Animorphs 42-45

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

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 quite a while since my last Animorphs review so I think we should probably take a look at the next few novels in this series. In case you haven’t read any of these posts before, these reviews are intended to be a retrospective look at K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs series and so may contain spoilers. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be talking about books 42 to 45 only – The Journey, The Test, The Unexpected and The Revelation.

The Animorphs thought that they had seen the last of the Helmacrons, but the minuscule aliens are still determined to take over the world. To do this, they know that they need the Escafil Device to power their engines but they know that the Animorphs will not just hand this over. In order to convince them, a group of Helmacrons enter Marco’s body and threaten to stop his heart. His friends have no choice but to shrink themselves down and follow the invaders. But Marco’s body is a hostile battlefield and could kill them long before they catch up with their foes.

However, this is not the only threat that the Animorphs face. Tobias is forced to relive his traumatic past when he is captured by Taylor once again. Taylor claims to have switched sides and wants to help them to destroy Visser Three, however the Animorphs are not sure if she can be trusted. If she is lying, she could be leading them to a fate worse than death. Cassie is also put in danger when a mission goes wrong and she is separated from the others. Trapped on a plane heading to Australia and surrounded by Controllers, she is forced to do everything that she can to survive.

Yet all of this pales in the face of their biggest challenge. When Marco’s father discovers Z-Space, he becomes a target for the Yeerks. As he is captured and taken to be made into a Controller, Marco is forced to make a terrible choice. Either he reveals to his father the truth about the invasion, or he loses another parent to the enemy…

At this late stage in the Animorphs series, it’s hard to believe how much filler there still is. Of these four novels, only one of them really has any consequence to the overarching plot. Unfortunately, the rest of them this time aren’t what I’d call essential reads. Really, you could skip books 42 to 44 and not miss out on anything. The only purpose that these books serve serve to build character and pass the time and, as you will soon see, they do this to various degrees of success.

Okay, let’s take a look at these novels one at a time.

First of all is The Journey. I don’t often say this about Animorphs books, but I really dislike this story. Over the course of this series, I have been forced to accept some pretty wild things as a given. I mean, I accepted the alien toilet and bad Rachel and the Yeerks’ species-wide allergy to oatmeal. However, this is the book that pushed my ability to suspend disbelief just a little too far. And I’m saying this as someone who generally quite likes the Helmacrons.

The Journey presents itself as the fantastical adventure up Marco’s nose. Try to shake that image out of your heads. While it makes some small attempts to be educational, these factoids are somewhat dampened by the fact that that it’s a book that features teenagers morphing into bats to navigate themselves around their friend’s stomach.

The book is a mess of fake science (even if plasma did evolve from seawater, I don’t think that means that sharks could swim in it) and gross-out moments, basically taking the form of a prolonged chase sequence in the same vein as The Hidden. This is broken up by Marco’s chapters, which are spent detailing his attempts to outwit a vicious pit bull and steal a camera from a little boy’s bedroom. Yeah, it’s a little dull on the whole.

Ultimately, the Animorphs manage to eliminate the danger of the Helmacrons by making a deal with them, which is something that they could have done from the start, and the novel culminates in a weird final message about the danger of being bitten by a strange dog. This is naturally delivered in the same heavy-handed manner as the environmental message of The Mutation. All in all, The Journey is just wasted space. It’s filler of the worst kind, not advancing the story at all and barely even featuring the Yeerks. However, it’s not the last filler story of this block.

To be fair, The Test is a bit more relevant. While you could argue that The Illusion didn’t really need a follow-up story (we were all traumatised enough the first time), Taylor is an unforgettable villain who really did a number on Tobias. In light of this, you might have thought that a reunion with his torturer would affect Tobias badly. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

The emotional impact of The Test is brushed aside relatively quickly and instead the novel becomes a pretty dull Yeerk Pool infiltration story. It shares some similarities with stories like The Sickness and The Other, as these also focus on whether or not a strange alien can be trusted, however this story lacked the tension of these earlier instalments. It was blatantly obvious that Taylor was lying from the very start. The book gives this away in one of Tobias’s earliest meetings with her. Yet this does lead to the book’s most interesting element.

In this story, the Animorphs have to decide whether or not they are prepared to blow up the Yeerk Pool, even though it would mean killing hundreds of human hosts. Let’s note that earlier in the series, this would have been unthinkable. In The Arrival, the Animorphs stop a band of Andalites from attempting a very similar plan. Yet this time, almost every Animorph considers this idea. The only one who does not is Cassie, who refuses to join the mission as it goes against her ethics. This shift in character is fascinating. It nicely illustrates just how much war has changed the team and I’m very curious to see where this will lead in future volumes.

However, this certainly doesn’t really factor into The Unexpected. While this is certainly not one of the worst Animorphs books, it is still pure filler. It’s basically a solo adventure for Cassie as she is transported to Australia. The first half of this story is fairly exciting. As Cassie does not reach her destination until over half-way through the novel, her attempts to avoid Hork-Bajir Controllers on a crowded flight are rather tense and exciting.

However, problems began to arise in the second half of the story. My first issue was the way that the natives were portrayed in this book. Really, this is a problem with the Animorphs series on the whole. We’ve now met an Amazonian tribe in The Forgotten, an Inuit in The Extreme and Aborigines in this novel, yet they’re all portrayed in exactly the same way. Each one of these people has been shown to be slightly simple and spiritual, which naturally makes them very open to morphing because they have a deep-seated believe in shape-shifters walking among us. While I do like that the novels attempt to show other cultures, I really wish that these inclusions were based less on stereotypes.

My other issue with this story was with the writing. This book was the first to be written by Lisa Harkrader and she’s certainly not the best. The pacing of this novel was pretty poor on the whole, with the section set in Australia being over relatively quickly. She was also not fantastic at writing fight sequences, with combat quickly degenerating into confusing short sentences and sound effects.

However, this book did provide a bit more interesting character development for Cassie. While she is quieter about this than Jake is in his stories, it’s clear that Cassie is also slowly reaching her limit. Every choice that she has made up to this point has weighed on her and she is starting to fear the point where she makes a fatal decision. I am curious to see if the story will ever reach this point as, while Cassie’s sensitivity makes me like her, I can imagine it eventually spelling disaster for the team.

And finally, there is The Revelation. I really am saving the best until last here. After many fake-outs in previous novels, The Revelation presents the biggest game-changer of the series since Tobias got his power to morph back. Marco reveals his morphing power to his father. Eva is freed from being Visser One’s host. And Marco is forced to fake their deaths and accept a new life living with the fugitive Hork-Bajir. Wow.

As you might be able to tell, this is an incredibly high-stake story and is very well paced. There is a tonne of important character development for Marco, who shows a level of maturity and restraint in this novel that I would at one time have never believed that he had. Yet, not only does this change Marco’s entire way of life, but it also moves the invasion up a gear.

It was shown in Visser that Visser One was the only one stopping Visser Three from launching a full-scale invasion of Earth. Now that Visser One is dead, it is only a matter of time before the Yeerks come out of the shadows. It’s the moment that the Animorphs have always feared – the start of the war that they can’t win, the one that we have seen the aftermath of in The Stranger and The Familiar. For the first time, the end of the series is starting to come into view, and I’m very excited to see where it will go from here.

Wow, this review is getting long so I’d better wrap it up. While there has been a run of rather dull Animorphs books for a while now, The Revelation is a truly excellent novel and a real game-changer. I feel that it’s set the tone for what is to come, and I’m incredibly excited to see where Applegate will take the story from here.

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

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Animorphs 46-49 | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: The Ellimist Chronicles | Arkham Reviews
  3. Trackback: Animorphs 50-53 | Arkham Reviews
  4. Trackback: Animorphs 54 | Arkham Reviews

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