The Unknown, #14
Ugh, this one was a dud. Just, a silly, silly premise. And worse, a silly premise that isn’t backed up by anything substantial at all. Just empty jokes and no stakes. I mean, literally it starts with a joke (horses that are acting weird, and that are secretly Controllers, and why???) and ends with a joke (all of this over an SPOILERS Andalite toilet!) It’s all harmless enough, but compared with the best books in this series, it’s just not satisfying at all.
And it has Cassie as a narrator because she likes horses??? I don’t know, guys. It’s just sort of inevitable that a series with 56+ books in it is going to have some stinkers in it.
I’m honestly not sure what else to say about this book. The best part about it was a series of pop culture jokes that are completely dated now. I happen to think it’s hilarious that the pseudonyms the kids chose while breaking in to a thinly veiled Area 51 stand-in were Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and Cindy Crawford (Cassie panicked), but I can’t imagine anyone not born within a very specific window of time appreciating the joke.
All in all, classic filler. Not offensive or anything, or poorly written, just sort of pointless.
Next up: No idea. I don’t remember the next one in the slightest, but apparently it’s got to do with Marco and his madre, so probably the opposite of this one in terms of significance.
[2.5 stars, rounded up for nostalgia]
This is the first Marco book that’s really worked for me on a Marco level. I really liked The Android, but not because of Marco, more because the idea of the Chee and the Pemalites just took over that book and drowned everything else out. Sure, there’s a subplot involving Marco’s dad getting his groove back slotted in there, but it’s the Pemalites you come away remembering, because awwwww, sad. His first book, despite the presence of clear stakes, felt a little too slight for me.
But with The Escape, Marco’s internal life goes beyond “disguises pain with humor” for the first time. Actually, it takes that base and makes it more poignant. The kids learn that the Yeerks are getting up to something in a secret underwater base, and Visser One (Marco’s mother, yes) is up to some hoobedy-boobedy with a new alien species called the Leerans, who are psychic. SO: They need to somehow get into an underwater fortress, that is guarded by weirdly intelligent hammerhead sharks by the way; somehow avoid the psychic alien who could immediately sense not only that they are Animorphs in disguise, but that the “Andalite bandits” are really humans; and then on top of all that, find out what is going on at the base, and shut it down.
I found the way that Marco responded to everything pretty compelling. He spends the first half of the book trying to pretend that nothing is wrong. Nobody but Jake knows that Marco’s mom is Visser One, and on top of that, Marco has to deal with the traumatic memory of being bitten in half by a shark (back in book four), which is triggered by their encounters with the hammerheads. But he can’t pretend, and the others notice his odd behavior, his failure to crack jokes in the face of imminent death, his out of character reticence. And then, not only does he have to face his mother/Visser One—SPOILERS who sees him in the base and assumes he is a Controller like her, and then laughs about her host screaming and crying in anguish because she thinks Marco has been taken by the Yeerks—he has to choose, not once but twice, between saving the life of his mother and the mission. Both times he chooses the mission.
There’s this lovely little moment where he thinks that for him, there’s no decision between right and wrong, heroic and un-heroic, like there is for Jake. There’s only funny, and not funny. It’s a chilling, sad moment where you see what this fight has started do to someone with Marco’s personality. It’s a much different type of trauma than we’ve seen with the others. It’s balanced in the end by Marco choosing to believe that his mother has survived, but you can see how all these traumas and victories at cost are going to bit by bit affect him.
I haven’t mentioned the thing with the sharks yet, because it stretched my ability to suspend my disbelief, almost to the limit. I get that the Yeerks wanted to engineer water-based soldiers without having to use them as hosts; it would allow them to invade a planet full of psychic aliens. But . . . making sharks smart, giving them implants . . . it just seemed pretty silly. Even if they could pull it off? What, are they going to literally empty the ocean of sharks? They’d need a hell of a lot of them for an invasion of Leera. I think humans would notice that, which would ruin this whole thing where the Yeerks are trying not to alert humans they are here.
Anyway, the silliness and implausibility of the plot would have been more of a problem if it wasn’t backed up by good character work for Marco, but it was, so I feel like I can just let it go.
Next up: Jake, and something about a Yeerk website? I have no memory of it, so I guess everything will be a fun surprise.