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Kalir 09-21-2017 10:57 PM

I'm gonna reread the Animorphs series.
If you were ever in a bookstore's Young Adult section in the 90's, you at least remember Animorphs from the covers, in which a teen is depicted shapeshifting into some kind of animal. The blurb on the back always starts with a few sentences about "we can't tell you anything too concrete, it's too dangerous, also we are all in severe danger". Pretty solid bait for a kid to pick up, right?

I used to be nuts about the series and have pretty much every book in it in my room, but it's been a while since I read the series. So here I am reading Bogleech articles on the series and I'm getting a bit nostalgic. Not because I want to read about teens with attitude transforming into animals and saving the world (although that's nice too), but because Bogleech usually writes about either xenobiology or psychological horror, and this series apparently has plenty of both.

Also I have a lot of time to kill at work these days so why not.

Book 1: The Invasion could honestly be a standalone story in most other settings. Pretty simple to start with: five teens take a shortcut home from the mall and get inadvertently entangled in an intergalactic war between centaur-elves and brain slugs. The latter have been using Earth as a focal point in their conquest given humanity's high numbers, and a wounded survivor from the former gives our crew the ability to steal animal DNA and use it to transform more or less at will. There's a few details to the process, but the main one is that there is a strict time limit: exceed two hours in another form, and you're locked in it.

While a few of them are understandably delighted at this cool new power they have, the more pressing issue for them is the responsibility that they are now guerrilla fighters in a hopeless war with no one they can turn to for aid. Moreover, they take that responsibility surprisingly seriously. The only kid who raises any real complaints with it, Marco, isn't just doing so because he's afraid of fighting killer aliens, but also because he's worried about his dad, who already lost his wife and would probably not make it on his own if Marco died. Everyone else is mostly just in the vein of "I can't believe this is actually a thing".

Most of this book is focused on character establishment, which means that for this book's focal character, Jake, we learn about his estrangement from his brother, Tom, who went and joined the Sharing, the hip and cool new place to get infested by a Yeerk and become a soldier in their bid to control the earth. They broadcast that Tom is a Controller (brainslugged human) incredibly heavily, but even so Jake refuses to accept it for about half the book.

The climax of the book is when they attempt a raid on a Yeerk pool, sort of like a hive where they have to recharge every 3 days and can freely plan while their hosts freak out in cages. If this was a standalone book, they'd strike a decisive blow here and free loads of people and make their names known. This is not what happens. Cassie nearly gets infested, the recurring villain Visser Three shows up and turns into a fire-breathing spider-hydra, cutting down their daring rescue to all of one woman (who gets almost no mention), and Tobias has to stay hidden in hawk form for long enough that he gets trapped there permanently.

I'm pretty sure in later books, they attempt slightly less daring maneuvers than a jailbreak at a central point in the Yeerk base, and come away with solid successes. But starting off the intrepid heroes with what is ultimately a failed mission sets the mood pretty accurately throughout the books. This is not a lighthearted romp at all. This is a series about a war, and in wars the good guys can and will lose, and innocent people will die, and you will have to make hard choices just to stay alive. Hell, even before they commit to everything, Jake flees and leaves some rando homeless guy to take the blame for being near the friendly alien's landing site.

I like Animorphs.

Paul le Fou 09-22-2017 01:32 AM

I read a few of the books waaaaaaay back when and remember nothing but what others have told me since. I knew Tobias got stuck as a hawk, but didn't realize it happened in book 1. Huh.

This is good, yes. Please do continue rereading the Animorphs books.

Octopus Prime 09-22-2017 02:27 AM

Y'know, I was actually thinking of rereading these books myself, loved 'em when I was wee.

So, if nothing else, you doing it would be a great time-saver for me.

liquid 09-22-2017 06:13 AM

I still remember the ant scene despite reading it in 1996.

Morph Club
is a fun podcast where they cover a book an episode. It's been a nice way to revisit the series without buying every book (although it's kinda been making me want to, you know, buy and reread every book).

Octopus Prime 09-22-2017 07:48 AM

Oh yeah, the Ant Scene freaked me out plenty when I was wee.

TheSL 09-22-2017 07:56 AM

I read a bunch of these when I was younger on road trips because my brother had them and I'd run out of my books or batteries for the Game Gear. Was there ever any resolution to the overall plot or are they just left fighting forever?

Octopus Prime 09-22-2017 08:58 AM

IIIRC, the series does have a proper ending, and the alien invasion plot gets sidetracked with a Cthulhu-attack at least once.

I didn't read that far when I was wee, though.

Dracula 09-22-2017 10:07 AM

Bogleech got me interested in re-reading them too. I started picking up copies of the books here and there when I find them at thrift stores, but I haven't really buckled down to actually read them.

A lot of small details from them have stuck with me in the probably 20 years since I first read them.

Kalir 09-22-2017 06:57 PM

The series has an actual ending, but it's about fifty books strong, not counting side stories.

I brought two books to work today, since they're so short. Already read Book 2: The Visitor. They rotate the narrator with each book (Rachel's driving today) but they all start with the same line about how they can't tell you their last names. This book starts with everyone in bird-of-prey forms (explained as acquired offscreen from Cassie's animal rehab place), discussing their plan of attack. Since they know basically nothing and attacking the pool again would be suicide, they elect to go for spying instead.

This is done by Rachel acquiring the DNA of the housecat belonging to assistant principal Chapman's daughter Melissa. Mr. Chapman was a confirmed Controller last book, and Melissa's seeming pretty haunted, so Rachel figures cat-based espionage kills two birds with one stone: learn about the Yeerks and see if her friend is okay. (Spoilers: having your parents care more about intergalactic war than you is not healthy for anyone, let alone a teenager.)

This book also characterizes Visser Three, the only Yeerk who got a space centaur-elf (Andalite) host a lot more, since Iniss two-two-six (Chapman's Yeerk) has meetings with him. Turns out Visser Three is kind of a horrible person! He threatens Iniss two-two-six with execution by apex Yeerk predator morph, orders him to kill his daughter's housecat on suspicion of being a spy (to be fair, he's right), and is quietly derided by Iniss two-two-six for bungling the invasion of Earth thus far.

Rachel (and Jake, as a flea hitching a ride) get caught and delivered to Visser Three and that's all very exciting, but what's more interesting is Mr. Chapman. The prior book established that some Controllers willingly submit to the Yeerks, but that was a footnote. This book adds more detail: some people do so as part of deals, and people can seize control for brief moments if they really try. Mr. Chapman only serves the Yeerks if his daughter goes free, and even threatens to fight the Yeerks to Visser Three's face if she is harmed.

In the end, nothing really changes in the status quo this book, which happens a lot. Some brushes with death, some brushes with being trapped as a cat/flea, and confirmation that the Animorphs are considered Andalite bandits. Melissa gets an anonymous note from Rachel about her dad's love, Rachel herself gets a reason to fight. Didn't remember a lot about this book, but it's not bad.

Serephine 09-22-2017 07:26 PM

Animorphs contains a heady intoxicating blend of rebel with a cause (in the form of EVEN YOUR TEACHER IS AN ACTUAL LITERAL ALIEN BENT ON SUBJUGATING EARTH), heroic everyperson protagonists with a solid mix of young men and women of decent ethnic variety for kids of all sorts to see themselves in the story as, crazy powers that force the heroes to be creative in ways that power the story, visceral horror in several forms ranging from physical to mental that also speaks to what teenagers feel like in general, and enough will they won't they between the heroes that it piques the interest of kids just hitting puberty.

It's really not surprising that it was something that spoke to a lot of kids at the time, now that I think about it.

Teaspoon 09-22-2017 09:54 PM

I read the last book in the series once!

I look forward to seeing how they all got to that point.

Kalir 09-22-2017 11:11 PM

Book 3: The Encounter follows the viewpoint of Tobias. You might recall this name as the kid who got stuck in hawk form in the very first book. So before I get into the book itself, I want to discuss the psychology of morphing a bit, because it's incredibly central to Tobias' character. See, when you morph into an animal, you also have that animal's mind in there kind of backseating for you. In some instances, this is handy, as a human mind hardly has the knowhow to, say, reflexively camouflage themselves as an octopus might. Most of the time, though, you're fighting against that animal's instincts more or less constantly. These impulses vary from animal to animal. So far, the worst ones have been low-tier prey animals like lizards and shrews, who pretty much panic at the existence of things.

Tobias got off fairly light in terms of animals to be stuck as for the rest of his life, but it's still no cakewalk. For one thing, he can't morph like everyone else (which I am convinced is part of why he doesn't have as many books as the rest). For another, he's stuck as a red-tailed hawk, which means he constantly has to deal with the impulses of a red-tailed hawk, including the impulse to hunt. He bums table scraps off of Jake for a while, but that only lasts for so long.

The actual plan for this book's mission is that they discover a huge transport ship belonging to the Yeerks, which funnels up lakewater and takes it to places unknown, likely for usage in Yeerk pools. The group (most in wolf form) comes up with a plan to try to sneak aboard and decloak it, which is really all you need to know about the mission for now. The real focus of this one is the horrors of being stuck in one form. The crew comes close enough to the two-hour time limit that they almost get stuck halfway between human and wolf forms, and only just barely make it.

Between this near-brush with monsterhood for his pals, and Tobias finally losing the battle with the hawk's instincts and getting/eating his first kill, he's not in a happy place for a lot of this. If it wasn't for the intervention of Rachel and Marco, he'd probably not have lived through this book. He even spends a short time just living in the wilderness as a hawk, trying to distance himself from his humanity, which is a far cry from the determination to save the world he displayed in the prior books.

The main thing that brings him back is when other people are in danger. First, an unlucky human who happened to witness an entire Yeerk-controlled army in the woods, who Tobias leads to safety. Second, when the whole "sneak onto a ship the size of any given state" plan falls apart and everyone aboard considers it their death warrant, at which point Tobias somehow manages to steal a Dracon beam and use it to crit the freighter ship to pieces. Which kinda ruins the whole "reveal the invasion above a major population center" aspect of the plan, but it's still badass as hell, so I'll accept it.

I kind of found Tobias' books and story really samey when I read them as a kid, although I did like him well enough. Today's reading was pretty consistent with what I remember, and I'm wondering what his next story will be like. I'll also have to wait a while to get to that point.

dtsund 09-23-2017 12:49 AM


Originally Posted by Kalir (Post 2392218)
For one thing, he can't morph like everyone else (which I am convinced is part of why he doesn't have as many books as the rest).

I seem to recall Wager Master screwing with things so that he regains the ability to morph, just with hawk as his base form, but maybe I'm misremembering.

Kalir 09-23-2017 10:46 AM

Today's a two-show day, so I prepared by bringing four books. But I also got a ride and showed up early, and due to a combination of me already being a fast reader and these books not exactly being dense, I'm already done with Book 4: The Message.

Next up in the rotation of narrators is Cassie, by far the most hippie of the lot. She's already the best at morphing, her family works as wildlife rehabilitation experts (and therefore have a huge pool of animals they can try to morph into), and is always keenly aware of environmental issues (although some of the things in the book, like wolf packs having an alpha male, are inaccurate, but I'll live with it). It's like instead of the team cleric, she's the team druid, if you will.

The focal point of this book comes from her and Tobias getting telepathic distress signals from an Andalite ship that's crashlanded in the ocean. Visser Three also ends up getting these signals, so the assumption is that they're sending the signals to the most Andalite-like individuals. Cassie's the best morpher and Tobias was the one who felt most connected to Prince Elfangor, who was the guy who gave them morphing powers and then died, so hey.

Most of the book is focused on Cassie not liking having everyone's lives in her hand. She's far more content to let the more decisive personalities like Jake or Rachel take charge. This really gets driven home when during their first excursion into the sea, they come across a shiver of sharks attacking a whale. They drive off the sharks, but in the process, Marco sustains a mortal wound. This is really first blood for the group (they've mostly survived so far by virtue of protagonist bullet deflection) and to have it happen under Cassie's direction is a pretty significant shock for her. Thankfully, flesh wounds aren't genetic, so a morph back to human fixes him right up, but it's still kind of harrowing, and Cassie makes a point of going to his house and personally apologizing to him.

Eventually they make it to the sunken Andalite ship and meet the sole survivor of the crash, one Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthil, or Ax for short. Turns out he's the brother of Elfangor! What a wacky coincidence! He also brings the helpful news that the Andalite reinforcements are about two years off and that the Yeerks' M.O. is to destroy every part of a planet they don't personally need to sustain their hosts to make room for more of their own barren world's atmosphere. This is incredibly horrific to Cassie personally, but it seems a little overkill to me. Rachel raises the rather-valid point of "how did the technologically-superior Andalites let a bunch of pond-dwelling slugs get so powerful", but Ax refuses to answer on grounds that he is forbidden, which is both ballsy considering there's no other Andalites to punish him, and EXTREMELY SUSPICIOUS. But I'm sure that won't come up for another twelve books or so.

Anyway they go into another life-or-death escape sequence in which Visser Three breaks out yet another space monster morph straight out of a Metroid fight, and they are narrowly saved this time by the whale from before, who brings a few friends to smack around a sea monster for them. Cool and all, but this is a lot of instances of Visser Three having everyone dead to rights and getting foiled. He's already become a hammy incompetent villain. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, and I know they have to keep the protagonists (now plus one Andalite cadet) alive for more books, but still.

BEAT 09-23-2017 01:36 PM

Loving this thread. Please continue.

Octopus Prime 09-23-2017 01:40 PM

Visser 3 was my favorite character for his capability to turn into boss monsters at a moments notice.

But he was also pretty much Skeletor in terms of effectiveness.

Kalir 09-23-2017 03:06 PM

Book 5: The Predator starts off with Marco turning into a gorilla (literal) to take on some troublemaking gorillas (metaphorical). Which has started to become a staple of the series; one or more of the Animorphs risks everything playing superhero. Rest assured, though: this is where the series starts getting capital-G Good.

Marco was one of my favorites as a kid, on account of doing double duty as wisecracking sidekick and voice of reason. He's the one who is always trying to get people to NOT go on suicide missions against the Yeerks, and as mentioned before, he's concerned about his dad, who's been a shell of a man ever since his wife died. If Marco dies, as he nearly did last mission, it'd be too much for Papa.

This book starts off lighthearted, with Jake and Marco escorting Ax on a mission to build a Yeerk distress signal (using RadioShack parts). His overall plan is to steal a Yeerk fighter and return to the Andalite homeworld. This requires Ax to use his human morph, which is not one he's used to. The trifecta of a bipedal form, vocal communication, and human cuisine is too much, and a series of wacky hijinxs ensues, wherein Marco is put in mortal peril again. What a zany adventure!

Unfortunately, RadioShack doesn't stock Z-space transponders, so they have to sneak into Mr. Chapman's house again. And cat stealth is out on account of last time, so they try a new tack and become ants. This is the Ant Scene mentioned earlier: the hivemind instincts totally drown out their humanity for a solid five or ten minutes, and on the exit trip (after learning that Visser One is going to visit Earth soon) they run into a rival ant colony and have to immediately morph out from the ant tunnel to avoid bisection. At least one of them loses a leg. It's grisly stuff.

Everyone has some heavy PTSD for days after the incident, and they all swear to never go ant again. This also finally convinces Marco that guerrilla warfare is flat not worth it, and after Ax hijacks his ship, he's out for good. The two-year anniversary of his mom's death is coming up, and he doesn't want his dad to leave flowers on two graves. Course, you all know what "one day to retirement" means.

Ax's distress signal works, but Visser Three expected a plan like that, and the six of them are caught in their combat forms immediately. Rather than kill them there, he decides to show off his capture to Visser One, because petty bickering politics exist in space, too. Visser One is unimpressed, but Marco gets to see her face to face, and turns out his mom didn't drown. She became the general in command of the Yeerk invasion is all! Jake has to keep Marco from blowing everyone's cover then and there.

Course, they're all still trapped. Visser Three has them dead to rights, and they are all but resigned to their fate... until Visser One's soldiers turn up and politely give them escape directions and open the door. Apparently, letting the Andalite bandits roam free is totally worth dealing a blow to Visser Three's reputation. I guess this means Visser Three legit earned a victory here, but it's short-lived.

The book ends with Marco finding a very concrete reason to fight, and his dad realizing his mourning is coming at an expense to his son, and resolving to pick his life up again. So far, the books have only been "eh", but this one knocked it out of the park.

Daikaiju 09-23-2017 03:07 PM

Most I remember about this series is they tried to tie it to Transformers at some point...

Kalir 09-23-2017 05:22 PM

So, the books have a preview of the next book at the end, about a half-chapter's worth of text. They also explain the synopsis on the back of the book. I'm not saying these are always spoilers. But for Book 6: The Capture, they absolutely spoil the plot twist in the second half. To be fair, the first half is super dull.

We're back to Jake's viewpoint for this one, and we'll keep rotating with the cast as narrators with each book. The mission today comes with the discovery that Tom, his Controller brother, has been making a bunch of hospital calls. Marco quickly figures out what that could potentially mean: if they legit control a hospital, anyone going in for so much as a check-up leaves as a Controller. That said, while the stakes of the mission are high, the actual infiltrations are fairly harmless. Sure, they have to morph into roaches and flies, but those are cakewalks compared to ants. (Also, Visser Three gets a human morph and executes someone for bringing up that literally every building on Earth has cockroaches.)

When they make it into the hospital, they discover a Jacuzzi repurposed into a miniature Yeerk pool, and Jake demonstrates his Heroism by setting it to maximum heat and bubbles. Shortly after he starts his war crime, they get busted and he nearly gets shot in the head. It's only a glancing blow, so it's not fatal, but a glancing blow to the head from a bullet is still enough to seriously daze you, and he goes facefirst into the drink, where Temrash one-one-four suddenly gets a one-way ticket out of a horrible death.

Everyone else gets out of there more or less okay, with Marco's gorilla form carrying "Jake" to safety, but he's pretty out of it while this is going on. Internally, Temrash is gloating over his survival by stealing one of the so-called Andalite bandits, and how this suddenly makes his previous host (Tom, by coincidence) and future one (the state governor considering a presidential bid) seem like small fries. Jake's freaking out and swinging for the fences in his mind, but as they've already seen, you need to catch a Yeerk off-guard and give it your all to break out of their control, and even then only briefly.

Thankfully for the gang, this happens literally the second Ax shows up, and Temrash's cover is blown almost immediately on account of that good ol' loathing of Andalites. It's still a dicey situation, since he can hole up in there for a solid three days, and if he contacts any other Yeerk whatsoever, the Animorphs are dead in the water. Faced with this reality, the group comes up with a pretty excellent plan: keep Jake under watch in the wilderness for those three days, with Ax copying his form and imitating him so nobody knows he's gone, and starve the Yeerk out.

This book isn't one where there's any real risk to the team, to be honest. Sure, Temrash almost breaks out by laying low until night and then trying for a morph, but the group's defense is airtight, and he gets nowhere (in ant form, he just runs into a rival colony and nearly dies again). The real draw of this book is getting to actually see what the Yeerk's vantage point is like. And sure, they're pretty arrogant, especially this rank-climber, but Jake also gets to learn firsthand about the homeworld of the Yeerks, their first and only hosts for some time (they're called Gedd and they're pretty much just worse humans, clumsy and dumb and uneven in limb length), and how the Andalites played a part in them eventually becoming "masters of the galaxy". Nothing concrete, but enough to give them characterization beyond "we are the evil brain slugs from space".

This book also marks one of the first relatively low-risk missions for the group, as well as one of their marked successes. Jake's infestation aside, they shut down the hospital plan definitively AND managed to make a pretty meaty dent in their enemies' numbers (although it might not actually be that many on a galactic scale). Only weird part was that vision of the biomechanical eye monster that Jake saw (and that saw him in turn) as Temrash starved to death, but that probably doesn't mean anything.

Mommi 09-23-2017 08:30 PM

I probably would have read these if I knew it was like one big X-File. I always just kinda judged them by their covers to be honest. Enjoying these, thanks Kalir!

Kalir 09-23-2017 11:16 PM

Got through all four books I brought today. Book 7: The Stranger is kind of a weird one that breaks with the established setting of the books thus far, but we'll roll with it. It starts off normally enough: Rachel has to balance the family troubles of her divorced but still quite loving parents with her role as frontline fighter of the Animorphs. I haven't really covered it yet, but Rachel's always been characterized as a determined, fearless sort, but this is the book where that really starts getting showcased.

Today's mission: having discovered another entrance to the Yeerk pool, they're not gonna go in as a flurry of fangs and claws, but instead opt for stealth so as to not ruin literally everything again. Prior to the mission, Rachel gets news from her dad that hey, he's moving out of state for work, and he could totally get her hooked up with a big leagues medal-winning gymnastics coach, and would you like to come with? This doesn't really put her in the best of moods, so she decides to head to the Gardens (wildlife park Cassie's mom runs) and go get a new morph.

Rachel's got two solid morphs for combat, but neither is perfect. Wolf is quick enough but lacks the punch to really go head-to-head with the worst of the Yeerk army, and elephant is too unwieldy and prone to collateral damage. So she strikes a good middle-ground balance by acquiring a grizzly bear without telling anyone. This goes over very well with her team when they eventually find out, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Their stealth into the Yeerk pool goes better than their first incursion, but not by much: a Taxxon (giant space centipede, denoted by their unending hunger, willing servitude to the Yeerks, and cannon fodder status) finds them all and shows them this cool trick an anteater taught it. Everyone's on a fast track to become lunch when time stops. They find themselves morphing back to default forms uncontrollably (including Tobias, who you might recall is stuck in hawk form) and in the middle of a Yeerk pool where nothing and nobody is moving. And then a voice from out of nowhere chimes in and lets them know the score.

This voice is the Ellimist, who Ax describes as part of a species that has incredible power beyond even what Andalite tech can do, but who make a point of forcing other species to do what they want in the form of rigged choices. And this appears to be no exception: the Ellimist has casually saved them all and disrupted reality to let them know the end result of the Yeerk invasion: they win, the Earth loses. So he offers them all a choice: head with him now and bring a few of their closest human friends and family, or stick it out to fight a doomed war.

Most of the group tells him off then and there, with Rachel in particular seeing a great way to bail the Yeerk pool in the process (although she hasn't gone grizzly yet), but Cassie makes the point that the Ellimist is basically doing what conservationists do all the time, and the animals they rescue aren't usually thrilled about it either. Although they refuse there, and have to go right out of the Taxxon's stomach (literally) and out of the Yeerk pool with no small amount of bloodshed, they start having second thoughts quickly. The crew also gets on Rachel's case about her risking her neck by going into a bear enclosure because she wanted a power trip, but that's a drop in the bucket for her usual stress levels.

A while after the group escapes, they come to a consensus that maybe accepting the Ellimist's offer is the right thing to do. As if on cue, he shows up and says "hey let me show you something that might help you decide" and casually warps them to the future where the Yeerks have won. They even meet Visser Three (then promoted to Visser One) who has a parasited Rachel as a lieutenant by his side. This is all well and good, and they almost kill the future Visser One with time paradoxes as armor (hey, killing you won't change my future, buddy) but the Ellimist snaps them back as soon as they try. This prompts them to wonder a few things: why show them this info when they were already set to concede and agree? Why did agreeing to his terms not warp them all to captivity?

Eventually, Rachel figures out the trick to it: the carefully-enshrined location of the first artificial Kandrona in the Worst Timeline is where the present-day Kandrona is. One tower-climb and bloodbath later (and this one's a pretty gruesome one, five versus eight Hork-Bajir is not a pretty sight) and they manage to smash the Kandrona, getting a "well done" from the Ellimist. Turns out, he's bound by some pretty weird rules, and so has to go through a bunch of precautions to ensure that he doesn't personally interfere in their actions too much. This might not matter a lot now, but it does put a heavy and extremely important limit on the Ellimist's deus-ex-machina powers, and this WILL be important later down the road.

Also Rachel can become a bear now and that's her signature combat morph from here on out and that's cool, bears are cool.

Paul le Fou 09-24-2017 01:04 AM


Originally Posted by Kalir (Post 2392450)
that's cool, bears are cool.

bears ARE cool!!

BEAT 09-24-2017 06:59 AM

Go bears.

Octopus Prime 09-24-2017 07:07 AM

New Headcanon is that she wears a fedora and a wide-neck tie in bear form.

Nerdy 09-24-2017 08:44 AM

I remember in one book, Rachel has an allergic reaction to an alligator whose Dna she aquired, and while in bear form, it started to come out. Like, the head formed on her shoulders or back, and then it became an alligator conjoined to the bear until it literally separated from her and she had to physically fight it.

There's a lot I don't remember about that scene but it totally stuck with me since elementary school.

Sent from my SM-G900T using Tapatalk

Octopus Prime 09-24-2017 09:14 AM


SO A CROCOBEAR HAPPENS!, I wish there was an economical way to read this series on my kindle.

Beta Metroid 09-25-2017 06:58 PM

I was the exact right age for this series and it hit all my personal notes (animals! Teens with attitude fighting villains! Aliens with inhuman, really creative designs that were good, bad, and everything in between!) This was my jam, and I am really excited to follow this.

Thanks for pointing out Morph Club. I have background noise for days now. This guy has reviewed the entire series on YouTube, and is quite a good listen (his non-Animorphs material is also well worth checking out). He starts out with the bizarre choice of using a Christian Bale Batman voice when quoting directly from the books, but he listened to the much-warranted criticism and dropped that after the first few entries. He improves in general as he goes.

Looking back, I'm amused with how irrelevant, generic, and interchangeable the individual titles are. I could match most of the books' plots to their number and cover, but I'd be lost if you just gave me a title.

Kalir 09-25-2017 07:49 PM

And now for something completely different.

The Megamorph books are standalone books outside of the usual storyline, notable for their slightly longer stories and their shifting perspectives. All six Animorphs, including Ax, get a shot at telling the story. For Megamorphs #1: The Andalite's Gift, it's easy to see why. Also that title means nothing.

This book starts off with a total lack of a mission: Rachel's got a two-day gymnastics camp to go to, so everyone's just going to take it easy. Jake and Cassie go to a pool party, Marco goes to crash it, Ax gets roped in because Marco promised him some flea powder, and Tobias tries to keep them out of trouble. Lose the alien and the morphing and it's basically any given high school weekend.

Until Rachel gets blindsided when she tries to morph a bird to visit Tobias and hits the ground, taking an amnesia-inflicting concussion. Marco's mouse-based shenangians are interrupted by a sentient murderous tornado. The team, less Rachel, tries to figure out what just happened, while Rachel goes and gets herself attacked by the tornado, destroying a completely innocent Ben and Jerry's truck in the process.

Rachel, for her part, flees into the woods and runs into an ex-Controller, driven mad by her infestation even though the Yeerk is dead. She's never explained, but in her paranoia she lights her shack on fire, believing Rachel to be a Yeerk. In a panic, she morphs to grizzly, and is soon encountered by both the tornado and Ax, investigating the fire. She tries to fight the tornado and loses the right to bear arms as a result. Ax, seeing this is a losing fight, morphs to eagle to leave, but this shifts the tornado's attention to him, and it captures him as a result.

While that's going on and the boys are tracking Rachel, Cassie's at the mall to see if Rachel's there at all. She doesn't find Rachel, but she does find Mr. Chapman chewing out two other Controllers instead. They're all mad at having to run cover-up for Visser Three's morph-hunter project, but Mr. Chapman (Iniss) reminds them that Visser Three needs this plan bad, and like hell will he tolerate failure, OR subordinates telling him his awful idea is awful.

The captured Ax hears much the same from Visser Three, who checks off another box on his supervillain list by explaining what this thing is. The Veleek is a kind of hivemind lifeform from Saturn, like a cross between bees and piranha. Visser Three had it genetically modified to hunt for the energy signature produced by morphing, and to consume starship engine exhaust (because this was cheaper than spending literal bodies on it). As a result, the Veleek hunts anyone morphing and brings them to Visser Three. After explaining this, Visser Three locks Ax up, rather than executing him (that's reserved for underlings).

Back on the planet, the crew does their best to catch Rachel, who has wandered into a renovated house. The cops get tipped off to her location, and she does the sensible thing and morphs to elephant to break out. This brings down the Veleek, and Jake, Cassie and Marco are forced to get there quickly to stop it. Marco "borrows" Cassie's dad's work truck to get them there faster without morphing. Marco does not have so much as a learner's permit. They get there to find the Veleek struggling to carry an entire elephant, and also a Yeerk fighter cuz Visser Three wanted better video of his creature's work.

The three work together to draw away the Veleek, but Marco gets captured in gorilla form anyway. When he sees this, Ax comes up with a genius plan. Morphing into one of the fleas infesting his body, he gets out of his cell and grabs onto Visser Three, then toggles a bit of morph to draw the Veleek to Visser Three. This buys time for Marco to open the hatch in the confusion AND reveals the Veleek's weakness to water when Visser Three needs it to release him.

One XTREME SKYDIVE later, the group convene for a counterattack plan, rejoined by a recovering Rachel. Cassie volunteers for the plan since it requires extensive and new morphs, and she's the best at it. The minutiae's unimportant, but it's good buildup to the extremely silly, but awesome, finishing blow: Cassie slam dunks the Veleek into the ocean with a sky-dropped whale body slam.

This book's basically a Monster of the Week episode for the series, and it won't be the last. It's also another victory for the team, without much in the way of drawbacks. If you just want to drop someone into the series and say "yo, this is what Animorphs is like" this is as good an introduction as any.

Raven 09-25-2017 08:31 PM

Love, love, this series. It's popular at its time but it still feels so underrated for how nuanced and mature it was. It's genuinely great that the narrative can shift seamlessly between silly animal morphing fun, dark psychological shit, and poignant rumination on morality and other complex real world issues.

The first 20 volumes or so are golden, and while it's a bit of a shame that most of the middle volumes are ghost-written (and it shows), I love the sobering ending. Looking forward to some more nostalgia in this thread!

Kalir 09-25-2017 10:37 PM

Book 8: The Alien isn't written from Tobias' viewpoint as you might expect from the pattern of the first five books. Instead, the middle slot in the narration cycle swaps between Tobias and Ax. So this book is entirely from Ax's viewpoint, which means we're about to get a ride through Andalite culture and mentality, specifically in the context of the war.

This book also has a prologue, showing the final moments of the Andalite Dome ship as it's destroyed. We also learn that the only reason a cadet like Ax came along with this ship is because he's the brother of Elfangor, who's already a celebrated war hero. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the book, Ax's inferiority complex.

The first part of the book is mostly lighthearted, with Ax trying to do his part to learn everything he can about Earth and humanity. I say "mostly" because while Ax is usually pretty great comic relief on his human escapades, this book also starts dealing with the fallout of the Kandrona destruction from the last main book. See, it's not enough for Yeerks to just be in a pool. They also need Kandrona rays to emulate their homeworld's sunlight. In practice, the Animorphs spent book 7 blowing up a shipment of astronaut food, and Yeerks are starving in the streets. Unable to take chances, the remaining Yeerks covertly kill off the now-vacant and raving human hosts. Ax keeps this hidden from everyone at first, but has a hard time hiding it from Jake when Mr. Chapman executes his history professor.

Ax gets into trouble a second time when visiting Marco's house, when he accidentally mistakes his dad's observatory code for some kind of Mavis Beacon Teaches Programming and converts a radio dish to a Z-space comms device. This is obviously a huge breach of cover, as well as the Andalite law of Seerow's Kindness (more on that later), but it gives Ax a chance to contact his homeworld. Homesick as he is, he has to take that chance.

Ax talks Tobias into helping him out, on the grounds that telling everyone else about this plan is forbidden, and breaks into the observatory to erase his code and contact the homeworld. Upon doing so, he tells one of the war-princes, Lirem-Arrepoth-Terrouss, the state of things, including Elfangor giving morph tech to the Animorphs and his own modification of the observatory code. These are both violations of Seerow's Kindness, a law that prohibits giving any Andalite tech or knowledge to other species. Lirem orders Ax to take the blame for both of these things, since the image of Elfangor as an Andalite war hero is critical.

This segues into meeting Ax's dad, who mostly just reinforces that Ax is honorbound to kill Visser Three, and to provide a nice emotional cutoff point for the Yeerk Eslin three-five-nine to break comms and make some demands. Due to the Kandrona destruction, Visser Three's had to pick and choose which Yeerks could be shuttled back to the mothership for their Kandrona. Eslin's sweetheart, Derane three-four-four, was one of the Yeerks deemed expendable, and starved as a result. Eslin responded by sabotaging a shuttle full of Visser Three loyalists, and gives Ax coordinates to where he feeds, as well as a demand to kill him.

Between all of this and the Animorphs losing patience with his secrets, Ax heads into Visser Three's grounds feeling like a dead man walking. He pretty much just tells Tobias goodbye/sorry and heads off. His rattlesnake morph proves incredibly effective, but he nearly gets caught by the Visser's guards, when the Animorphs show up for a "that's what friends are for" moment. Only problem is, even multiple rattlesnake bites don't kill an Andalite quickly, so Visser Three slips out into the grass, abandoning his host.

Ax gets a short amount of time with Alloran-Semitur-Corrass, who begs for Ax to kill him before Yeerk medics arrive and treat the poison, and even tries to do the deed himself. We will definitely hear more about this guy later, but for now, just remember his name. The book winds down quickly after this failed assassination attempt, with Ax sending one last defiant message to the homeworld that he's sticking with humanity, and promising to open up to his human friends more (starting with explaining Seerow's Kindness, named for the Andalite prince who gave the Yeerks spacefaring technology).

This book has the most meaty lore and lots of human Ax scenes, which are already known as comic goldmines. Gold star.

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