Jonny at Haunts and Jaunts introduced me to the Animorphs series. Aliens and animals – what’s not to like?
The first book in a series of 54 – yes, folks, there are 54 Animorphs books, with about 10 more books connected to the series – introduces the five main characters. There’s Jake, the natural leader of the group. Marco, Jake’s best friend, who is the joker of the group. Jake’s cousin, Rachel, who’s pretty miss perfect, and her friend, Cassie, who loves animals and is Jake’s crush. Rounding out the group is loner, Tobias, who trails after Jake because he helped Tobias once when he was being bullied.
The inciting incident for the whole series takes place when the five kids take a shortcut home through an abandoned construction site and encounter an alien who informs them that earth is being invaded by the Yeerk, a slug like alien that takes over human brains. This benevolent alien gives the children the power to turn into animals in order to fight the Yeerk invasion.
It’s a lot for the youngsters to take in. Could they have suffered a group hallucination? Are their powers real? How can five children dare to topple an army of alien invaders? Thus the Animorphs are formed. Earths last and best hope.
Written from the point of view of Jake, the five young people are pleasantly diverse with complimentary personalities, and their relationship dynamic is believable. The aliens are suitably alien, even if the Yeerk are not especially original, and the bestowing of the shape changing power and it’s mechanics is plausible enough to maintain willing suspension of disbelief. Limits to their powers and an excuse for the slow dissemination of information set up rules that I guess will come more into play as the series progresses.
Where the book truly shines is in the description of the transformations into the various animal forms the characters take on, as well as the change of perception while being an animal. An unexpected side effect of the transformation is that the human has to battle the instincts of the animal they have chosen, and it provides more depth to the story, as well as convienently explaining how the humans are able to perform complex actions perfectly that even animals have to practice, such as fly and landing where planned.
I’ve always wanted the ability to transform into an animal, so when I read Jonny’s reviews of the series, I knew I had to read it. I’m glad I read this book. The descriptions of transformation and the experience of being an animal were wonderful and appealed to me greatly. I also was pleasantly surprised by the level of darkness in the actions of the Yeerks, and the main characters, while being little more than character traits in this introduction, were likeable.
However, this book is very much an introduction to a series and, as such, is almost like a first chapter. That means there is no resolution, not even to a smaller obstacle introduced in this novel, and therefore was ultimately unsatisfying.
If I had read this book as a child, I would have absolutely loved it.
I award Animorphs #1…
Animorphs #1 is available for $3.38 ebook and $6.99 print book on Amazon.