Jul 9, 2018

The Stranger

Animorphs #7
by K.A. Applegate

Note: there are spoilers here if you haven't read this far in the series.

Better and better. The plot suddenly gets more complex, although the book still follows the same basic pattern- which I expect all of them will- a brief recap (two or three pages) of what the Animorphs are and why they are fighting aliens, main storyline about how the team of teenagers attempt to solve a problem or deal with new issues that arise, while still handling family life and school, and a sudden pitch into intense action near the end, when they inevitably have a confrontation with the enemy. 

Refreshingly, this time they realize how futile all their moves against the aliens have been, and start to falter in their resolve. Nevertheless, deciding to try and disable the source of rejuvenating power for the alien parasites, they morph into cockroaches again to sneak into the arena of the Yeerk pool. Of course they are discovered and literally just on the verge of being eaten by a Taxxon (huge gross caterpillar-looking alien with a mouth end full of teeth) when a strange thing happens. Time stops. A new being enters their consciousness- called an Ellimist, one with far more advanced knowledge and ability than any of the aliens (including Andalites, in fact Ax is terrified of the Ellimist). What it boils down to, is the Ellimist forsees that their war against the aliens will be lost before Andalite forces can return to Earth, and humans will simply go extinct. The Ellimist offers to transport them- and a few other people- to a distant uninhabited plant similar to Earth, to save a remnant of mankind. Cassie immediately compares this to how environmentalists rescue wildlife from the brink of extinction. The kids don't like the comparison and agonize over what to do. How can they give up the fight? but if they are bound to loose, isn't it worth saving something. The Ellimist also sends them on a bleak visit to the future, when the alien parasite Yeerks have taken over the world. 

Through all this, Rachel (our narrator) is struggling with family issues due to her parents' divorce. She takes several flights as a bird of prey in order to work off her feelings, an escape route that one of the other teens points out could have negative effects if they use it too often. She also acquires a grizzly bear morph while on her own, and it comes in handy when they finally confront the enemy again. I have to say, this battle was a lot more bloody and violent than prior ones (and there's an earlier fight with a Taxxon that's very disturbing) but they are written with minimal detail or I bet this would be too much for some kids to read. Rachel shows a growing ease with using violence- she makes no effort to control the grizzly impulses and basically rampages through the enemy forces. (As an aside, I think it's kind of amusing that these technologically advanced aliens keep getting bested by tigers, grizzly bears and even ants. Sure, they have weapons, but the animals have inherent powers of their own).

There are some really mind-altering scenes in this book, where the Eillimist shows them what the Yeerks will do to their planet, and Rachel meets her future self. I didn't foresee this kind of complication. Curiously, the Ellimist reminds me a lot of the all-knowing, wise 'Mrs. W's' from L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time. Especially in some of the final scenes here, where the kids are trying to figure out if their answer to the Ellimist should even address the choice he posed to them, or if it's all about something else entirely.

Anyhow, as you can tell, I really enjoyed this one. The story suddenly raised a lot of more complicated dilemmas then just how to fight the bad guys without anyone around them finding out what was going on, or dealing with family members being enslaved by Yeerks. High stakes and moral quandaries indeed.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5           163 pages, 1997

more opinions:
Arkham Reviews (with spoilers)

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