The Invasion

Animorphs #1
by K.A. Applegate

I think I would have been wowed by this series as a kid. I saw them around and for some reason never read any before. Thistle’s review perked my interest so I borrowed the first few of the series from the library. I pretty much agree with her assessment: the plot and characterization is rather juvenile (to be expected, looking at the age group these books are written for), but the scenes where the kids turn into animals are really cool and worth reading it for.

Let me backtrack: it’s about five kids who cut through a construction site walking home one day, where a spaceship suddenly lands and an alien grants them powers in a last effort to protect the human race, before he dies. There’s a war going on in space; some slug-like aliens crawl into the brains of other species and control them. The Andalites have been fighting them, and this one gives the kids abilities to change into whatever animal they touch, by absorbing DNA material. Sounds hokey, and the kids think so too, until one of them tries it out. Unbelievable, the freedom and far-distant sight of a hawk. The speed of a horse. The lithe power of a cat. The discerning nose of a dog. They realize that nature has powers they can really use. But when they change into animals, they also have to fight that animal’s natural instinct, and be careful not to stay too long or they are stuck in the morphed form. For example, when one kid is spying on the bad guys in form of a dog, he has to really concentrate not to get distracted by all the intriguing smells and small creatures to chase and so on. Because yeah, they find out quickly that already many people on Earth have been taken over by the slug aliens (Yeerks) and there’s no way to tell who. They have to keep their abilities secret, because any Yeerk who knew would kill them.

But at the same time, they are still dealing with real life: school, family issues and so on. Some aspects of the story felt lame or overly-convenient (how nice is it that one of the main characters, Cassie, has parents who work at both a wildlife hospital and a zoo? so they sneak in and touch all different kinds of animal to gain the abilities to morph into those species)- but I was neatly surprised at how real the dialog felt, and the humor that cropped up now and then. Mostly I really liked the switching perspective- what’s it like to suddenly be a lizard smaller than a shoe? or a massive elephant?

I do think I’ll continue the series- it’s great light reading- until maybe it deteriorates in quality. I see that there’s sixty-four books total, but many of the later ones ghost written so I don’t know how good those are. And my library only has the first eight… The cover image I posted here is from the original paperback issues- it shows the morphing process (which caught my eye decades ago). My library has newer re-issued copies, with holograph type covers which oddly enough, only work on the paperbacks- you can see the image change when you tilt the book. But the hardbound issues don’t have that effect- the image is in-between and rather disturbing on some of them. I happen to really like this version printed in Brazil.

Next book in the series.

Rating: 3/5            185 pages, 1996

more opinions:
In Bed with Books
Arkham Reviews
the Library Ladies

4 Responses

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well! I rolled my eyes at how one of the characters JUST HAPPENED to have access to a zoo/wildlife park (and other things you'll get to). But… kid's book, so they get a pass on that.I do wonder why all the kids don't acquire all the DNA. Why have just one of them able to turn into a horse, not all of them gain the ability just in case?

  2. Good question, I hadn't thought of that. Although when it was fish, they all touched the fish in order to go as a group… maybe because it takes a bit of time, and they're in a hurry to execute each ill-thought-out-plan? Or because they're kids and it doesn't occur to them, ha.

  3. I suspect it must be because they're kids and don't think about it (that and it would make the books more boring if they all could become tigers or whatever?). Maybe that will be explained in later books, one of my issues with the series eventually was. (Why the kids don't morph to reset their two hour clock.)

  4. They did at one point- I can't recall which scene now. But then seemed to totally forget that possibility when they were wolves. I know, it doesn't make much sense. One of the little overlooked details that would actually make a huge difference to the story!

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