Sunday, 10 May 2015

Animorphs #1 The Invasion

#1 The Invasion
K.A. Applegate
 "Sometimes weird things happen to people. Ask Jake. He may tell you about the night he and his friends saw the strange light in the sky. He may even tell you about what happened when they realized the "light" was only a plan -- from another planet. Here's where Jake's story gets a little weird. It's where they're told that the human race is under attack -- and given the chance to fight back.

Now Jake, Rachel, Cassie, Tobias, and Marco have the power to morph into any animal they choose. And they must use that power to outsmart an evil that is greater than anything the world has ever seen..."

   Wow, this was a blast of nostalgia. When I was a kid I adored Animorphs, the tale of five kids who are given the power to transform into animals by an alien they find crash landed in their town, and who are quickly sucked into a war to stop an invasion by the evil parasites, the Yeerks.
   These were the first books I read which had a substantial overarching narrative and a lot of lore and backstory to explore. It was also the first series I read that felt like there was real consequences to the action, real risks to the characters. Up to then, I was used to a book having some minor risk before a happy ending, all the characters high-fiving and heading home to bed. Animorphs was different, there were consequences to the characters actions, characters suffered during the fight, the Animorphs didn’t always win.
   For example, right off the bat in this, the first book in the series (I guess this is a spoiler, but seeing as this book is the first of sixty, I’d say it’s fair to assume that most people will already know this, if you don’t want to be spoiled skip to the next paragraph), one of the Animorphs, Tobias, spends too long in morph and is permanently trapped in the body of a Hawk. This seems like a fairly standard twist now as an adult, but as a child, for a character to go through this much sacrifice, especially so soon, was mindblowing and I was hooked.

   Despite my love of the series however, I never finished it, not surprising really as the main series totals fifty four books with several spinoffs and tie-in novels that bring the count above sixty. It was a pretty big investment of both time and money, especially as a child relying on money from your parents to buy you the books.
   I managed to make my way through twenty or so of the books but there’s always been a little part of me that wanted to know how it ended. So, when I found the first thirteen books in a bundle in a charity shop for just a few pounds, I jumped at the chance to dust them off and get back in touch with this group of characters who meant so much to me in my youth.

    And, I was pleasantly surprised to learn, they still hold up pretty well. This first book acts mainly as an exposition dump and intro to the series, so it’s perhaps not the best reflection of the series as a whole, but the action scenes and twists toward the end of the book are still gripping despite the simplistic writing style which is obviously meant to appeal to younger readers.

   The book is told from the perspective of Jake (with later books in the series switching perspective to the other animorphs) who is walking home with his friends when a space ship crashes in front of them and they are confronted by Elfangor, an alien prince who warns them of the secret invasion of earth by the Yeerks and gives them the power to morph, before being killed by Visser Three, the leader of the invasion.
   From there we get a lengthy number of chapters dealing with the kids coming to terms with their powers and debating whether or not to fight the invasion before finally agreeing to try to put a stop to the Yeerks, leading to a climactic finale.

K.A. Applegate and an Animorph...or a of the two....   It’s a simple story and heavy on build up but it does a good job of setting the scene and hooking the reader in to continue the adventure.
   Despite the short length of the book and the quick pace of the story, the characters journey from getting the power to morph, to learning to se it, to deciding to fight the Yeerks, feels natural and never rushed.
   It’s not perfect and it’s a little cheesy at times, also reading as an adult, the simplistic writing style does it no favours but it’s still engaging enough to hold your attention and I can see it still being as enjoyable to young readers now as it was for me when I was a kid.

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