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Animorphs Re-Read – #1: The Invasion

by ◊ 3 years ago 8 Comments Switch View

 

Here we are, at the beginning of what will hopefully be a long and glorious tradition – the Intergalactic Academy Animorphs Re-Read! Starting with this post, I’m going to be recapping each of K.A. Applegate’s Animorphs books, along with some general thoughts about my feelings on the series as a whole. If you’ve never read the books before, I encourage you to go and buy the reprinted editions that are now being released by Scholastic. For a brief crash course on what this whole ‘Animorphs’ thing is about, refer to my introduction post from last week.

And now, without further ado, I present The Invasion!

(Note: I'll be using the 'new' covers for the books that have been reprinted, and the old ones for the books that haven't. For the record, I prefer the old ones.)

You know how a lot of children’s cartoon series would have a fairly set formula, with each episode adhering to a rigid plot template? Well, the first episode of a series like that tends to be something of an anomaly, because it has to establish the characters and world building that will be taken for granted in all subsequent episodes.

The Invasion is kind of like that. It’s essentially the origin story for the main characters, recounting how they came to know about the Yeerk invasion and how they acquired their abilities. That may be why this has always been my favourite book in the entire seres. There’s something about the newness of the whole thing, both for the characters and for the reader, that I was particularly drawn to.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s how the whole thing kicks off:

My name is Jake. That’s my first name, obviously. I can’t tell you my last name. It would be too dangerous. The Controllers are everywhere. Everywhere. And if they knew my full name, they could find me and my friends, and then . . . well, let’s just say I don’t want them to find me. What they do to people who resist them is too horrible to think about.

And here we’re introduced to one of the major selling points of the series: it’s ostensibly set in the real world. Aliens aren’t just invading a facsimile of your home town, they’re invading your actual home town. (Well, not my actual home town, because I live in Ireland and the books are set in America. But anyway.) This was a stroke of genius in Applegate’s part, because it plays on the willingness of most kids to believe that their boring everyday life might hide something deeper and more mysterious beneath the surface.

In this case, it’s hiding a terrifying alien invasion. But hey, you might get to turn into a tiger!

The narrator for this volume is Jake, the group’s de facto leader. In rapid succession, he introduces us to the rest of the core cast: his sarcastic best friend Marco, his kick-as cousin Rachel, his obvious love interest Cassie, and Woobie Extraordinaire Tobias. We’ll get introduced to each of them as they get their own viewpoint books, but for now they’re drawing on fairly standard archetypes.

The five friends happen to bump into each other at the mall (after going to an arcade, one of many quaint nineties-isms throughout the series) and decide to take a shortcut through an abandoned construction site. As so often happens in these situations, they’re intruded upon by a crash-landing alien spaceship.

The wounded alien that emerges is an Andalite, essentially the ‘good aliens’ for the series. (Uh, sort of. More on that in later installments…) He is described thusly:

My first reaction was that someone had cloned a person and a deer together. The creature had a head and shoulders and arms that were more or less where they should have been, though the skin was a pale shade of blue. But below that he had fur, a mix of blue and tan, covering a four-legged body that really did look like it belonged to a deer, or maybe a small horse.

And…yeah. I’m afraid I could never quite buy into the Andalite’s physical design, mostly because, no matter what way you look at it, they’re just kind of goofy. The artwork used to depict them doesn’t really help:

Although I will admit that the scorpion tail is pretty cool.

They look kind of like they were designed by a 12-year old who wasn’t entirely sure when to stop adding new features. In terms of their characterisation, though, they end up being pretty awesome. Just wait, they get all kind of morally ambiguous later!

The Andalite speaks telepathically to the kids, which is depicted in the text with <brackets like these>. Let me tell you, when I was twelve, I considered this the height of literary experimentation. James Joyce? Pshaw!

Anyway, he explains that Earth has already been infiltrated by the Yeerks, a species of parasitic slug that infests host bodies (called a ‘Controller’) in order to stage a covert takeover. They’ve already enslaved billions of sentient individuals, with Earth being the latest in a long string of conquests. More Andalites are coming to stop them, but they won’t arrive for another year at the earliest. In desperation, he uses a piece of Andalite technology to give the kids the ability to ‘morph’ into any species whose DNA they can acquire.

With that done, he tells them to hide just as a Yeerk ‘Blade Ship’ arrives. On board are Hork-Bajir, a species entirely enslaved by the Yeerks, Taxxons, who are like giant maggots with rotary teeth, and Visser Three, the leader of the Earth invasion and the only Yeerk ever to take an Andalite body. He promptly morphs into a hideous alien monster and eats the other Andalite alive.

And thus begins the adventure of a lifetime bloody war against an invisible alien menace! It turns out you can’t summarise an entire book and the series it belongs to in a single post, though, so come back tomorrow for the rest of my re-read of The Invasion. In following weeks, I’ll be giving briefer recaps of each book. Feel free to comment with your own thoughts, whether you’re an old fan rediscovering the series with me or a new reader jumping on the bandwagon!

About the Author

Sean http://www.seanwills.com

I came to science fiction relatively late, being a bigger fan of fantasy during my teenage years. Now I enjoy speculative fiction of all kinds, particularly anything with a literary bent. I studied English at NUI Maynooth in Ireland, and now write science fiction for teenagers. Follow my exploits at www.seanwills.com. View all posts by Sean »

Discussion - 8 Comments:

  1. Phoebe

    In this case, it’s hiding a terrifying alien invasion. But hey, you might get to turn into a tiger!

    You win some, you lose some!

    Great start, Sean! :D

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  2. Is depicted in the text with what? Am I supposed to have received a telepathic message there? ;)

    I was too old for these books, and never read them, but I’m beginning to think I should look for them for my son. This sounds right up his alley. Of course, it would mean we have to PLAY animorphs all the time. Hm. I am getting tired of playing Percy Jackson, I admit, but I dunno if this is actually better.

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    • Phoebe

      Whoops, fixed! Apparently Sean forgot that telepathy and HTML don’t mix. :)

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    • Whoops, sorry about that! I actually wasn’t using the HTML editor, but I guess it didn’t play well with the pointy brackets anyway.

      Reply Quote

  3. Well, you convinced me! I just ordered this for my Kindle. :)

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  4. I loved Animorphs so much as a child. And by child I mean pre-teen, because I’m pretty sure I was in middle school when I read them. I should see if my mom still has them! The original covers are way better.

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  5. I remember picking up the first two books (this was shortly after the second had been published) in seventh grade while on vacation and in desperate need of something else to read. I then ended up reading 30 of them, a month at a time (usually rereading every other one before reading the new one–even as a voracious reader in the 90s, it could get strangely hard to find books I wanted to read, so I ended up reading the same ones ad nauseam).

    I always felt sort of weird reading them, especially when I got into high school and the vague social pressure to “not read kid’s books” started to seep through the cracks (which is when I jumped to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett). No one I knew read (or had read) the series, so it was sort of a surprise when I started working at the public library in high school and watched the Animorphs books circulate gangbusters.

    And then I get into a LIS program and start actively monitoring places where people talk YA and there is all this love for Animorphs, which was extra-surprising for whatever reason. So it’s been a weird–good, but weird–fifteen year relationship with this series.

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  6. Tobias Skywalker

    Just going to go right out there and say it:

    Animorphs #1: The Invasion holds as much nostalgic value to me as “The Hobbit” does for some people. And by “nostalgic” I mean “if you ‘outgrew it’ then you outgrew most of the really important things in life.” It is quite a lot like a serial TV show, but honestly?

    There’s no Saturday Morning Cartoon that does it justice. It’s more like the YA Sci-Fi and Fantasy series that do so well they have legions of 20-30 yr old fans trying to pass down their generation to a bunch of preteens who sometimes don’t appreciate the genius.
    There’s no Cartoon like it, but there’s something I watched on Saturday Mornings that Fits The Bill Perfectly:

    Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Lemme Tell you, I was an easily entertained child. And for that I am eternally grateful, because it takes the mind of a child to be captured in abject terror at the concept of Visser Three or Lord Zedd, neither of whom could take over a high school locker room, let alone the world, but indeed, I was just as scared of Visser Three as I am of Darth Vader.

    Long story short, I am a really freaking huge Animorphs Fan and I’m not sure if there are many people that genuinely appreciate even the less-ingeniously-written (bad) ones simply because it makes me feel like I’m the age I was when I was reading them. I’m not sure if I ever grew up. Except. In some ways. I absolutely did. I think it took me until #54. That was when I got hit with a massive trainwreck to the face of my psychological makeup, and suddenly I had to take my first steps into a larger world. I mean, Elfangor dies in the first book, yeah. But that’s not really the “Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are DEAD?” moment for me. Nope, it’s what happens in the very last book that finally catches my attention in THAT way.

    Anyway. I am going to go back to my regularly scheduled life now. But anytime anyone thinks something really bad about an American Politician, my default response is to assume they are a Human-Controller.

    Reply Quote

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