Aged to perfection
Book one, here we go. I decided I would live-tweet during my reading with some of my random spare thoughts on the book. You can check out the thread here.
The Invasion was released in 1996 and, boy, does it show its age. The kids are going to THE MALL to play at an ARCADE. Or they will stay home and play on their SEGA GENESIS. At one point, one of the kids was excited because the discover of aliens will definitely get them a spot on LETTERMAN. LETTERMAN!
However much the age shows, it doesn’t matter. It’s endearing. It’s cute. It’s also really minor. If you really wanted to, you could just do a few replacements and move this into a different decade. Applegate did a great job with making the book modern enough to know where you are in time, but also keep it vague so you can place it at different time periods. Does that make sense? No? Alright.
Now, here’s the plot since I know that’s what you all came here for.
Jake is narrator. I’m assuming each book is going to be narrated by a different person from the friend group (Tobias, Rachel, Cassie, and Marco). Like I said before, these kids are mall rats. As Jake and Marco are leaving the mall, they happen to run into Cassie and Rachel which prompts Jake to give us this beautiful piece of narration:
“Rachel is kind of pretty, I guess. I mean, okay, she’s very pretty, although, since she is my cousin, I don’t really think about her that way.”
Good, Jake. Thanks for clearing that up. They also run into Tobias. They all have to get home as it is getting late, Jake brings up using the shortcut through the construction site that they have been told to NEVER GO THROUGH. Of course, smart kids that they are, they take the shortcut. There was a great bit about how the girls would be fine walking alone and that they don’t need big strong men to help them. I LOVED this! You don’t tend to see that during this era of Junior fiction. As they are crossing through, they see a UFO crash.
At the crash site is an fatally wounded alien that is kind of like a centaur, but with a really gross nose (editorializing here) and eye stalks on its head. He is an Andalite warrior named Elfangor who can communicate with them THROUGH HIS MIND. He reveals to these random children that an alien race called the Yeerks are coming to take over Earth and the Andalites are trying to stop them. He gifts them the power to morph into animals that they touch and acquire the DNA from. The biggest catch is that they can only stay in the animal form for two hours or the morph is permanent. Guess how this will go.
Suddenly, another ship comes out of space. Out comes Visser 3, the leader of the Yeerks. But, GASP, he’s an Andalite. Oh ho ho, you’ve been tricked! The Yeerks are slug-like creatures that can embed themselves into the hosts brain and take over them (called Controllers). Andalites were said to be immune, but Visser 3 could do it. Now he can morph. Visser tells everyone (again, through their brain) that he wants to take over Earth because we are stupid and numerous.
During this bit we are also introduced to two other races, the Hork-Bajir and the Taxxons. They both have been enslaved by the Yeerks. There are also humans among their ranks. Bad stuff, dude.
Anyway, Elfangor gets eaten and the children watch on, horrified (rightfully so). Jake draws attention to them (again, humans are stupid) and they are chased from the site.
The next morning, Tobias comes over to Jake’s and is like “Bruh, I morphed”. Tobias was able to morph into his cat, Dude (great name). He convinces Jake to morph into Homer, Jake’s dog. The description is VERY vivid and VERY Cronenberg, so be aware.
Enter Tom, Jake’s brother. Tom keeps trying to convince Jake and his friends to join a group called “The Sharing”. He says it’s some sort of youth group that is really helpful and good and nice, etc. Jake is sus (Come on, The Sharing?). While perusing the paper, Jake discovers that the police are looking for five teens who were playing with fireworks in the construction site the night before. Jake and Marco talk about how weird Tom is acting. Marco accuses Tom of being a Controller. Jake punches him in the head.
The group meets up at Cassie’s house to talk strategy. Coincidentally, Cassie’s parents are vets at an animal shelter and at a zoo. HOW CONVENIENT. Marco is against doing anything related to the aliens and refuses to be a part of it. Everyone else is like “Come on, man”. Eventually Marco relents. They go to the zoo and Jake gets Tiger Bloo- err, DNA (Is that still a relevant joke? No? Alright). Marco becomes a gorilla as well, so that’s neat. Tobias becomes a hawk and he flippin’ loves it. They have to keep reminding him to change back.
As a hawk, Tobias searches for Yeerk Pools. Essentially, Yeerks need to leave their host every three days in order to feed. They go into these pools and swim and do slug things until they are happy and infect another brain. Meanwhile, everyone keeps talking about The Sharing, so the team goes to investigate. It ends up being a Yeerk selection group that kidnaps people to shove a worm in their brain. They also find out that their Assistant Principal is a Controller. Oh, and, big surprise, so is Tom.
Here’s what I love about this. These kids aren’t stupid like most kids are in books like this. They figure out The Sharing pretty early on and they actually make reasonable plans to find Yeerk Pools. Jake also now has a personal vendetta and wants to find the pool and save his brother. Anyway, Jake turns into a lizard at school the next day (LIZARD TIME BABY) to follow around the Assistant Principal and see if he goes to the Yeerk Pool.
Luckily, he does. The Yeerk Pool was INSIDE THE SCHOOL! In a CLOSET! With a SECRET SWITCH!
Jake gathers the gang to tell them about it, but no one can find Cassie. Unsurprisingly, she was taken by the Controllers down to the Yeerk Pool. The gang goes down to the basement. When I got to this point in the book, there were, like, five pages left so all of this happens REALLY fast. They all transform into animals, save Cassie, release all the humans from the cages, and try to run out.
Visser 3 is there. He also morphs into a giant beast and tries to stop them. Tom jumps off of Jake the Tiger’s back and attacks Visser 3 so they can escape. Jake is like “I BEG YOUR PARDON NO THANK YOU” and just goes for Visser’s throat. Our heroes escape with freed human.
(THIS IS THE LAST PAGE OF THE BOOK) The next day, a hawk taps on Jake’s window. It’s actually Tobias. Jake is like “Change back into a human” and Tobias is like “Nah, I can’t. I’m a hawk forever now”. AND THE BOOK ENDS. So, someone’s child is now a goddamn hawk. Gone. They aren’t getting him back. BECAUSE HE’S A BIRD NOW. Man, that’s dark.
Let me tell you, I had a blast with this book. It’s surprisingly dark with lots of humor and a really compelling plot. I really expected to want to eviscerate it like I do with bad JF, but this is good stuff.
Next up on RADICAL READING: Animorphs #2: The Visitor.