I remember seeing this book in my local library (it had most of the earlier books) although it wasn't the first one I read. No, I started with some later title that I won in a magazine or something. But more on that later. Still, The Invasion contains a lot of relevant material which sets the stage for the Animorphs, making it a must-read for the series in its own right.
We can't tell you who we are. Or where we live. It's too risky, and we've got to be careful. Really careful. So we don't trust anyone. Because if they find us... well, we just won't let them find us.
The thing you should know is that everyone is in really big trouble. Yeah. Even you.
You’ll be seeing that a lot lately. For the next fifty titles. We'd better get used to it.
The story starts out with Jake and Marco walking home after leaving the mall. I already feel like cheering just reading about Marco, since he’s one of my favourite characters and I can relate to a lot of what he does. We'll keep track of all his dumb jokes whilst we're at it. Marco is awesome.
Besides, they mention Sega. Arcade machines. That already makes me happy.
Jake and Marco are walking home when they meet Tobias on the way back. They’re not close friends with him yet, nor on super duper friendly terms or anything. Amazing. He isn’t even a hawk. He's just...okay, it tears me up inside just to read about him before anything's even happened, because I know it will happen and - never mind, I'll continue.
We find out that Tobias gets bullied at school and that Jake stepped in to help him once. If that makes you feel sorry for him, don’t hold your breath. Tobias’ entire life is just a case of the sads, right down to the last chapter of the last book. It’s just one tragedy after another for him. Maybe we can keep track of them all and just cry because we know how much that guy needs a hug. Maybe.
Rachel and Cassie turn up, thus introducing all the main characters so far. Jake decides to make a decidedly sexist comment about girls being weak and how they shouldn’t be alone by themselves. Rachel doesn’t take too kindly to that. Actually, Rachel is probably one of the most badass girls I’ve ever read about in a kid’s book. We’ll give it a few books before she starts assaulting people in the name of peace and love.
Jake’s internal monologue reveals that he likes Cassie. Well, that’s what he says, but it’s literally base zero between them.
Sometimes we sit together on the bus, even though I never know what to say to her.
Awkward silences abound.
So, our five teenage heroes – just shy of a few more to avoid becoming the Digidestined – decide to cut through the construction site to get home. Jake mentions that he “hopes there aren’t any ax murderers hanging around there” and that it looks like a ghost town. Jesus. It’s a good thing Animorphs technically isn’t part of the horror genre, because this is exactly how slasher movies happen.
Just then, Tobias sees a strange light coming down from the sky. Nobody knows what it is. I always assumed it was a shooting star or a meteorite but –
I looked at Tobias and he looked at me. We both knew what we thought it was, but we didn’t want to say it. Marco and Rachel would have laughed, we figured.
But Cassie just blurted it right out. “It’s a flying saucer!”
The flying saucer crashes down to Earth, or rather it almost crashes and then starts slowing down, hovering, and has a gentle landing. I guess it wasn’t going to crash in a burning fireball and incinerate the Animorphs in a melodramatic explosion. (It almost does hit them, though.)
Marco talks about calling the police and telling everyone there’s a great big flying saucer in the middle of a construction site (which may or may not be filled with ax murderers). It’s a good thing he doesn’t. They also keep making Star Trek jokes, which is a great thing, but there's a time and place for Star Trek jokes and it isn't here.
Finally, the first Andalite in the whole of the series makes their appearance. Elfangor is here. He’s fabulous. He’s blue. He’s a prince. A fabulous blue prince who almost crashed into the Animorphs.
I’ve always loved how Applegate described the Andalites, especially how they have no mouth and communicate by thought-speak. They’ve virtually blue horses with humanoid faces and eyes coming out of their heads, and then they have a scorpion-like tail which can kill people.
Everyone is excited to see the Andalite because they’ve never seen an alien before. And then they realise he’s dying.
Jake is a little sad about this.
“NO!” I cried. “You can’t die. You’re the first alien ever to come to Earth. You can’t die.” I don’t know why I was so upset. I just knew that way down deep inside, it hurt me to think of him dying.
Elfangor then decides to tell them about the Yeerks, who are parasitic slugs which take over the bodies of other organisms. He tells them about the Controllers and the Yeerk invasion of Earth, how his Dome ship was ambushed by swarms of Bug fighters and the powerful Blade Ship. By this time, I’m wondering if Applegate wrote this paragraph whilst watching Star Trek at the same time. She must have been, judging by the amount of references that keep slipping into her writing.
The Andalite’s about to die, and Jake and co. are looking pretty worried. But then Elfangor tells Jake to fetch a small blue box out of his ship. In a moment of awesomeness, he gives them the power to morph into any animal they touch. Just then, Visser Three (evil villain appearance mwahahaha) suddenly turns up with his Bug fighters. Everyone quickly runs into hiding!
Apparently the Bug fighters get their names because they look like bugs. I don’t think that’s any excuse. It just gives me flashbacks about Starship Troopers 2.
Visser Three’s Blade ship lands, and a bunch of Hork-Bajir step out. They look like creatures with great big blades coming out of their body. I always thought they were awesome. Then you get the Taxxon, who are virtually giant walking centipedes. Nobody likes them. They just eat each other.
Visser Three himself makes a dramatic appearance – we’re going to have to get used to him, because he’s the Big Bad for a long, long time. He starts taunting Elfangor in the evil villanesque way, and then gets a bit pissed off when Elfangor attacks him and blows up a Bug fighter. Visser Three then morphs into a…thing. Some giant monster with tentacles.
Apparently it's called an Antarean Bogg. We're never going to remember its name. Anyway, it reaches up with its tentacles and lifts Elfangor into its mouth –
Luckily Elfangor manages to warn him away, mainly by persuading him that his character is far too low-level to take on Visser Three. But gosh, that would have ended the series very quickly.
Elfangor dies and the Taxxons all start eating his body. Gross. Gory, too. If you want to read these books, be prepared for more blood.
Marco starts throwing up, because this is a pretty traumatic experience (especially for all the kids in the library who were reading this thinking it would be a nice book about shapeshifting and now there's people being killed and eaten). Unfortunately, it turns out Hork-Bajir can hear you when you’re vomiting, so they are detected and everyone runs for their lives. Jake thinks he recognises one of the human voices, and boy will he be surprised later. Eventually they all make it back home again, safe and sound.Jake wakes up the next day to find that Tobias has come all the way to his house, just to demonstrate that he can turn into a cat. We get some more backstory about Tobias, revealing that his family is pretty dysfunctional and screwed up all over the place. His dad's dead and his mum just left him with relatives who don't care about him. Man, this guy is already set up for a bad life from the start.
Tobias decides to turn into a cat in the middle of Jake's bedroom, just to show that he can. Then he discovers that when he morphs back he’s naked. Amazing. Then he convinces Jake to do the same with his dog.Later on we meet Tom, Jake’s brother. He’s pretty important for the entire series, forever and ever. He’s also acting pretty strange, and Jake’s dog sense says that he doesn’t smell right. That's foreshadowing for about two chapters.
The Animorphs now meet up in Cassie’s barn. They're going to be doing that a lot, because her barn is like their secret meeting place for morphing missions. It's literally the Batcave for Yeerk Fighters Anonymous, except, of course, that it's just a barn. We get some backstory on Cassie and her family: her parents are vets who work with animals 24/7, thus making a huge contribution to any sort of animal-related morphing into animals to save the world as animals.
Once they’re all ready, it turns out there’s an article in the newspaper about the recent flying saucer. Also, the police are now looking for all of them. Marco goes a bit ballistic, saying that he can’t get involved in this mess because his dad wouldn’t be able to handle it. Backstory on Marco: his mum is dead and his dad took it hard and his family’s all broken up. Another reason why he’s always telling jokes all the time, and why I love his character so much. That's two characters with dead parents already.
Cassie then reveals she can turn into a horse and is probably the best morpher ever. We shouldn’t really be surprised at this point considering she practically lives in a zoo. Just then the police arrive and everyone panics.
But fwoosh, close shave and Cassie manages to become human in time. She’s also worked out how to demorph without being naked, which is just as well.
A policeman arrives and interrogates them about everything, and we learn about the Sharing. Jake realises this man is a Controller and starts sweating every time he looks at him. Also, first signs of Tobias x Rachel relationship, which is what we call a blush in fanfiction.
Marco and Jake go back to his house to play video games (they’re using CDs, since DVDs haven't been invented yet), and Tom turns up and starts casually interrogating them about last night. Then he suggests they should join the Sharing and leaves. Marco puts two and two together and works out that Tom is a Controller.
Jake gets a bit pissed off when Marco tells him that, though, and starts punching him. Pow! Fist fight!
Just then Tobias starts knocking at their window in red-tailed hawk form. Yes, this is the first time you’ll see him in that morph…and definitely not the last. (sob) He still ends up naked when he demorphs though, and we note that you can morph into animals even if they’re wounded. Because DNA.
Tobias also explains that he knows all about Yeerk pools and Kandrona rays. It turns out that he stayed behind with Elfangor a bit longer and thus acquired amazing knowledge beyond the stars. Tobias says he was flying around trying to find the Yeerk Pool, because apparently he thought it looked just like a swimming pool. He also wants to blow it up when they find it. That’s Tobias for you, dreams and ambitions far beyond the scope of a…hawk.
The three of them wonder if the Sharing is a front for the Controllers, although Marco still isn’t convinced to do this because there’s been enough death in his family already. The Animorphs decide to go to a meeting of the Sharing, and nothing more.
When they arrive at the meeting, turns out they're just pissing around and playing volleyball on the beach. It all seems perfectly normal and good fun...but then Jake sees something in Tom’s face, warning him not to go, and realises with horror that Tom is a Controller. That part always creeped me out...
At that moment, something weird happened. I was looking at Tom, and he was smiling at me. But then his face kind of twitched. His head started to pull to one side, like he was trying to shake his head only he couldn’t quite do it. For just a split second there was a look in his eyes – scared or…or something. He was looking right at me, and it was like some different person, some scared person, was looking out of those same eyes.
The Animorphs agree that everyone in the Sharing is a little too nice and happy. Jake wants to get into the secret meeting which is going on and find out for himself if his brother is a Controller.. Tobias has been in red-tailed hawk form all this time…a long time. Well, not too long. Yet.
Jake morphs into his dog and goes to eavesdrop. And that’s when he sees…Chapman! Yes, Chapman is pretty high up in the society of Yeerkdom. His own principal is a Controller. Tom is talking to the other Yeerks, and suggests killing Jake or enslaving him. That’s really not a very optimistic thing for Jake to hear...so yeah, he’s feeling pretty miserable. Bring on the family conflict.
Uh oh. Cassie slipped past to check if Jake was okay, and a policeman saw her. A Yeerk-infested policeman. He lets her go with a warning, but it doesn’t sound good. Don't get caught now, Cassie!! D:
Eventually they return to the rest of the Animorphs, and Jake tells everyone what he's found out. He also plans to spy on Chapman.
Boom, Jake is now a lizard in his locker, ready to infiltrate Chapman's office. He can do this. He’s going to keep control. He is the leader of the Animorphs. He can keep his cool.
No, he just lost control and ate a live spider in the corridor under the influence of Lizardmon.Never mind. Also, Chapman just stepped on him and took off half his tail.
Continuing his spying mission via Lizard Goggles, Jake discovers that Chapman is going through a secret passageway underneath the school…and it leads down to a Yeerk pool! Uh-oh. There’s a breeding ground of parasitic aliens right underneath your own school. That's pretty bad.
Jake returns to the rest of the Animorphs to tell them about the Yeerk pool he's discovered, and they decide that they all want to go help destroy it. That’s including Marco, although he's only doing this because Jake’s his best friend. Cassie says some deep stuff about the spirits of animals guiding them. You can tell she really does live in a barn.
Firstly, they all decide to go the Gardens (A kind of zoo and amusement park with loads of animals) for some extra firepower. This is where things really get interesting. Marco also comes up with the name Animorphs for the first time. Thanks Applegate.
So, the gang enter the Gardens and decide to get some power morphs. Marco acquires the gorilla morph (by distracting the gorilla with an apple) but then they run into security. Cassie gets worried about this, because she knows she's not allowed to bring her friends back here, so...
Marco and Jake hijack a golf cart and start zooming away from the security guard, then run into some more security and almost run into the rhino enclosure. Then they run into another place to hide…and here comes probably my favourite section in the entire book.
I scanned the wall. There was a steel ladder set in concrete about fifty yards away. “I guess that’s the only way out.”
“Let me ask you something,” Marco said. “Why haven’t the guards come after us? I mean, if this was, like, the deer and antelope exhibit, they’d come right in, wouldn’t they?”
“We have to think, not panic,” I said. “I am trying not to think about why the guards didn’t come in here.” I moved back into the shadows of the bushes. “Besides, maybe there’s nothing in here at all.”
I squatted down on my haunches.
My butt touched something warm.
I had a terrible feeling right at that moment. I looked up and saw Marco. Normally, Marco has kind of a dark, tanned face. But his face was white. And his eyes were very large.
“Marco,” I said, very slowly and very quietly, “is there something behind me?”
“What is it, Marco?”
“Um…Jake? It’s a tiger.”
Rather than running screaming for his life, Jake decides to acquire the tiger’s DNA and thus have his standard fighting morph. Marco isn’t exactly thrilled about the idea.
“Don’t freak! I have an idea. The morphing. If I acquire him, it’ll put him in a trance.”
“Acquire? Acquire what? You can’t acquire anything about him. He’s the acquirer, and you’re the acquiree. He’s going to acquire your butt for dinner! He’s going to acquire you and spit out the bones.”
I love Marco. Anyway, Jake gets the tiger morph, and they manage to reach the ladder and get out of there by the skin of their teeth. They get back to the others, who are all completely safe and sound, and Cassie is worrying about her maths test. Yeah. I'm not entirely sure that takes top priority right now.
Everyone meets in Cassie’s barn that evening, ready to go. Except that Cassie’s missing. And Tobias is already morphed, and perching on Rachel’s shoulder, and she doesn’t seem to mind. You know where this is going. (Seriously, Tobias, stop getting used to that bird morph. You don't want to get stuck like that forever, do you?...Okay, too soon.)
They decide to start the mission anyway, and sneak into the school. Sure enough, they see people heading into the Yeerk pool.
But then they see that policeman from before forcing Cassie in against her will, intending to make her a Controller as well. Uh oh.
So everyone is like ohhh shiiiiit, they definitely have to get Cassie out of there for one thing. They decide to go in pretending to be human Controllers. It’s like that scene in Shaun of the Dead where everyone pretends to be zombies, like they're all joining the zombie apolcaypse. Eventually the Animorphs reach the Yeerk pool and realise that it’s not just one pool, it’s a whole city, and they really have their work cut out for them.
Descriptions of hellish screams and nightmares unfolding around them and people being enslaved. I don't know if this still counts as a kid's book.
Rachel hits elephant morph (which she acquired at the Gardens) and starts causing chaos everywhere. Welcome to the beginning of many, many awesome Animorph animal fights. Tiger and gorilla morph join in, and they start beating up Hork-Bajir and human controllers everywhere. Liberate the people from the Yeerks! Save the world!
They succeed in freeing Tom (although he doesn't know who they are, of course) and a load of others, but they haven't reached Cassie yet and time's running out for her. Jake has a split second decision whether to save Cassie or help Tom. He chooses Cassie and saves her from being infested at the last moment, and she morphs into horse. (I'm not sure why she didn't morph earlier and just kick that policeman in the head. Oh well.)
Everything is going really well until Visser Three turns up and everyone is like ohhhh shiiiiiit we're doomed.
But then, to everyone's amazement, he seems to think that they’re Andalite bandits.
He thinks they’re Andalite bandits for the next fifty books, in fact. There’s a lot of clues along the way that they’re obviously not, but Visser Three just isn’t very bright. I guess nobody had the heart to tap him on the shoulder and explain that he was just being really dense.
Visser Three then morphs into some…alien…thing. Eight heads, eight legs, tall as a tree…somebody draw this for me. Also, he can shoot fireballs. I don't have a picture of it, but it sounds like some awesome creation. All of the aliens are awesome, even the ones that are pure evil.
So Visser Three then starts pelting everyone with fireballs, killing virtually everyone that had been freed by the Animorphs. Tom gets angry and attacks Visser Three with his fists, which isn't really that effective, so he goes down. Jake goes crazy when he sees Tom go down and attacks as well. Eventually, everyone manages to escape and survive, mainly because Visser Three's morph is too big to get up the stairs. (He could have just demorphed and attacked them in a different morph and killed them all?...Oh, never mind.)
So that's their first real fight in the series. A lot of people died, but they managed to survive against Visser Three.
Oh man. This part.
Tobias flies in Jake’s window the next morning. He’s still in red-tailed hawk form. Jake says tiredly that he's glad to see him, and asks him to morph back.
Tobias doesn’t morph back. Uh-oh.
Because he can’t. He’s exceeded the two-hour time limit. He’ll be a hawk forever.
-gross sobbing in the distance-
And the book ends with the two of them having hope for the future that the Andalites will come. (I don’t remember if they do or not, I just remember that they take their sweet time doing anything at all, much like High Elves.)
Well, that was one hell of a book to start the series off. It sets out a very strong consistency in the series, introducing all the characters and morphs that play a large part in many later books. Everyone is unique in their own way, and the few who think they come from happy “perfect” families…well, turns out they don’t. I also feel that their main morphs are well-related to their personality as a whole – Marco and the gorilla, for example.
It felt weird re-reading this book with Tobias as human, because he’s always a hawk from now on (with a few exceptions). Many of the main antagonists are also set out very definitively – Visser Three, Chapman and Tom, so we’ll be encountering all of them again very soon. I don't remember Chapman playing a strong part in the later books however, but right now Visser Three is the major enemy.
We haven’t reached the point yet where Marco just makes dumb jokes to annoy Rachel. But we will.
This was one loooong review but the first book sets the basis for a lot of what follows, so the rest hopefully won’t be as long as this. Animorphs mixes a lot of different emotions, both high and low, though the zoo scene still remains my favourite. The end of the book was pretty dark and we'll be seeing a similar atmosphere in other titles, especially where the Yeerk pool is involved. But not anytime soon, I think. A lot of messages in Animorphs deal with war and loss, some of which our heroes have experienced already, even thought the story has only just begun.
Animorphs isn’t like other books of the same age group where you typically get a happy ending, because that's not what happened here. The Animorphs didn’t manage to rescue Tom, and most of the people they saved ended up being killed on the way out. They only managed to save one person at all, plus surviving the whole ordeal. But there’s still some feeling of accomplishment nonetheless, maybe because they survived against Visser Three.
I also thought about making a list of each morph we’ve seen the Animorphs acquire so far:
Jake – Dog, Lizard, Tiger
Marco – Gorilla
Cassie – Horse
Tobias – Cat, red-tailed hawk
Rachel - Elephant
(Note: I will be reviewing Animorphs and Goosebumps alternately. The next review will be for Goosebumps #1: Welcome to Dead House)