Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Predator (K. A. Applegate)

The Predator
(The Animorphs series, Book 5)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
****+ (Good/Great)

NOTE: In honor of the recent re-release, I'm finally posting individual reviews of the entire Animorphs series.

DESCRIPTION: If anyone had asked Marco whether he'd wanted to be part of Earth's only resistance to parasitic alien invaders, he would've told them no. His life was already in shambles, with his mother drowned in a boating accident and his once-brilliant father a broken shell of a man who barely manages to hold on to a part-time job. But it's hard to say no when a dying alien is offering you the only chance for the survival of your species... and when your best friend, like the natural-born leader he is, has already made up his mind. (Also, Cassie and Rachel were there. How could he say no in front of two girls without looking like a total coward?)
Since then, Marco's faced down death more times than he cares to count, living a shadow life that would drive most people insane. He's felt his own body rearrange its bones and organs, growing flippers or fur or even an exoskeleton. Now, he's facing something even more dangerous than the usual Animorphs job. Aximili (Prince Elfangor's younger brother, whom the team rescued from the wreckage of the Andalite warship in their previous adventure) wants to steal a Yeerk spacecraft and go home - hopefully to help speed up reinforcements. A suicide mission, surely... and Marco's last. He knows the battle against the Yeerks is important, but so is his family, or what's left of it. How long can he play the odds and expect to win? Does he want to end up dead or, like Tobias, trapped in an animal body forever? His mother's death nearly killed his father - his own would finish the man. But even as Marco prepares to leave the fight to his friends, the Yeerks are about to make the battle personal. Very, very personal...

REVIEW: With this book, Marco, last and most reluctant of the Animorphs, takes center stage. All along, he's been the holdout, the pessimist, constantly arguing that the fight is just too big for five middle-schoolers to handle, even as he provides much-needed humor with his smart-aleck remarks - just the thing to break the tension in the face of impossible odds. His reluctance almost got to be too much. Here, at last, he finds redemption as he reveals just why he's having so much trouble committing to the battle. Ironically, the same reasons that made him reluctant to be an Animorph become the very reasons that draw him back into the fight. We readers also get to see more of Ax, rescued at the end of Book 4. The alien works surprisingly well with the team, being neither too superior nor too stupid; as an Andalite, he obviously knows more about the Yeerks, aliens, and technology in general, but he's also a kid, an untested warrior with no practical battle experience and no clue about how to survive on Earth. The action and danger continues to build as the mytharc grows in new and unexpected directions.
Incidentally, I really ought to slow down in my re-reading schedule if I want to keep in synch with Amazon. It looks like they've only re-released Books 1 - 5 so far, with Book 6 not due out until March of 2012. But, as with my first run-through of the series, I'm finding it hard to slow down; that wait each month for the latest installment always seemed twice as long as it should have...

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