If this is your first time dipping into the Animorphs Re-Read, I strongly suggest you head back to the beginning and start there unless you’re already familiar with the books. Alternatively, check out the Animorphs Re-Read tag page for a list of every post in the series.
Last time, I left things on a nail-biting cliffhanger. Marco almost died, and then he was about to expose the Animorphs’ secrets to an alien robot, and also there were spiders. I forget the specifics because my short-term memory only goes back five days at the most.
In all seriousness (ha), I’ll quickly recap the remainder of The Android’s plot before seguing neatly into a rambling, semi-coherent treatise on, like, the myth arc of the whole series. Or as I like to put it, ‘Aliens, Androids and Adolescence: The Mythic Arc in the Works of K.A. Applegate’.
Because I have an English degree, godammit, and I’ve got to use it for something.
I’m sure you won’t be terribly surprised to learn that Erek isn’t a bad guy, and the Animorphs aren’t going to get slaughtered by Visser Three. (You have to wait until the end of the series for that!)
It turns out that Erek is actually fighting against the Yeerks. He also apparently saw the first ever production of Hamlet, which means he could clear up that whole ‘Roland Emmerich wants you to think Shakespeare was a fraud’ brouahaha. (Man, that’s the second time I’ve brought that up in these recaps. Roland Emmerich, if you’re reading: I do have a problem with you and your terrible movies. Just thought I’d clear that up.)
The next night, Marco is having what sounds like a delicious dinner with his no-longer-terminally-depressed dad:
Barbecued chicken, skin-on mashed potatoes, roasted corn on the cob. This was the absolute height of my father’s cooking ability. So I had to eat it. I had to.
But man, there is something about popping out through the throat of a bird that totally destroys your appetite for dead bird.
Don’t be such a baby, Marco! Skin-on mashed potatoes are the best.
There’s some of that Character Development stuff in here, as Marco reflects on how thankful he is that his father is no longer an emotionally-crippled shell of a human being. But his mom is still Visser One, so…things even out, I guess? Man, Marco’s going to need some serious therapy when he’s older. Anyway, it turns out that Marco’s dad has avoided working for the military because Marco’s mom once told him to stay away from army contracts in a really weird voice. She had trouble getting the words out, and said something cryptic about ‘them’ not getting him as long as he didn’t work for the army.
Gee, I wonder what that could have been about? Needless to say, Marco has trouble keeping his composure through all of this, especially when his dad reveals that the company he’s working for probably does some military contracts on the side.
The next day, the Animorphs go to meet Erek at his very normal-looking house. They’re greeted by Erek’s father, who seems perfectly normal apart from showing no surprise when Ax demorphs in front of him. He leads them down to his basement (man, this is sounding like the beginning of a slasher movie), where he reveals that there’s an enormous underground park accessible through an elevator beneath his home.
In other words, his house is ten times more awesome than yours will ever be.
Long story short, the Chee are androids created by a vaguely dog-like (and incredibly advanced) species known as the Pemalites. They were made to be robotic companions, basically, until the Pemalites were almost completely wiped out by alien invaders from another galaxy known as the Howlers. Now, here’s where it get a bit weird: in order to save the ‘essence’ of the Pemalites, the Chee travelled to Earth and fused the DNA of the few remaining members of the species with wolves, thus creating dogs.
Which makes absolutely no sense, but whatever, let’s just go with it!
Erek goes on to reveal that he’s old enough to have helped build the Pyramids of Giza as a slave. (Although actually the idea that the pyramids were built by slaves is one of those ‘debunked but still taught in high school things’. Again, just go with it.) Jakes asks why the Chee would let themselves be enslaved when they’re many times stronger than any human; Erek responds by saying that the Chee were designed to be as peaceful as the Pemalites, and are thus incapable of violence. <— IMPORTANT PLOT POINT.
The Yeerks have recently gotten their hands on a Pemalite ‘crystal’ (actually a kind of extremely advanced processor), which the Chee could use to change their ‘no ass-kicking’ program to an ‘ass-kicking encouraged’ program. Oh, and he also has a Yeerk held captive inside his head – he’s a kind of reverse Controller, in other words.
The Chee are pretty awesome, all things considered.
Their Pentium i500 (1,240 Cores, 21Ghz) Processor is being kept in a completely dark, tripwired room inside a Yeerk-owned building. Any light source inside the room, at any wavelength, will immediately set off a ton of alarms. So, the kids need to get the crystal using an animal that can navigate a complex environment in absolute darkness.
That’s right, they’re going to become the most awesome creatures in existence: bats.
And, because this is my article and I can do whatever the hell I want with it:
Man, isn’t Calvin & Hobbes great? Almost as great as bats, I’d say. Maybe even more great.
…where was I?
Right, the crystal! So, Marco and Co. manage to echolocate their way through the room where the crystal is kept, but (held breaths all around) their plan goes to hell when they realise that they have no way of getting the crystal out. They had assumed one of them could carry it while flying, but of course a bat can’t echolocate with its mouth blocked, which means they’d be flying completely blind. Whoops!
They switch to plan B, which is basically ‘Go on a rampage and try not to die’. Rampage they do, but the crystal-room is being guarded by way more Hork-Bajir than they can take on their own. Marco gets fatally wounded during the fight, but manages to give the crystal to Erek before passing out.
Cut to…a few minutes later, I guess, when Erek revives Marco by delivering an electric shock to his heart. (Which, again, is a common misconception, since shocking somebody’s heart won’t make it start beating again, but anyway.) While Marco was unconscious, Erek used the Pemalite crystal to rewrite his own programming. He then went on what was presumably a very bloody rampage, easily killing all of the Hork-Bajir. Unfortunately, he’s lived as a pacifist for hundreds of years, and causing so much carnage traumatises him enough that he immediately decides to change his programming back; he’ll help the Animorphs by feeding them information from within the Yeerk ranks, but they won’t be able to say ‘Hey, there’s Visser Three and his easily-detached head, wink-wink nudge-nudge’ and expect him to just end the conflict immediately.
So, once again we have a ‘mixed bag’ sort of ending: none of the Animorphs died (they’ve just accumulated even more psychological baggage from almost dying), and they’ve gained a valuable, if non-combative ally in Erek. Also they can turn into bats. BATS.
And now for an academic aside.
‘Aliens, Androids and Adolescence: The Mythic Arc in the Works of K.A. Applegate,’ by S.G. Wills, PhD, University of Herpderpia.
With the introduction of the Chee, it becomes clear that the Animorphs books are taking place in what is essentially a space opera milieu. The series features an ever-more diverse range of alien species, many of which take part in a vast interstellar culture incorporating all space-faring species. There are even some strong elements of science-fantasy in the series, such as the enigmatic Elimist and his evil counterpart (who we haven’t gotten to just yet in the recaps).
Unusually, the series eschews the usual Star Trek-like formula of having a migratory setting in favor of anchoring itself in what is implied to be the periphery of the setting. Earth is simply one planet among many which the Yeerks are attempting to conquer, and is of such little importance that the commanders of the Andalite fleet feels no particular compunction to rush to its aid. Earth is obviously important to the Animorphs, but its downfall or salvation would make little difference to the wider conflict between the Yeerks and the rest of the galaxy. (Interestingly, this also has the effect of downplaying Visser Three’s importance within the story; while he may be an enormous threat to the main characters, he is not anywhere close to being at the top of the Yeerk’s chain of command).
With the Chee, we have the first example of what I like to call the ‘All Roads Lead To Earth’ problem. As a species, they ended up on Earth mostly by chance; yes, they wanted to save the remaining Pemalites by fusing their DNA with that of wolves, but they didn’t necessarily need to relocate to Earth. As the series progresses, we’ll see this becoming a widespread pattern, with various alien species winding up on Earth for increasingly less plausible reasons. Earth may be an interstellar backwater, but it requires a never-ending infusion of new species and characters to fuel the series’ action; thus, all roads seem to lead, improbably, directly to it. (And more specifically, directly to whichever part of the United States the Animorphs live in.)
Applegate eventually found herself in the unfavorable position of having to maintain an increasingly-elaborate ‘mythic arc’ involving a hugely diverse number of alien species and conflicts while also keeping the action firmly centered on Earth; she could not, for obvious reasons, have the Animorphs set off on an interstellar voyage, since doing so would destroy the entire premise of the series in the first place. Her only option is to continue having the greater alien conflict involve Earth to a greater degree than it should, while insisting in-universe that Earth is just one part in a much grander sequence of events.
Still, she manages to pull this off with aplomb for quite some time. The Chee in particular are amazingly complex characters, given how infrequently they feature in the series (Erek doesn’t become a regular member of the cast). It’s easy to see why Applegate would have been eager to show off her handiwork, given how much thought she obviously put into her various alien creations.
END ACADEMIC ASIDE.
Phew, that was a long one. Join me next time, when I’ll recap Animorphs #11: The Forgotten, which involves time travel! Are you as excited as I am? You’d damn well better be!