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.
Welcome to yet another installment of the Animorphs re-read! Today’s entry features a book that I’ve been waiting to get to ever since I first decided it would be a great idea to spend over a year of my life recapping a series with over sixty volumes in total. Let’s see if it lives up to my childhood memories.
Our ghostwriter for The Conspiracy is Laura Bettyanyi-Wiess, who we previously met during the giant squid incident. Speaking Bettyanri-Wiess, I’ve encountered some confusion over her name. On Wikipedia she’s usually referred to as ‘Laura Bettyanri-Wiess‘ everywhere except on the page for The Conspiracy, when she’s called Bettyanyi-Weiss. Honestly, I kept reading it as ‘Weiss’ as well because it’s one of those German words everyone knows. So which is correct?
Well, my version of the book has the following in the acknowledgements page:
The author wishes to thank Laura Battyanyi-Wiess for her help in preparing this manuscript
So I guess it’s Wiess!
The Conspiracy is a Jake book, which means it’s going to be about the TORMENT OF BEING A LEADER. In fact, we open with an extended angst-fest, during which Jake mentions his great-grandfather’s cabin in a way that makes it clear it will factor into the plot somehow. He then says that he’s going to have to muster up all of his Leadership Angst in the near future, because he might have to kill Tom.
I think I see a plot on the horizon.
The first proper chapter opens with Tom coming home to learn that his great-grandfather has died (told you). His mother is going to go on ahead to the cabin, with Jake, Tom and their dad following a day or two later. They’re supposed to be staying for four days. Tom reacts badly to this news for some unfathomable reason.
Okay, so it was boring. Grandpa G’s cabin was the only house on the lake. His closest neighbor had been Mrs. Molloy and she lived seven miles away, halfway to town.
The only other house around was an old, abandoned hunting lodge across the lake.
No cable. No Taco Bell. No streetlights or crowds.
No movies. No malls. . . .
No Sharing. No Yeerks. . . .
No Taco Bell?!
Wait. Wrong point.
No Yeerks and/or their Pools?!
So Tom(‘s Yeerk) is freaking out because he’ll die if he goes that long without a Yeerk Pool. I’m honestly kind of surprise it took until book 31 for something like this to come out, because it’s a really interesting scenario. Tom is acting irrational and nobody can figure out why – except for Jake, who can’t tell anyone because Tom will kill him if he does. I really think Tom is under-utilized in the series.
Of course, this more or less confirms that Jake’s parents aren’t Controllers, since they wouldn’t be leaving for so long if they were. I guess that would be good to know.
Jake defuses the situation by making fun of Tom before things can get out of hand, all the while fantasizing about the Yeerk in Tom’s head dying of Kandrona starvation.
Jake goes outside to plan how best they can use this sudden turn of events to their advantage, but gets accosted by a wild Marco.
“Yo, Jake man! I was just on my way over to your house.” Marco. Jogging toward me. “I need your English notes.”
I shoved him back. “Since when did you start saying Yo?”
“I was going to yell ‘Hey, handsome,’ but I thought you might prefer ‘Yo.’”
Jake mentions his deceased great-grandfather, and Marco brings up the fact that he was in WWII.
“No, duh,” he said. “We spent a really unpleasant afternoon in the middle of World War II, you may recall. Or at least some time-distorted version of World War II.”
Long story there, too.
By ‘long story’ he means ‘It was in the third Megamorphs book’. The one where they go back in time. The one where they meet Hitler.
The one I’m not reading if I can help it.
Jake and Marco return to Jake’s house, only to find it empty. Jake panics, afraid that Tom may have killed ‘their’ father, but instead finds a note saying that he’s gone with Tom to a Sharing meeting to explain why Tom won’t be at one of their weekend events. Also so he can get infested, but he doesn’t know that.
Jake is determined to stop Tom even if if means revealing that they know about the invasion, leaving Marco as the voice of reason. Man, scary thought. (Interesting, Jake describes Marco’s ability to be coldly rational when the need arises as him ‘being able to see the line between A and B’, which is exactly how Marco himself describes it in the previous book. I wonder if the ghostwriters were working from shared notes? Or just reading each other’s stuff?)
Jake calls Erek, who does some CSI-style deductioning to work out that Jake’s dad is at a nearby mall. They fly there, but Marco points out that they can’t storm in and rescue Jake’s dad because it will make it too obvious that the ‘Andalite bandits’ are connected to a human family in some way. He’s possibly overestimating Visser Three’s intelligence here, but I like that it continues the tradition of the ghostwriters making the Yeerks seem more dangerous than usual.
Marco comes up with an alternative solution: he morphs into a gorilla and starts picking up and then dropping cars, setting off their alarms. Or at least, that’s what he does until he gets to Chapman’s car, which he decides to just gorilla-punch instead. The parking lot is immediately flooded with people, all of whom want to call the police. Jake tries to see if his father is acting any different, but then realizes that he wouldn’t even if he had been infested.
It’s not as if Controllers go around twitching or exchanging Yeerk high fives or playing with their ears. A Controller looks, acts, seems exactly normal.
CONTEST TIME: Come up with your best interpretation of a ‘Yeerk High Five’. The winner will receive a dead slug in the mail.
Late that day, everyone gathers in Cassie’s Mission Barn, where they realise that the Yeerks are going to do one of three things:
- Kill Tom and give his Yeerk a different host.
- Infest Jake’s dad.
- Kill Jake’s dad.
Not great choices, then. The kids decide to monitor Jake’s dad twenty-four hours a day to make sure the Yeerks don’t get to him.
Jake hitches a ride to his dad’s office in cockroach morph. His dad is, apparently, a doctor. Did we know that before now? I don’t ever remember it being mentioned, although I know Jake’s family is always portrayed as being about as middle class as you can get.
Nothing happens during the day, but there’s a false alarm that evening when his dad leaves for work and is accosted by a guy who wants to argue with Jake’s dad over a parking space. Jake freezes up, unsure of what to do, until he belatedly comes up with a plan to distract the guy until they realise that he isn’t a Controller.
The real attack comes the next day, when Tobias spots Chapman driving to Jake’s house with an armed passenger in his car. Jake is incredulous, wondering just how important Tom must be to the Yeerks if they’re willing to perform a drive-by shooting in broad daylight to keep his cover intact. He manages to cause another distraction just in time, but catches Tom giving him a murderous look afterwards.
Later, at Barn HQ, Marco points out that Jake can’t keep ‘coincidentally’ ruining the Yeerks’ attempts at getting to his father without raising some suspicion. (Or getting himself shot.) Jake comes up with an alternative solution: kidnap Chapman! The perfect distraction.
They storm into Chapman’s house and get attacked by his wife, who is also a Controller. Rachel knocks her out before she can fire off too many shots with her Dracon beam, but Chapman is also armed – this time with a handgun. He manages to do a hell of a lot more damage with it than Ms. Chapman did with the Dracon beam, which makes me wonder why the Yeerks don’t use human guns all the time. They injure Chapman in the fight, but Jake gets carried away and very nearly kills him.
They tie Chapman up so that Ax can ‘interrogate’ him, but Jake and Rachel both decide that they don’t particularly want to watch the whole thing. Later, when Jake has confirmed that Tom has left in the middle of the night (presumably to look for Chapman), he meets back up with a very pissed-off Ax.
<The human daughter of this Controller has walked through the neighborhood crying for her father. I have heard her. As I have heard the terror of this Controller. I will gladly fight this Controller and even, in fair battle, kill him, but I am not a torturer.>
I’d never heard Ax this mad. Never even close.
Amazingly, this still isn’t even close to being the most morally-dubious thing the kids do by the end of the series.
The male members of Jake’s family head off to the cabin the next day. Jake and Tom-Yeerk talk about ‘their’ great-grandfather’s war years and bicker about whether honour and the like still matter. They also find an old SS dagger, a souvenir of the war, which Tom clearly intends on using to murder Jake’s dad.
That night Jake has a weird dream where he’s in WWII. He wakes up to find Tom and the dagger both gone. In a panic, he goes outside, where Tom and his father are apparently having a heart-to-heart. He races out to save his dad, knowing that he’ll most likely have to kill Tom in the process.
Before he can do anything, Tom and his dad fall into the nearby lake, where they are improbably attacked/rescued (respectively) by a bunch of dolphins – the other Animorphs. Jake can’t decide whether to save Tom or let him drown, but one of the others carries him to the shore anyway. They also break his leg, necessitating a quick return home, resolving the situation nicely.
Later, Marco explains how they had a contingency plan in case Tom didn’t get anywhere near the lake: apparently they were going to try to kill him in a way that made it look natural. For obvious reasons, Jake stops him from going into too much detail.
Thus ends another pretty great installment of the supposedly terrible ghostwritten part of the series. It’s really well-paced, the central plot is fantastic, and it continues the trend of the series getting gradually darker as it goes on. (Remember when the characters didn’t have to routinely contemplate murdering people to keep their cover intact? Those were the days.) Compared to The Exposed, this is also really well written. It feels like Bettyanyi-Wiess got to grips with the characters in the interim period, because they’re all pitch-perfect here.
Amazingly, I am still waiting for the ghostwritten books to get truly bad. By this point the good ones actually outnumber the terrible ones. Do the ghostwritten books just have an undeserved bad reputation thanks to a few bad books between number 25 and 30? We’ll have to see…
Come back next time for Animorphs #32: The Separation, which has the most LOL-tastic cover of any of the books to date. Yes, even more so than the cow one.