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.
I was planning on reviewing the next Megamorphs book today, but then I realised that it’s actually less relevant to the overall series than most of the ghostwritten books. Specifically, it’s less relevant to the overall series than The Reunion, which was the next main-series book in line.
Surprise, I’m doing The Reunion. Prepare to gasp in astonishment at the re-introduction of Visser One, AKA Marco’s mom! Shriek in terror at heart-pounding battles! Laugh with delight as the word ‘crouton’ is transformed into a verb before your very eyes! Chuckle wryly at the following out-of-context image from the book’s cover art!
And here’s the whole thing:
So yeah, we’ve got a Marco book, which means we’re in for some Visser One angst. This time our ghostwriter is Elise Donner, who I don’t believe we’ve met before. Overall, I like her writing just fine, and she keeps the character well within the bounds of what you’d expect from the rest of the series. I give her +1 ghostwriter points.
(Oh God, how hilarious would it be to do an X Factor style competition where we pit ghostwriters against each other? We could have conspicuous product placement and scripted emotional moments and copious overuse of O Fortuna. It would be amazing.)
But anyway, The Reunion open with Marco having a not-at-all-symbolic dream about trying to rescue his mother from her boating accident that supposedly killed her, only to watch her drown while she talks about being ‘free’. I’m sure it means nothing. He wakes up and muses on his dad’s fondness for the phrase ‘salad days’:
Those were the days. Or, as Dad says, “The salad days.”
I’m not sure what that means exactly – “salad days” – but he says it a lot. I’m not a big fan of salad myself, unless it’s heavily croutoned.
My spell-checker is putting red lines under the word ‘croutoned’. This is an oversight which I must fix immediately.
Marco goes downtown, which means he’s in the office building district of Animorphsville. He gets knocked over by a random office drone who doesn’t apologize for barging into her, so he follows her for a block or two with the intention of tripping her in revenge. If this was any other character, I’d say they were being enormously petty, but I could actually see Marco doing this. To nobody’s surprise, Office Lady turns out to be Visser One.
You may recall that Visser One was though to have been killed at the end of The Escape, when the Animorphs destroyed her underwater shark-controlling facility. (And I’m just now realising that that was an intentional callback to the way Marco’s mom supposedly died the first time around – by drowning. Man, I’m dumb.) Now Marco has confirmation that she survived – only she’s wearing a disguise that involves a ‘power suit’, a blonde wig and a pair of huge glasses. Is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking?
Marco follows her to an office building, but can’t find a way to get in without being kicked out by the security guards. He comes up with the fairly clever plan of acquiring a guy’s DNA, then pretending the guy is his dad before the acquiring trance wears off. This gets him through the checkpoint without having to actually morph the guy, which doesn’t really sit well with any the kids. (Although you’d think they’d be okay with pretty much anything after everything Cassie did in the previous book…)
Marco follows Visser One into a crowded elevator, then morphs into a housefly by, er, hiding behind a newspaper. The way this is described makes it sound mildly convincing, but I really don’t buy that Marco would take that kind of risk in front of a group of ordinary people and one of the highest-ranking Yeerks on the planet. But it works, and he follows Visser One up to the twenty-second floor. As soon as he knows where she’s going, he tried to escape, but gets sucked into an air shaft (still in fly morph, obviously) and, through a series of misfortunes, ends up having to morph the guy he acquired earlier. Unfortunately for the reputation of one ‘Mr. Grant’, he ends up turning into a middle-aged man wearing a child-sized morphing suit and then being discovered by a secretary. Then he gets discovered by the real Mr. Grant. Marco sucker-punches him, steals his clothes and escapes.
Man, talk about a bad day for Mr. Grant.
Marco tells the others what happened. They realise that Visser Three saw them spare Visser One’s life at the shark facility, which must have made him think she’s a traitor. Yet she’s somehow alive, and still getting access to Kandrona rays every three days. Marco, Tobias and Ax are the only ones available to check out Visser One’s office, so they decide to go that night.
They go in roach morph, inflitrating the building in a scene that single-handedly made me confident in Donner’s ability to handle the series’ trademark grim humor. This is a Marco book, after all – you really need jokes about how the characters are going to die every five minutes. Have another ghostwriter point, Donner.
Predictably, they find a portable Kandrona generator and miniature Yeerk Pool. Visser One is in the middle of ‘feeding’ when they sneak in, which means that Marco’s mother is temporarily free. But she’s also being restrained with her head inches from the Yeerk Pool, meaning that Visser One would re-infest her the moment she realised something was going on outside the pool. Marco resists the urge to try saving his mother anyway by reminding himself that, should Visser One find out who they are, they would most likely have to kill his mother in the process of killing Visser One.
They find evidence that Visser One is going to destroy the free Hork-Bajir colony, but before they can do anything about it, someone tries to break into the office. They guess that it’s other Controllers coming to assassinate Visser One. Marco insists on saving her, justifying it by arguing that it’s better to keep Visser One alive so she can distract Visser Three from them.
They manage to stop some Hork-Bajir from killing her. She says that Visser Three now has enough reason to get the Council of Thirteen to issue a ‘gashad’ against her, which is basically a kill-on-sight order. Ax makes her an offer: they’ll let her go, but only if she tells them what her plan is. Visser One realises that Ax is Elfangor’s brother, and makes a counter-offer: she’ll give him an opportunity to kill Visser Three if he gives her the location of the Hork-Bajir colony. He pretends to agree to this.
The phrase ‘Unarmed Mexican Standoff’ is starting to feel pretty apt right about now.
To everyone’s surprise, Marco says that they should use this uneasy alliance to take out both Visser One and Three at the same time. They go to Cassie so she can tell them what kind of animal is good at living in the mountains, but Tobias accidentally breaks her window while trying to wake her up. Then this happens:
TAP! TAP! TA-CSSSHHHH!
The glass shattered. It fell in a shower of glittering shards.
“Jake?” Cassie bolted upright in bed.
<Awww, isn’t that sweet?> I said, so Cassie could hear. <Her first thought is “Jake.” Makes you wonder just what kind of dreams she was having.>
Uncomfortable Twilight parallels aside, Cassie tells them to go acquire some mountain goats. They head over to the Gardens, the one-stop shop for all their morphing needs, and find some of said goats.
<Interesting,> Ax observed. <Bearded, white-coated creatures with hooves. And horns. Grazers. I would point out the similarities between the mountain goat and Andalites, except for my extremely disappointing experience with the cow.>
I think we all had an extremely disappointing experience with the cow.
They acquire some goats and go home for the night, and Marco has a dream where he justify killing his mother to his dad by telling him that she was being mind-controlled by an alien slug. You know, that dream.
On with the plan! Visser One intentionally lets Chapman see her, which of course prompts him to go and report the sighting to Visser Three. They instruct Visser One to go and get a disguise, but she comes close to being caught by a human Controller. Rachel prevents a shoot-out at the last minute by pretending to be a friend of Visser One’s, creating a distraction but coming perilously close to exposing herself as one of the ‘Andalite bandits’ in the process.
They tell Visser One to buy climbing gear, which she does. They end up as cockroaches in a car that she’s driving, and Cassie uses this as an opportunity to fortify their cover story:
“Humility? From an Andalite?”
<Realism from an Andalite,> Cassie said.
Visser One barked out a laugh. “You’re afraid of him.”
<Tell her, “yes,”> I said privately to Cassie. <Tell her he’s killed a lot of us.>
<Yes. We were far more numerous, once. Many of us have died fighting Visser Three.>
You know, if they actually were intent on killing Visser Three, I imagine they could do it easily enough. God knows he’s incompetent enough to give them an opening.
Unfortunately, Visser One is a just a bit more on-the-ball than her Andalite-infesting comrade. Not that that would be difficult, but still. If she’d been in charge of Earth at the beginning of the series, they’d all be properly screwed. She points out that the casualty reports from the Animorphs’ missions have never mentioned anything about dead or badly-wounded human Controllers. Marco freezes up rather than thinking of a suitable lie, and Visser One makes it clear that she’s just worked out their secret. Everyone panics, but Marco points out that they’re planning on tricking the two Vissers into killing each other anyway. The stakes are just a little bit higher now, and it means that they absolutely can’t let Visser One get out alive.
I really like how the kids are forced to be increasingly ruthless as they edge closer to closer to being found out. Early in the series, they could be certain of their cover story holding up, but now there are far too many people on their side who know who they really are, which means there’s an ever-present possibility of them having to kill someone – good or bad – who could potentially expose them.
They arrive at their destination and tell Visser One to get out of the car and start walking along a nearby path. Rachel follows her in bird morph, but the car Visser One used gets blown up by someone with a Dracon Beam before Jake and Cassie can get out. Marco is convinced that they’ve been killed. They continue with the plan, but Rachel becomes impatient and starts to question why they don’t just kill Visser One outright rather than risk her getting away once they spring their trap.
Visser One eventually reaches the top of the mountain, where Eric creates a hologram of the free Hork-Bajir colony. Unfortunately, Marco makes a joke just as it appears, which triggers a memory that Visser One seems to mull over for an uncomfortably long time. Visser Three arrives before she can fully make the connection, though, and a huge battle ensues, involving the two Vissers pitting their cloaked fleets against each other.
In predictable fashion, Visser One ends up on the edge of a massive drop. Marco, still in goat morph, prepares to knock her over the edge, but tells her that he loves her at the last minute. She realises who he is just as he’s about to kill her…until Jake makes a surprise reappearance. He knocks Marco out of the way of her Dracon Beam, which Marco was essentially playing chicken against. Tobias then slashes at her face, and she falls backwards into the ravine.
A week later, Rachel comes to visit Marco, who is understandably depressed, and says that she searched for his mother’s body but couldn’t find it. The Yeerks vaporised the rest of the corpses left over from the battle, but there were no tell-tale burn marks anywhere near where Visser One would have landed if she had actually hit the ground. Marco consoles himself with the thought that one of her Bug Fighters must have saved her, but it’s a mixed blessing, since it means they could end up having to fight her again.
So, The Reunion is really, really good. Almost Melinda Metz good. So far, the run of ghostwritten novels has had almost as much gold as crap, which makes me hopeful for the next 22 books. In fact, I just looked at the Wikipedia page for the next book, and it’s one I’ve been waiting for ever since I started doing the re-read. Could it be that the ghostwritten books are actually…good??
Well, maybe, but they’re sure as hell not getting to reach the final.