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 our new and improved Animorphs Re-Read index for a list of every post in the series.
Last time on the Chronicles of the Hork-Bajir Chronicles, we chronicled several key facts about the Animorphs universe. I will now summarise them in bullet-list form:
- Seerow (of Seerow’s Kindness fame) had a hitherto-unmentioned daughter.
- Most Hork-Bajir are kind of dumb, except for the ‘seers’, who are really smart.
- The Yeerk Empire is a lot younger than I would have thought.
- The Hork-Bajir homeworld is really weird.
With the setup out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the plot!
After their impromptu interspecies first contact in the last book, Dak Hamee and Aldrea try to communicate. We’ve seen the Animorphs use thought-speak with alien species before, which would suggest that it works universally regardless of language. That gets confirmed here when Dak Hamee understand the meaning behind what Aldrea is saying even though he doesn’t understand the words themselves. Luckily, the Andalites have one of those universal translators from Star Trek, so there’s no barrier to communication in either direction.
Aldrea explains that she came from another star system, wrecking Dak Hamee’s personal cosmology in one fell swoop. (The Hork-Bajir think of the stars as Mother Sky’s ‘flowers’, and had no idea that they were actually very large objects seen at a great distance.) Dak Hamee is initially alarmed, but then realizes that learning about the universe must be part of his purpose as a Seer.
Next up is our third viewpoint character! Who could it be – Seerow? Aldrea’s mother? Another Hork-Bajir?
Nope, it’s Esplin 9466, AKA Visser Three.
Let’s see how he introduced himself:
I come from no regular Yeerk pool. I was born from the decaying bodies of my tripartite
parents, along with several hundred brothers and sisters, aboard ship. And one twin,
naturally, as you know from the double-number designation.
I have never lived on the home world. I was born in a sterile, titanium-alloy tank, beneath the
warmth of a portable Kandrona.
It was all I knew.
Huh. Not much sign of the raging asshole he’ll eventually grow into, I have to say. (Also I’m going to start telling people I was ‘born from the decaying bodies of my tripartite parents’, then refuse to explain what I’m talking about. Oh, the fun I’ll have.)
Esplin says that, at this point, he has lived his entire life in an artificial Yeerk Pool on board a ship. (Also note the mention of being ‘aboard ship’, as opposed to ‘the ship’. A reference to Pamela Sargent’s Earthseed books, perhaps?) He explains that there was a shortage of Gedd host bodies, so Yeerks like him had to wait their turn to be trained to infest a host by inhabiting a Gedd for a mere fifteen minutes before someone else took a turn.
Oh! How can I explain it? The power! The joy! The feeling that I had suddenly grown huge, vast, powerful.
No one had told me it would be so wonderful.
And then I felt inside the brain, a place I had not been. A place untouched by my control.
I opened that part of the brain. And in doing so, I opened the Gedd’s eyes.
For a long, frozen moment of disbelief, I did not know what was happening. I didn’t understand what my brain was receiving. How could I? How could any Yeerk who has not had a host?
Now this right here is really impressive. Not only does it further humanize the Yeerks, it also tries to get you to sympathise with them. Would you restrict yourself to life as a blind slug after experiencing proper senses for the first time? Would you even be able to?
From that moment on, I swore that I would do whatever it took, pay any price, to have eyes again.
There were more than a quarter million of us on the two transport ships. A quarter million of us and so few hosts. Only the most fit, the most useful, would be given hosts. I would be the most fit. I would be the most useful.
Road to hell, good intentions, paved with. You know the drill.
Back to Aldrea! Seerow is in complete denial about the threat he accidentally unleashed when he gave the Yeerks technology, even as they infest their way across the galaxy. Alrea’s brother is also depressed because there are no other Andalites for him to go and do manly bro activities with, leaving Aldrea and her mother as the only ones who see the potential for discovery in the Hork-Bajir planet. Is it just me, or this book really painting the male half of the Andalite species in a bad light?
Aldrea acquires the DNA of a Chadoo, which is a bird-type thing native to the Hork-Bajir homeworld, and morphs it in front of Dak Hamee. Even this is apparently a violation of the (as-yet unnamed) Seerow’s Kindness thing – I guess the Andalites are particularly paranoid at this point.
Back to Esplin, who receives his first Hork-Bajir host and is just giddy with delight at the feeling of subjugating another creature’s mind. So there’s that ‘raging asshole’ aspect of him, I guess, although the book still does a good job of making him seem more like he’s just desperate to be anything other than a Yeerk than a tyrant who wants to cause misery for the sake of it.
Actually, that’s an interesting way to look at the Yeerks: as a species with a massive, collective inferiority complex.
Anyway, back to Dak and Aldrea’s Funtime Happy Hour, which becomes a lot less funtime when they learn that creatures matching the description of Gedd have been spotted on the planet. That means the Yeerks are about to show up.
And show up they do! A stolen Andalite shuttle destroys the ship Aldrea arrived in, apparently killing her family. Aldrea and Dak Hamee run, but are intercepted by Hork-Bajir Controllers. Experiencing intentional violence for the first time when one of them cuts him, Dak Hamee fights back by paralyzing one of the Controllers with his wrist blade.
So much for the peaceful Hork-Bajir, I guess!
There’s a classic ‘too much knowledge is bad for you’ setup here. Dak Hamee points out that the Yeerks were content with their Gedd hosts until Seerow showed them that there was more to the universe. In the same way, Dak Hamee himself had no comprehension of what his species lacked until Aldrea opened his eyes to concepts like art and music.
Aldrea realizes that she’ll need to turn the Hork-Bajir into a species of killers if they’re going to survive the Yeerk invasion. Of course, if they become enslaved by the Yeerks they’ll also turn into a species of killers, just in a different way. Dak Hamee sees this as a lose-lose situation, which…yeah, pretty much. Seerow’s ghost kind of has a lot to answer for.
In a shocking development, Aldrea and Dak Hamee end up running down to the blue mist known as ‘Father Deep’.
They get attacked again, but are ‘rescued’ by a Jubba-Jubba, one of the monsters that live in Father Deep. It’s apparently strong enough to pick up and decapitate a Hork-Bajir, so I can see why they’re afraid of it.
Aldrea and Dak Hamee go further into the Deep and discover several things: a bizarre ecosystem that exists beneath the mist layer of the Deep (meaning that the ‘bottom’ of the Hork-Bajir’s world is the ‘sky’ for this new one), a series of apparently-artificial walkways, and a chasm leading directly into the planet’s core.
In case that sounds confusing, Aldrea supplies a useful summary:
I now had some understanding of the layout. The upper valley, above the blue mist barrier, was Hork-Bajir land. A land of steep inclines and gigantic trees.
Beneath the mist was a somewhat more level belt that encircled the valley. In this zone of dense fog and eerie plants, the monsters lived.
Now we were in the third zone: no longer a steep valley, but sheer cliffs. Cliffs that were covered by a complex of walkways, stairways, arches, carved-out plazas, homes, businesses.
. . . They had every imaginable feature of a moderately advanced civilization but one: They were empty. No one seemed to be living here.
I know I keep harping on about this, but I really hope K.A. Applegate writes some proper space opera one of these days.
Eventually, they discover a sentient species living in the Deep. Aldrea questions one of them, and the book does that annoying thing where the characters learn something but it isn’t communicated to the reader even though it’s written in first-person. AUTHORS, DON’T DO THAT.
Anyway, all is revealed in the very next chapter (so why the fakeout?). This new species were the planet’s original inhabitants before it was hit by the asteroid that created the valleys. Some members of the original species survived in stasis on one of the planet’s moons, and returned to find that the valleys could support life – but only just. They genetically-engineered the Hork-Bajir so that they would cultivate the native tree species, which in turn would keep the atmosphere breathable.
So the Hork-Bajir were created by another species, who also created the ‘monsters’ in the Deep to keep the Hork-Bajir in their own part of the planet. Once again: K.A. APPLEGATE, ladies and gentlemen. I bet she had fun with this one.
And on that note, I’m going to have to stop, because we’ve still got half the book to go and I don’t want this post to turn out huge. Come back next time for the final installment of The Hork-Bajir Chronicles! I’m going to spoil things every so slightly by calling it The Hork Bajir Chronicles, Part 3: Everything Goes to Hell. See you next time.