Month: August 2020

Animorphs #50 

by K.A. Applegate 

This book faces a lot of the real issues. For once the conflicts seem more realistic than usual. SPOILERS if you haven\’t read this far in the series! 

The Animorphs along with most of their parents, are making preparations in the Hork-bajir valley for all-out warfare with the aliens. Things are awkward with the adults who don\’t always go along with the plan or -very understandably- resent following orders from kids. Oddly, Marco\’s parents seem to be getting along great, and Tobias and his mother have a touching connection- no serious look at how uncomfortable those newly re-formed relationships might be. Jake is seriously falling apart under pressure, the Animorphs are arguing heatedly about strategy, Cassie is stepping up and doing some things on her own initiative- sometimes rather rashly.
Jake decides they have to recruit more Animorphs, or they have no chance. He figures kids are a better bet, they\’ll more readily accept the bizarre situation, reality of aliens and morphing technology than adults. They decide to find teenagers the Yeerks would never dream of infesting because their bodies are considered \”inferior\”- from a rehab center for physically disabled children, and a school for the blind. (Sneaking in and out of these places seemed way too easy). Not all the Animorphs agree with this plan, but they\’re starting to feel desperate. The new kids are thrown into things very suddenly, most of them accepting because of the tempting restoration morphing will give them- healthy bodies, legs to walk on, eyes that see, etc. For some, morphing back to human makes them healed. Others, it doesn\’t. In the end, there\’s a battle with the enemy involving the new recruits that pitches the stakes higher- Tom gets hold of the morphing cube, and Jake has to face him- would he kill his own controller brother to prevent the morphing ability falling into enemy hands. Tense.
Rating: 3/5                       139 pages, 2001 
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Companion to the other panoramic bird puzzle I have. Artwork by Hautman Brothers, 750 pieces, made by Buffalo Games. It’s a nice puzzle which I assembled over several days. Funny thing is that the sparrow is in the exact same pose as the other puzzle image, and sitting flat-footed although on a branch. Also there’s an odd patch of color behind the goldfinch’s tail, that doesn’t match the rest of the background. Oh well I like it anyways.

Animorphs #49 

by K.A. Applegate 

Much better. Nice balance between action-packed and heart-tugging. Some parts still made me roll my eyes, and there were quite a few typos in my e-reader version, but oh well. Warning for MAJOR SPOILERS

The Yeerks have finally figured out that the Animorph team are really humans. They\’re testing mass numbers of human blood to search for animal DNA in it. Animorphs use some computer hacking to find out where the data is being stored, and break in using Hork-bajir morphs, to look in the computers, see if their identity has been discovered, and delete the information. While there they find data on someone they assumed was long dead- Tobias\’ mother. Of course their cover gets blown, and they fight to they break out without having managed to delete anything from the database. Knowing their families might now be at risk, one at a time they approach family members, tell all (or as much as they can), morph in front of parents/siblings to prove it, and escape to hide out with everyone in the Hork-bajir valley. Parents meet this revelation with varying degrees of shock and disbelief, but they actually get everyone out. 
Almost. Jake doesn\’t make it in time- his parents finally got taken by the aliens. But Tobias goes back to find his mother. Who it turns out is blind, from having suffered a terrible accident years and years ago. One that left her so debilitated she couldn\’t raise her own child. There\’s a very strangely awkward scene where Tobias, Marco and Ax approach her in a convenience store in order to lay hands on her guide dog so Tobias can impersonate the dog and get into her house. To snoop out if she\’s really an alien controller. The bits about Ax trying to act like a troublemaking teenager in the store are rather hilarious. Tobias finally reveals his identity to his mother, gives her the power to morph so they can bust out in hawk mode when the aliens show up, there\’s a frantic confusing battle and they barely escape. Tobias\’ mother nearly dies when she\’s terribly injured as a hawk, but when she re-morphs as human, her sight is restored. 
All kinds of angst in this book on Tobias\’ part. Desperate to know more about his mother, to have her remember him, to save her from the aliens even though it puts all of them at risk. Finally the adults in the Hork-bajir valley start playing a role- Marco\’s mother is relating all the things she knows from her time as Visser to the Hork-bajir leader, for example while Rachel\’s lawyer mom is helping them draft their own constitution. Seems like small things they are doing, though, when the kids are out fighting actual aliens for the sake of the world.
Rating: 3/5                 164 pages, 2000 
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Animorphs #48 

by K.A. Applegate 

     I didn\’t like this one. SPOILERS! 

It starts with Rachel, Jake and the rest on a field trip tour of the White House- when the aliens bust in, chaos ensues, the President is in a helicopter trying to take off while aliens attack it, Jake tells Rachel they\’re leaving but she keeps fighting, gets mad and starts fighting Jake as tiger, in her grizzly bear morph, on the White House lawn. Snap- it\’s all a dream! but things aren\’t quite right- Rachel goes about her day feeling that everything\’s off, arguing with her friends, hearing rats in the walls, seeing red lights flash- turns out she\’s having another nightmare. Or is she? After being attacked by hordes of rats and nearly drowning in a pond she wakes up in a dungeon, locked in a small plastic cube. David-the-rat returns and threatens to force her into becoming a rat forever, just like him. Cassie appears nearby, also locked in a cube. Rachel has to choose between following David\’s demands, or loosing Cassie. Except- how does a kid trapped in a rat body acquire or build perfect locking plastic-box cages? It was really too far-fetched. There\’s other plot holes, too. Which turns out to be explained because most of it isn\’t real
Meanwhile Rachel is reliving all her bad moments, agonizing over how much she enjoys fighting, facing the maniacal violent side of herself. Crayak shows up- the evil all-powerful counterpart to the Ellimist- and it turns out he\’s playing mind games with Rachel. He morphs her into a superhero version of herself, then back into the cage as a rat, back and forth, until she\’s going crazy. He pits her against Visser One in an arena, where they battle it out, using their morphing powers. This was kinda interesting, and kinda eye-rolling. Aliens and mind games and shape-shifting abilities in this series, and now we have superhero powers too? I just wasn\’t on board with that. Why did it have to introduce another fantastical element that hasn\’t been a part of the worldbuilding in this series at all to date? Like when they gained dinosaur morphs but then couldn\’t use them after travelling back through time. Pointless. Unless there\’s going to be super-Rachel in one of the last few books too? I have my suspicions though. It was an interesting look at Rachel\’s deepest inner fears, facing the part of her that is eager to use violence and her conflicting feelings about group leadership, how she feels used by the others sometimes, etc- but I got tired pretty quick of the repeated angst and the ridiculous fight scenes. In the end, Rachel is left in an alley facing David-the-rat, who is begging her to just kill him, he\’d rather die than go back to the island. Rachel is agonizing over what to do, and the book ends without disclosing her decision. That really irritated me too.

 Rating: 2/5                148 pages, 2000 

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by K.A. Applegate 

    This one stands outside the series. It tells the history of that all-powerful being the Ellimist, who came from a peaceful species that lived on crystals in the air on a foreign planet. The description of this alien race (and many others throughout the book) were very different, very creative I thought. At the start of the story Ellimist is a young being, interested only in playing games with his friends- games in an interactive simulation where the goal is to use minimal influences to cause the most effective or positive changes in the evolution of species. Then another alien species shows up near his homeworld, threatening everything he knows. Chain of disastrous events end up with Ellimist adrift, the last of his kind, searching for a new planet to inhabit, and eventually pitched up against the Crayak in a battle of wits- with other sentient species on all the planets scattered across space and time subject to their whims. It shows how Ellimist became so powerful and all-knowing, but also that he has flaws and his struggle has been one to evolve, adapt and survive while doing the least harm, the most good- while Crayak\’s goal is to destroy everything he can. A huge good/evil pitch. I kind of don\’t like how this is hinting that everything the Animorphs are involved in is just a huge game to a meddling higher power, but oh well. This far in I\’m still going to finish it up. It was interesting to see suggestions of how the Andalites evolved as well, how Ellimist also influenced them in the past. Very sci-fi, this one. 

Rating: 3/5                         208 pages, 2000 
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Animorphs #47 

by K.A. Applegate 
 

    Two plotlines in this one. The valley of free Hork-bajir is discovered by the enemy, and the Animorphs scramble to deal with that. They want to relocate the colony but the Hork-bajir refuse, insist on standing their ground and fighting even though they are hugely outnumbered. Marco\’s parents are oddly uninvolved in the planning- I got the impression they were just standing around in the background looking stoic. They never said anything! Anyway, at least there\’s a new interesting morph in this book- beaver. Part of the plan is to expand a beaver dam they found upstream, so it will hold back enough water that when they break the dam it will flood the valley and wipe out the enemy. Although the amount of time they had between completing the dam work and releasing the flood, didn\’t seem enough to me, to build up the volume of water they needed. I don\’t know. 

Another key point in this story is that Tobias discovers a bunch of campers nearby, who are right in the enemy\’s path. Jake and Tobias approach the campers and advise them to leave because there\’s bad weather coming. The campers don\’t buy it. They think the Animorphs just want to steal their campsite! So Jake suddenly decides to just morph in front of them, and tell them that aliens are invading. Happens that these campers are huge Star Trek fans, instantly thrilled at the idea of an alien invasion, and eager to play along (turns out in the end, at least one of them thought it was an elaborate LARP). Most of the campers go back to the valley with them to join the fight. Unfortunately, the battle is very real and one of the newcomers gets killed.
Parallel storyline, which I don\’t really get: at the start of the book, Jake\’s mom makes him clean up a room in the basement. He finds a box with a uniform and journal from an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. Not clear how much Jake reads of the journal, but the alternating chapters relate this young lieutenant\’s experiences from the past. It has a lot of obvious similarities to the Animorphs storyline- young leader, small group fighting off the enemy in a rather desperate situation, more people come in to join the fight who are inexperience- in this case it was freed slaves, and a lot of the Union soldiers and townspeople did not welcome their presence. But I didn\’t see what the point was? I kept thinking there\’d be a time-travel thing happen, or that Jake would learn something from the journal to use in the Hork-bajir fight. Nope. Also there\’s a particular scene in the Civil War storyline that I swear I\’ve seen exactly the same in a movie. 
Rating: 3/5                      160 pages, 2000 
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Animorphs #46 

by K.A. Applegate 

     Things are moving quickly now. Politics have shifted among the alien Yeerks, the new Visser running the show blatantly attacks. No more subtletry. Luckily the Animorphs have this device Ax built (with a nod to Marco\’s father assisting) that can intercept the alien communication signals. They find out something big is going to happen out in the ocean. They steal a fighter jet to get there on time, deliberately crash it when they\’re close to the location- because of course they\’re being persued and about to be shot down. Find a very large, very busy aircraft carrier which they board as seagulls but before long are using their animal battle forms and even morphing other people (except Cassie who objects), without bothering to hide much. It doesn\’t matter anymore. They discover that the Yeerks are on the verge of instigating World War III, for their own ends. (Why the enemy just tells them his plans when they ask, I just don\’t know). There\’s fighting everywhere. Ax- the narrator in this book- who for all this time in the series has been subordinate to Jake, never much taking his own initiative- suddenly makes a decisive move to force the enemy\’s hand. But it could also endanger thousands of human lives. Driving another rift between the Animorphs, perhaps. Cassie doesn\’t say much in this book, and I\’m with her. When all the others are talking over details of the fighter jets and the aircraft carrier (Jake knows a lot about its layout, helpfully) she just doesn\’t relate. Same here. So that was kinda a blur. Interesting to see that when the fight gets serious- Hork-bajir troops showing up to fight for the Yeerks- some of the sailors and Marines decide they\’re on the side of these animal-shifting kids. They must be in the know about the aliens and wanted to see resistance all along? Curious to see how that pans out in the next few books, maybe finally the Animorphs will have numbers on their side, instead of being a small secretive team.

 Rating: 3/5                        118 pages, 2000 

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Arkham Reviews 

Animorphs #45 

by K.A. Applegate 
 

   If you\’re reading this series, there\’s MAJOR SPOILERS in this post, it\’s unavoidable. This one is really a game-changer. Finally something moves ahead and it looks like the Animorphs might actually make progress in their battle against the alien Yeerks. Marco\’s dad- an engineer- is on the verge of a discovery that might enable intergalactic communication. So the Yeerks are of course going to take him over. Marco can\’t stand loosing another parent to the enemy. He breaks all the Animorph rules and reveals his morphing identity to his father. Tells all. The reaction is shock and disbelief, then finally some degree of acceptance and things move forward pretty quickly. A lot of this story was a blur to me because fight scenes, meh. But- with an adult in the know, Marco and the team attempt to actually make the communication work- to call for aid. They find out that Marco\’s mother- whose Controller is Visser One- is about to be executed in the Yeerk pool as as a traitor (starved out, really). They blast in to save her using a stolen enemy fighter ship, and it is a royal mess. I did like the part where a squirming Yeerk got stomped on at the pier. Let\’s just say that in the end they all scrape out of it alive, though not without injuries, and some division among the Animorphs- they\’re all angry at Marco for having leaked their secret, at first. Marco\’s father is notably upset at his son giving him orders. The father is also torn between seeing the wife he thought dead actually alive again (though very changed after her bitter experience) and his new love, Marco\’s step-mother, now captured and enslaved herself. They have dealings with the Chee again, and the free Hork-bajir valley, and Marco\’s family have to fake their deaths and live in secret. But finally, there\’s more people in the know and even though I get tired of reading crazy fight scenes, I\’m eager to see where this goes next. 

Read this in one sitting. Oh, and despite what you might think from the cover, Marco doesn\’t spend time as an ant. He mostly uses gorilla morph. Does the ant briefly as a demonstration for his father.

 Rating: 3/5                        144 pages, 2000

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Animorphology

Animorphs #44 

by K.A. Applegate

Opening scene has the Animorphs involved in a shoot-out between a few Marines and a bunch of enemy Yeerk controllers at the airport, because a piece of wreckage from a alien fighter ship was found and who\’s going to have it. Cassie gets caught in the middle, nearly killed, escapes by morphing a fly and hiding in some luggage, winds up on a plane headed to Australia. The Yeerks attack and there\’s a crash and she\’s lost in the desert. She morphs again to escape safely, but is witnessed by an Aboriginal boy nearby. He\’s not at all surprised, because his traditional beliefs lead him to readily accept people having powers to change into animals. Really? This made me a bit uncomfortable. So. Cassie gets sheltered by the Aboriginal family, and makes a plan to get back home. The outstation radio was destroyed by Yeerks, so Cassie is going to travel as kangaroo overnight (too hot during the day, even as a native animal) to the nearest place where she can use a phone. But the boy\’s grandfather gets a leg injury that develops into a terrible infection alarmingly fast, and Cassie and the boy perform an amputation. Even for a sci-fi book in a series that really stretches reality, this was too much for me. There\’s other adults in the community, even one who is a healer- and it\’s two relatively inexperienced kids who perform an emergency operation? Um, no. Description of that was very unsettling, too. 

At the end, Cassie has another confrontation with the enemy, who discovered her location and are going to wipe out all the innocent people there, unless she surrenders. She runs off in kangaroo form, hoping to lead them away. Finds a wild kangaroo mob and hides among them, the wild kangaroos and Cassie-kangaroo end up fighting Taxxons and Hork-bajir soldiers. A lot of this was just ridiculous scenarios. Why am I not surprised, ha. I found the beginning escapade uninteresting (fight scenes bore me, having high-profile men in black suits and impressive weapons and chase scenes across the tarmac dodging airplanes doesn\’t really make it exciting for me. I\’m just skimming through waiting for it to be over). The story got far more interesting when Cassie landed in Australia, but then disappointing. I don\’t know very much about Aboriginal people, but the depiction of them in this book felt shallow. I did like reading about the kangaroos, their incredible stamina and defense abilities against predators (they will lead dingoes into water and then drown them). 
The other good parts of this book were seeing Cassie on her own- having to quickly solve problems, escape the enemies, and finding it in her to actually kill a bunch of enemies when she had to. She was fairly resourceful once she figured out where she\’d landed. And upon returning back home, there\’s some very nice moments between her and Jake, demonstrating how much they care for each other, how worried Jake was about her disappearance. The usual humor among the group when they\’re hanging out at a food court re-grouping now that Cassie\’s back with them.
This one\’s on my e-reader. All the rest of the Animorphs series are.
Rating: 3/5                160 pages, 2000
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 Animorphs #43 

by K.A. Applegate

Tobias finds a kid lost in the forest and he leads the rescue team to the spot where the kid is trapped- by speaking to the father- as a hawk! Of course this exposes him, and before he realizes what\’s happening, he\’s been attacked by a bald eagle then put in a cage in a wildlife veterinary clinic, and accosted by the enemy alien soldiers on all sides when they break into the place at night. His friends try to save him but then -strangely- a Yeerk controller named Taylor steps in- she\’s the one who tormented Tobias in the past. She claims to have a plan to destroy Visser Three and hundreds of Yeerks in one fell swoop- says she\’s part of a Yeerk rebellion against what they see as failing leadership, as an explanation. 

The Animorphs decide rather rashly to take this opportunity, even though they\’re suspicious of Taylor\’s willingness to work with them, and her plan seems to put them at a disadvantage- morphing into Taxxons to tunnel from a natural gas power station to the roof of the Yeerk pool cavern, where they will break in and cause an explosion. Cassie is against this plan because she realizes a lot of innocents- humans who are of course unwilling hosts of those Yeerks- will die. Some of the others have dobuts- especially Tobias- but they go along with it regardless. It\’s surreal. And gross. And nonsensical: the part where -because of course she wasn\’t really on their side- Taylor turns on them in the tunnel baffled me. How did they get out of that alive? I could not picture it as physically possible, surely they would have just all collapsed and been overwhelmed. Well, it was definitely dramatic. There\’s a lot of internal angst- Tobias facing his tormentor again and questioning many things he\’s done in the past, Jake struggling with leadership decisions, Cassie against the murder of innocents in the war, Ax and Tobias have to figure out how to manage the Taxxon morph without eating their friends who are there to keep them on task- because the alien Taxxons have an overwhelming urge to just consume everything in sight. Yet in the end, they do escape disaster happening, and the series goes on. 
  Rating: 3/5             144 pages, 2000 
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All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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