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Animorphs Re-Read – #17: The Underground

by ◊ 2 years ago 2 Comments Switch View


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.

Is it Wednesday? No, it is Thursday, and confusion reigns!

I should probably explain that I’ve gone back to college in order to study Nerd Computing for Nerds (AKA NERDCOMP101). The course runs weekly from Monday to Wednesday, with the result that I’m going to be completely braindead during my usually weekly Animorphs time. (Which is not 8pm on a Wednesday evening, and certainly does not involve me scrambling to cobble together a coherent post while I mentally flagellate myself for not getting it done sooner.) Basically, late posts might be the norm for a while. Or I might heroically muster up the energy to do these things in advance rather than leaving them to the last minute all the time. Who knows!

And with that bit of housekeeping out of the way, it’s time for…

BATWOMAN

Wait, I got that wrong.

It’s time FOOOOR….

BATRACHEL. (Although I like to imagine Rachel would eventually become Batwoman given enough time.)

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming books a lot, mostly because the Animorphs series occupies roughly 90% of my mental capacity at any given time. Throughout the series, there’s a kind of tension between the more light-hearted content (like Ax’s obsession with cinnamon buns) and the more heavy stuff (like a bunch of thirteen year old kids getting PTSD from almost dying one too many times). Most of the time, the series manages that tension almost perfectly – the funny stuff has its place, but when things get serious, they tend to stay serious until the situation is resolved and we can get back to Ax’s hilarious fish-out-of-water antics.

This book is where it starts to get a bit more shaky, in my opinion. It’s not as bad as in some of the ghostwritten books, but at the same time it’s hard to ignore the fact that this one introduces instant oatmeal as a deadly weapon against the Yeerks. Which is…incongruous, to say the least.

Let’s see how it holds up today, shall we?

Ax demanded.

“Ah-nuld?” Marco demanded. “Who iss Ah-nuld? Ah-nuld iss der man, zat’s who Ah-nuld iss.”

“The man,” Marco explained, explaining nothing.

OH CRAP, DATED POP-CULTURE REFERENCES.

I kid, I kid. Although I guess modern twelve year olds are more likely to recognise Arnold Scharzenegger as a politician than as a movie star. And I don’t think many people today are going to refer to him as ‘the man’, although it’s certainly true that he is a man. This scene is likely to incite ontological confusion in post-millenial tweens, is what I’m saying.

The kids are (once again) out to use their powers for good, which usually means doing something that will annoy Jake while also establishing a main plot for the rest of the book. It’s funny how that tends to work out. This time they want to take Ax to a new Planet Hollywood that’s opening nearby – ostensibly to expose him to human culture, but really because they couldn’t get tickets. I guess you need tickets to go to a Planet Hollywood opening? There used to be one in Dublin, but I can’t remember anyone making that big a deal out of it.

Of course, Rachel wants to go because Lucy Lawless will be there. She played Xena, you see.

Yes, but can she turn into a grizzly bear?

They fly to the Planet Hollywood in bird morph, but the proceedings are interrupted by a guy trying to kill himself by jumping off off of a nearby building. There’s a fairly unlikely scene where the kids all manage to catch him in mid-air and then stay airborne long enough to dump him into a nearby river. He survives, but he’s obviously going to have a fairly interesting story to tell afterwards.

They find out that he’s been committed to a psychiatric hospital for a) Trying to commit suicide and b) talking about having an alien living in his head.

Wait. An alien…living in his head. There’s something…something familiar about that…

While we’re all pondering the mystery of how this particular plot development might pan out, here’s the scene that’s stuck in my mind all these years more than any other in the entire series:

“You should have asked me!” I cried, in no mood to be reasonable.

“Okay, Rachel,” Jordan said placidly. “Should I have thrown out your rancid, bacteria-crawling, moldy leftovers like Mom asked me to, or should I have left them for you to eat so you’d end up having to get your stomach pumped?”

Yeah. Gone-off shrimp. For some reason I found the phrase ‘having to get your stomach pumped’ absolutely hilarious as a kid. It must have really stuck, because for the past ten years or whatever it’s been one of those things that I just mentally replay at random moments. (Uh…you guys all do that too, right?)

So, yeah. A 52 book series involving aliens taking over the world, and I remember the throwaway shrimp scene. Now let’s get back to the plot.

The kids decide to infiltrate the guy’s hospital to find out if he is/was/has plans to become a Controller. To do that they stow away on a crate of bananas as cockroaches, but get attacked by a tarantula.

Well, I'm sold.

And now for a test to determine whether you’re afraid of spiders:

Here is a link. You know nothing about it other than the fact that it appears close to a picture of tarantula. Does the thought of clicking it fill you with unspecified dread? If so, you may be afraid of spiders! It’s okay if you don’t want to click it. It will still be there later. Waiting. Watching. Sensing your fear.

Man, can you tell I’m not super-enthusiastic about this book? I think it might be coming through in the post.

Although this next part is interesting! Rachel gets into the hospital and unmorphs, then finds the guy who they rescued from the roof. His name is George Edelman, and he’s definitely a Controller. His Yeerk is insane, though, which means that he sometimes gets back temporary control over his body. Rachel proves that she knows what she’s talking about by asking him how the Yeerk has managed to survive for so long without a Kandrona machine, since Edelman has been in the hospital for more than three days.

And here comes the oatmeal plot point I mentioned: Edelman tells her that some Yeerks accidentally discovered that eating Maple and Ginger instant oatmeal will let them live indefinitely without the need to return to a Yeerk Pool. The only problem is that it drives them insane. I’m just going to roll with this, because if I don’t the entire post is going to devolve into me talking about what an inherently silly idea this is. (Now if it was oatmeal cookies it would be a completely different issue. Those are a powerful force for good in the world.)

brb, making cookies

After some moral conundruming, the kids decide to dump instant maple and ginger oatmeal into the Yeerk Pool (NO COMMENT) in order to get any Yeerks inside at the time addicted/insane. Tobias tells them about a new Yeerk Pool entrance inside a McDonalds. The signal to be let inside is to ask for a ‘Happy Meal with extra Happy’. Now, you might think I’m a hypocrite, but I find that hilarious. Yes, it’s silly. No, I don’t care.

Happy meal, with extra Happy. *slow clap*

They follow some Controllers into the Yeerk Pool entrance, but discover too late that the entrance is fitted with a ‘Fleet BioFilter’. Basically, that’s an alien dealie that destroys any life forms except those whose DNA has been authorised. The Yeerks have gotten wise to the fact that the ‘Andalite bandits’ are being liberal with their morphing abilities, in other words.

Their backup plan is to morph moles and then dig into the Yeerk Pool from underneath. Their first attempt leads them to an underground cave. An underground cave full of bats.

A batcave, in other words.

I couldn't find a single image of a Batwoman in a Batcave, so here's Kate Kane again.

The book also draws attention to how silly the whole oatmeal thing is:

“Here. Have a bat,” I said. I held one for Tobias. I wasn’t afraid of bats. I’d been one.

“Watch out, he’ll eat it,” Marco said

“You know,” Jake said in a conversational tone as we waited for Tobias to acquire the bat, “from the point where Edelman said ‘maple and ginger oatmeal,’ I should have known this was going to end stupidly.”

Consider me fully placated. WELL PLAYED, APPLEGATE.

They get into the Yeerk Pool in bat morph, but are attacked by a robot defence system. Rachel falls into the Yeerk Pool and demorphs while underneath the steel ‘pier’ where the human hosts have their heads forced under the water so they can be infested again. Rachel can feel the Yeerks brushing against her (she realises that they’re blind, since they can’t avoid her), and has this cheerful thought:

Oh, for my hammerhead shark’s razor teeth.

I think Rachel would find a shark-rampage highly satisfying.

She gets out of the Yeerk Pool in ant morphs, then steals a Dracon beam and pretends to be an ordinary Controller. She briefly considers firing at the Yeerk Pool with the Dracon beam on maximum power, but then realises that it would suicidal and would leave the others captured by the Yeerks. (Although there’s an implicit suggestion that she might consider it if it was just her own life at stake. Anyone who knows what happens at the end of the series will recognise this as foreshadowing.)

Rachel sees where the others are being kept, then overhears a conversation between two Controllers. Apparently they’ve confiscated ‘over two hundred human pounds’ (yes, they say ‘human pounds’) of instant ginger and maple oatmeal. Rachel sees this as an excellent opportunity to seriously screw over the Yeerks.

Visser Three arrives (of course), and all hell breaks loose when someone finds the Controller who Rachel knocked out with her stolen Dracon beam. She meets up with Marco and Cassie, who managed to keep themselves from being captured, and together they get their hands on the oatmeal-heroin stash. They throw barrels of it into the Yeerk Pool and threaten to burst them open with the Dracon beam if Visser Three doesn’t let them go.

Unfortunately for them, Visser Three is the galaxy’s biggest asshole. He says that he doesn’t care about the loss of 500 Yeerks (his estimate of the amount that would go insane before the spill could be contained), so Rachel knocks him into the Yeerk Pool. They make a run for it, but are stopped by Hork-Bajir at the exit staircase.

Visser Three morphs into a gigantic flying alien thing (similar but different to his many other ‘gigantic alien thing’ morphs) and comes after them. Left with no choice, Marco fires at one of the oatmeal barrels as a distraction. It doesn’t deter Visser Three, though, and in the end Rachel saves them all by shooting the roof of the tunnel they’re in. It collapses on top of them, leaving them to dig their way out.

Remember how the last book ends with the implication that Jake burned down the cannibal guy’s house? Well, this one ends with Rachel freeing Endelman by walking into the psychiatric hospital in bear morph and breaking down the doors to his ward. Clearly, the Animorphs are getting a bit more willing to use the direct approach when it comes to problem-solving.

That was the end of the first and only great battle ever to involve oatmeal.

May we never speak of it again.

Join me next time for the re-read of Animorphs #18: The Decision. It is an Ax book, and therefore the best book!

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 - 2 Comments:

  1. Wow. Just wow. With each successive book, I become more and more convinced the author was high. Or possibly ME, because my brain is that random without chemical assistance. That oatmeal plot element is exactly the kind of thing I’d stick into an RPG, for example. Which is why no one will let me be the dungeonmaster any more.

    Reply Quote

    • When can I play an RPG DM’ed by you? I want oatmeal-based McGuffins, Oatmeal monsters, and Oatmeal magic.

      We can call it Oatmeal Adventures.

      Reply Quote

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