, my biggest bugbear of the series is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Evidently, at a mere forty-six books in the series, someone has decided that readers no longer need the premise to be explained at length in every book. While a few of the books do still contain a brief summary, this has now been cut down to a couple of pages rather than an entire chapter.

Anyway, I think that’s enough of a rant for now. Perhaps I should take a quick look at each of these four books on their own merits.

The Deception starts off at breakneck pace, seemingly carrying on from the events of The Reunion by showing that Visser One (formerly Three) is quite keen to take the war up a peg. And, he’s actually come up with a surprisingly clever plan for a change. He’s graduated from drugging cheeseburgers and making sharks into controllers, and is now trying to weaken humanity by starting a nuclear war between China and the United States. While the logic here still feels a bit shaky (why would you want to irradiate a planet that you plan on enslaving?), it still felt like a step in the right direction. It’s a scary plan that feels too large for five teenagers and an alien youth to combat.

However, what could have been a gripping plot soon stalled to a halt. The book becomes very slow-burning, overly stuffed with military terminology and oddly lacking in tension. It largely follows Ax as he walks around an aircraft carrier, acquiring various officers and listening in on conversations. It doesn’t even really explore the ethics of human morphing, which is something that the Animorphs all agreed was a taboo in earlier instalments.

The novel doesn’t really find its feet again until the final few chapters, which are utterly nail-biting. They provide great character development for Ax as he is forced to prove how far he will go to defeat his enemy. While he was against the destruction of Yeerk Pool in The Arrival due to the loss of innocent life it would cause, in this novel he is forced to reassess his stance. I loved the fact that the book left it open for the reader to decide if he would have been able to go through with it. It made the morality of his decision feel all the more ambiguous, as well as leaving Ax’s relationship with Jake incredibly strained in the following stories.

Following on from this, The Resistance felt like a bit more of an experiment. It shared the most with The Conspiracy, as it is another book that focuses on Jake’s insecurities as the group’s leader. However, this novel interestingly decides to represent this through a divergent story. Half of the chapters are set in present day, as the Animorphs and free Hork-Bajir defend the valley from Visser One, but the other half take the form of journal entries from one of Jake’s ancestors – a lieutenant fighting in the American Civil War.

Naturally, the two story-lines do mirror each other in a number of ways. Both focus on a teenager who is forced into a position of leadership and is worried about making the wrong decisions. They also focus on the need to overcome prejudice and see things through the eyes of another race, as well as boiling down to being stories about small bands of rebels facing off against much more powerful enemies.

However, the result felt a little weak. Due to the length of the novel, there wasn’t a lot of space to flesh out either story which left both feeling rather rushed on the whole. The decision to reveal the morphing technology to an outside group was largely glossed over, any of the lasting implications were ignored and the ending felt a bit unsatisfying. The Hork-Bajir insist on defending their valley at a massive cost of life only to relocate anyway (why?), and Jake’s ancestor somehow manages to scratch out a last shaky journal entry while he lay dying on the battlefield.

However, as pointless as it felt in places, I find it hard to dislike this book. While I did feel that Jake’s leadership issues have been better explored in earlier stories, The Resistance was very memorable and did have a poignant ending. I’m curious to see what it will mean for Jake’s character arc going forward.

Unfortunately, The Resistance was followed by another Rachel story. Yes, as you may be aware, I have made my dislike of Rachel quite clear in my earlier retrospectives. Personally, I have felt that her plot arc has been floundering since The Separation. While she has always been gung-ho, I feel that Rachel dropped past the point of no return a long time ago. In The Return, she openly acknowledges the fact that she is a psychopath who hungers for the kill. Really, this just felt as though it went too far.

The Rachel of this story makes no attempt to hide her identity. She dreams of contesting Jake for leadership of group (even though that went swimmingly in The Weakness) and actually considers siding with the embodiment of lawful evil that is the Crayak when he offers her a chance to become “Super-Rachel” – a seven-foot-tall version herself with metal claws and teeth. I could not make this up if I tried.

I have to question why the Crayak would even bother with this. Although he appears infrequently throughout the series, we’ve witnessed his world-rending power. In light of this, his attempt to coerce Rachel seems oddly low key. Why does he need Rachel to get his revenge on Jake, when the Drode came so close to doing so alone in The Familiar? And why is he prepared to sacrifice Visser One to have his revenge. Although his power is still unquestionable, I did feel as though the Crayak has descended into cartoon villainy in this book.

The one saving grace of this story was its ending. The climax of this story puts Rachel into a terrible position, as she is forced to face the fact that she condemned David to a wretched existence as a rat and he begs her to end his life. As with The Deception, the novel leaves it for the reader to decide whether they believe that Rachel goes through with this. I loved this as it raises a wonderful moral dilemma concerning which action would be the most merciful. While it’s pretty bleak on the whole, it forces the reader to examine what being a “good guy” actually entails, and if murder is ever the right thing to do.

After a few shaky entries, I’m please to say that this little block ends on a high note. While I’m reluctant to call this book a game changer after the fallout from The Reunion, The Diversion is the novel where the Yeerks finally suss out the fact that the Animorphs are human. This forces the team to finally reveal the truth to their families and spirit them away to the Hork-Bajir valley where they will be safe. The results of this are mixed. While Cassie and Rachel are largely successful, Jake is unfortunately too late and discovers that Tom has finally managed to make his parents into controllers.

To say that this is dramatic is an understatement. Really, the whole series has been building to this moment. For of their struggles and near-misses, this is the point where the battle has truly become personal for the Animorphs. Everything becomes more dramatic still as Tobias learns the identity of her mother and her surprisingly believable reasons for abandoning him – she was left blinded, brain damaged and unable to raise a baby after a terrible accident.

The main purpose of The Diversion is to explore what motherhood actually means. Over the course of the novel, we see how that even in the face of aliens and wild animals (special mention goes to Rachel’s mother who is prepared to face down a grizzly bear while only armed with a spice rack), mothers will still risk life and limb to protect their children. This contrasts jarringly with the scene in which Jake’s Yeerk-controlled mother levels a dracon beam at her son.

Emotions certainly run strong in this story, but the tension mounts in the second half as Tobias faces the impossible in order to save the mother he never knew from the Yeerks. The scene in which he uses the morphing technology to cure her blindness and engages in a seemingly hopeless mission to lead her to safety is one of the most intense and dramatic action sequences in the series to date. It was made even more frightening by the fact that I half-thought the series would kill her off. Animorphs has never been a series to shy away from dark scenes, which makes it wonderfully unpredictable. It wouldn’t have surprised me if it reunited Tobias with his mother for a moment, only to snatch her away again.

Anyhow, I think that about covers it. While the stories in this little block have been average at best, it did at least end on a high note. The Diversion was a fantastic blend of tension and drama, marking the point in the series where the Yeerks finally discover that the Animorphs have been human teenagers all along. With only six books left to go, I’m very curious to see where things will go from here.

These four novels are currently out of print. If you’d like to read them, try Amazon Marketplace or your local library.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Ellimist Chronicles | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: Animorphs 50-53 | Arkham Reviews
  3. Trackback: Animorphs 54 | Arkham Reviews

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