I still need to go back and write my review of the David trilogy (the previous three books in this series, which make up an informal trilogy), which didn’t get posted in 2017 alas and alack, but I wanted to make sure and get this review out before I start my next book of 2018. Once again, it seems, I’m starting out the year with an Animorphs Chronicles book, which are hands down my favorite books of the series. These books are honestly one of the reasons I love sci-fi so much. K.A. Applegate does so much with these 200 pages, it’s kind of amazing. And aside from some aliens using American slang (how did they learn it!?!), this book more than holds up, even though I haven’t read it in at least fifteen years, but probably more. It gets to keep that coveted fifth star.
So this book is told in a frame story. Tobias is feeling down so he decides to visit the secret valley where the free Hork-Bajir are in hiding, and he joins them to hear a story after dinner (the Hork-Bajir have an oral storytelling culture). This turns out to be the story of how the Hork-Bajir planet fell to the Yeerks. (Also stealthily stuck in there is the story of Prince Seerow and his family, he of Seerow’s Kindness, the Andalite who gave the Yeerks the proverbial Promethean fire and unleashed them on the galaxy.)
Seerow’s family is essentially exiled to the Hork-Bajir planet under the auspices of keeping watch if the Yeerks show up to claim the Hork-Bajir as hosts, but really, no one expects anything to happen, and the posting is entirely a punishment. Seerow’s young daughter, Aldrea, makes friends with a young Hork-Bajir male named Dak Hamee (Jara Hamee’s grandfather, who passed this story along). Dak is a seer, one of the one in 10,000 Hork-Bajir born with above average intelligence. The Hork-Bajir believe that these seers are born in times of trouble, and that Dak is there for a reason. They soon come to believe this is because the Yeerks have indeed come to conquer the Hork-Bajir. Their bladed bodies (for stripping bark off trees) would make for perfect shock troops, and hosts for the 250,000 Yeerks that made it off the Yeerk homeworld.
This is the very beginning of the Yeerk expansion into the galaxy. Applegate does a great job showing how Andalite hubris and Yeerk greed and violence (along with a yearning to have what other non-parasitical alien species all have) combine to bring about the galaxy-wide war that the rest of the Animorphs series details. But she does this through personalizing it. We get Dak Hamee and Aldrea’s POVs throughout, along with Esplin 9466’s (the future Visser Three). Nothing is as black and white as it seems. Even as Visser Three does despicable things, we also get glimpses of his genuine yearning to exceed his biology, to have eyes and hands and a mouth, to run free under an open sky like the Andalites, to have power and strength like the Hork-Bajir. But my favorite thing about this book is the way that Applegate uses Dak Hamee to condemn the actions of the Andalites, who as we know from the other books in the series, see themselves as heroes and untouchable. Even Aldrea can’t stop herself from taking advantage of her friendship with Dak Hamee, using him and his people for her own purposes.
There were still some moments in this book that made me stop and think as 32 year old. Moments of blurred lines and altered perspectives, and lost innocence. I had expected these moments to lose some of their weight reading this as an adult, but they seemed just as powerful to me now as they did when they were blowing my mind as an adolescent.
Next up, a book I’ve been looking forward to since I started this re-read. Tobias learns some surprising information.