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Animorphs Re-Read – #37: The Weakness

by ◊ 1 year ago 13 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 our new and improved Animorphs Re-Read index for a list of every post in the series.

Your favorite Animophs-delivery vector is back! Today’s offering is courtesy of Elise Smith, whose name sounds like something from a witness protection program. She’s another one-shot ghostwriter, something that hasn’t boded well for a book’s quality in the past. How will it bode this time? Let’s find out.

The tragically non-hilarious cover shows Rachel turning into a cheetah. Whee.

Although I guess her expression in the upper-right is kind of funny.

The book opens with a page that blatantly sets up its main character conflict: Jake is out of town and Tobias has discovered Visser Three’s latest feeding spot, which means they have an opportunity to take him out. But oh noes, Rachel has to step in and take command even though she’s not sure if she should. CONFLICT.

They jump straight into the mission, which is a bit unusual. As the cover indicates, they all decide to go in Hit-Cheetah morph, because I guess cheetahs are the perfect animals to use when assassinating an alien despot. Rachel’s description of the cheetah morph involves some pretty humorous sound effects, which I will now reproduce entirely out of context for maximum lols:

ZWOOOP!

BOOIIINNGGG!

POOOF!

POP! POP!

POPPOPPOPPOPPOP!

WHOOOSSSHHH!

I’m disappointed in myself for not thinking of this sooner.

They attack Visser Three while he’s feeding, but what do you know, he just happened to have brought along an alien thing that looks vaguely like an Andalite and is even faster than a cheetah. That’s…uh, convenient. It kind of reminds me of one of those really didactic cartoons where the kid who never shares just happens to come up against a monster that can only be killed by the power of sharing.

The creature also thought-speaks incredibly fast, although Visser Three can apparently understand it. He refers to it as ‘Inspector’, which means we’re going to get a tie-in to the events of Visser. (If you recall, that ended with Visser Three getting slapped with a death sentence that would remain suspended only if he managed to conquer Earth in a reasonable timeframe).

The Inspector (whose host body is something called a Garatron) is openly antagonistic towards Visser Three, so Rachel decides to sour the relationship further by continuously attacking or harassing known high-ranking Controllers in a bid to make Visser three look incompetent. Er, even more incompetent, I mean. Marco says they should wait until Jake gets back from visiting his relatives. Rachel disagrees.

CONFLICT.

The first raid on a Yeerk-owned property goes swimmingly, in that the Animorphs cause a lot of property damage and make it seem like Visser Three has no control over what happens in right under his nose. But oh no, Tobias saw an old guy trip amidst all the panic and is afraid he might have hurt himself! Rachel tells him to stop being such a weeny and pushes on with the attacks.

CONFLICT.

Sorry, I’m trying not to be too flippant here, but this whole plotline feels really low-stakes. Why couldn’t the entire book have been about them trying to assassinate Visser Three? That would be a lot more interesting.

Anyway, they attack the bookstore and Marco accidentally scares a kid or whatever but that’s the price you pay. In a real war, kids get scared sometimes. Then they raid a clothes store or whatever and later on they find out that the old guy who fell over actually died.

CONFLICT

So this would be pretty interesting if it happened because Rachel accidentally mauled someone to death, but no, it happens because some guy with a bad heart was in the vicinity of the world’s lowest-value target when the Animorphs decided to inconvenience it. If you’re going to have the characters accidentally bump off civilians, make it count.

They still decide to go on One Last Raid, but get attacked by Mr. Inspector. Here’s how he’s described:

The inspector circled and spun like a whirling dervisharound Cassie. Jim Carrey in The Mask. The Tasmanian Devil in a whirlwind around Yosemite Sam.

Terrifying. Just terrifying.

Although…

Visser Three shows up, because Visser Three always shows up, and turns into what the Wikipdia article for this book describes as ‘Putrid Alien Flesh’. No really, it says that:

I feel like I don’t mention often enough how insanely detailed the Wikipedia articles for these books can be.

They manage to escape, but Cassie gets left behind. Which, again, might be kind of harrowing if she hadn’t been left behind while engaging in the most pointless mission imaginable. Rachel has an ‘Am I really a good leader?!’ moment, and they decide to break into the Yeerk Pool by, uh, hijacking a small plane and crashing it into a known Pool location. I probably don’t need to list the ways that could go wrong, do I?

They get into the Yeerk Pool, something that would usually be a huge undertaking but is handled in a few pages because this plot has no sense of gravity whatsoever, and Visser Three challenges The Inspector to fight them himself. He does swimmingly against them (remember, super-speed) until Marco bites him in snake morph and injects a fatal dose of venom into him. Goodbye, Inspector, we hardly knew ye.

And that’s the end of the book. Rachel has an insignificant character moment, some random guy dies, and the Animorphs defeat an enemy who had zero bearing on the plot and who will most likely never be mentioned again. This certainly wasn’t the worst book in the series, but man, is it forgettable. I can feel it slipping out of my brain already.

Tune in next time for my re-read of Animorphs #38: The Arrival, in which a new Andalite character turns into something called a Grackle. Expect many, many jokes along the lines of ‘Snap, Grackle and Pop’. You’re welcome in advance.

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 - 13 Comments:

  1. Lamusiqe13

    I seem to dislike this one a lot more than you did. Actually, it’s one of my least favorite books in the series. Even as a kid, I thought that Rachel was ABSOLUTELY CRAZY in this book. Marco bothers me too, reading it now, although he didn’t bother me at the time. And the prose is very, very choppy. The sad thing is? The plot wasn’t bad. Sure, it was low stakes, you’re right, but it could’ve been a major development for both Rachel and Marco. But no, instead, we get this bullshit.

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    • Yeah, Rachel’s behaviour is pretty crazy in this one. I know she’s supposed to be reckless at times, but none of her plans here even make sense. It was almost like seeing Evil Starfish Rachel all over again.

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  2. I just wanted to say grackle.

    Grackle.

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  3. Cyberguy64

    Aw… This was my very first book as a kid. It’s what got me into the series. I was hoping it’d get a higher score than that.

    Oh well, I guess it wasn’t really that great.

    You did forget to mention that this book apparently happened before Visser, because Marco references having blown up the pool’s spaceship entrance when he’s talking to Visser 1 on the cell phone.

    No, I don’t know what this means for the Inspector’s presence. Considering how incompetent Visser 3 is, he probably just already warranted inspecting.

    You also forget to mention how the Garatron’s similarities to an Andalite put Ax at unease, and then is completely ignored for the rest of the series after a ridiculous “explanation” from Cassie. (Even though I have a soft spot for this book, that still bugs me today.)

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  4. Katherine Applegate

    Hi, Sean,

    Wow I never realized how ‘terrible’ these books were. It was a miracle that they were able to sell at all. Just kidding! To be honest, I know many of you loyal ANI fans feel like the ghostwritten books aren’t up to par, but to be honest, it was an extremely hectic time for us and at one point, Michael and I knew that we weren’t going to be able to keep up with the 14 books a year without getting some serious help! I can tell you that we DID write very detailed outlines for each book that was passed on to the ghostwriter, but outlines don’t tend to stick in your mind for so long! I’ll admit that we were just a bit shortsighted at the time and looking back, I knew that we could have done better in terms of editing the finished manuscripts for these books and fitting them into the series continuity (we have an english degree and a GED between us), but I know for sure that if we were to have written every one of the books ourslves (which was what we’d initially intended), we would have never gotten as far as we had (book #54!) with Animorphs.

    Hope this clears some thing up!

    -K.A Applegate

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    • Phoebe

      Sean is in Ireland so probably asleep right now, but he is going to pee himself when he finds out you commented, Katherine, I just know it! Gotta tell you, your books were integral to my becoming a writer (Sean, too). That copy of the Andalite Chronicles was dog-eared to hell. Thank you so much–and congrats on the friggin’ Newbery!

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      • Katherine Applegate

        Thanks Phoebe!

        To be honest, Michael and I are just glad that we didn’t completely screw up a whole generation of kids. As for ANI inspiring you to become a writer, I sincerely apologize for inflicting such torture upon you! How can I possibly sleep at night? To be honest, Michael and I never took ourselves very seriously, so I’m honored at the reception that Animorphs got when it was published and the fan base that has kept the series going over the years.

        -K.A Applegate

        Quote

    • Cyberguy64

      Holy Crap! It’s really you!

      Wow, it’s an honor to see you out and about.

      I understand building a universe takes a lot of work, and putting it into the hands of someone who doesn’t have the characters and setting in their head the same way you do doesn’t always work out. Nevertheless, Animorphs, even at it’s lowest point, was always fun and exciting for me to read growing up. I applaud you, madame!

      I do have to ask, though. What was the point of making the Garatrons look so much like Andalites if you weren’t going to take advantage of it? Why did you decide to have Cassie just brush it off?

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      • Katherine Applegate

        Hi Cyberguy64,

        Thanks for being such a loyal ANI fan. You can be sure that Michael and I don’t take any of it for granted! We are still shocked and surprised that ANI made it at all, even after all these years! You can tell that we don’t take ourselves very seriously.

        As for the Garatrons, it was just one of those times where we planted seeds in book X hoping to harvest them in Book Y. Usually that works. Sometimes not.

        -K.A. Applegate

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    • Oh wow, thanks for commenting!

      Actually, my experience with the ghostwritten books ended up being a lot more positive than I was expecting. People like to rag on them a lot online, but I found myself in the slightly awkward position (from the perspective a snarky recapper) of enjoying most of them a lot.

      As somebody who now tries to write books himself, I can’t imagine how much work it takes to put out that many books a year. The fact that you were able to create such compelling and deep characters is really an inspiration to me.

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    • Tobias Skywalker

      O.O

      I would say all kinds of things right now, but for the most part, I’m speechless. X.X

      People make a very huge deal about JK Rowling nowadays, but at the age demographic that the early Harry Potter books are aimed at, I believe Animorphs was far more influential on me. (10-13 years old I think?)

      In fact Mrs. Applegate, #3, the Encounter, was the first book I ever read that could be called one, and I grew up to know and love Tobias before I had heard the name “Luke Skywalker”. You may have taken a great deal of inspiration from Star Wars and Star Trek at some pretty obvious moments, but imitation and shoutout are the highest form of flattery, right?

      Anyway, it’s because of you, my sister, and a 3rd grade Scholastic Book Fair that I Read Books. I think that one of the reasons Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix was so cool to me was because I’d ALREADY had a good dose of “band of teenagers with attitude take on evil villains trying to take over the world”. And actually, I was a pretty sheltered nerdy kid because I was so being cooped up reading your books in my room– so all of your pop-culture references to the 90′s were actually my first exposure to them! Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The X-Files? Umm..a LOT of things?

      You are like one of my favorite people in the world and among the most influential people in my life. Seriously? My current girlfriend and I bond over a lot of things and one of the reasons we fell in love was sharing a common love of Animorphs, which really helped us appreciate one another’s quirks a lot more.

      I believe JK Rowling deserves all the attention she gets, but I really wish Warner Bros. could offer YOU a big movie deal– I know it’s just not in the cards, no way, but for how crazy epic Animorphs has been to me, I really think you deserve to have evening news anchors announcing the worldwide premier of an Animorphs Movie with the same tone of amazement at how much of a worldwide phenomenon it is as they talk about Harry Potter.

      I can be a critic when I absolutely have to be- sure, not every moment in the series is perfect, and some weren’t even great- but the first 5 or 6 were SO Strong that they gave me a childish set of indestructible rose-colored lenses that allowed me to love (almost) every book on its merits.There very few Weaknesses. Except #37, of course. And the actually Strong parts? These books gained SO MUCH DEPTH for me when I started re-reading them Post 9/11. o.o It was absolutely crazy.

      Um, I’m going to sound foolish right now -_- But hey, when you see your childhood heroes walking around, sometimes you just have a celebrity for their autograph. I would really, really love it if you autographed my copy of The Andalite Chronicles. :P
      Is there any way that can happen? X.X

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  5. Katherine Applegate

    Thanks, Sean! Glad you enjoyed the books.

    -K.A. Applegate

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    • Lamusiqe13

      WHOA! I wish I’d seen this seven days ago…

      Anyway, I’d just like to say that although this wasn’t one of my favorites (my comment at the top probably seems a little mean… I had no idea you’d be reading this :) I loved the series for the most part. The Departure in particular influences practically everything I write. And like Sean, and as someone who barely manages to make the NaNoWriMo deadlines on a yearly basis, I can’t imagine how you wrote a book a month at all, let alone making them good.

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