Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Familiar (K. A. Applegate)

The Familiar
(The Animorphs series, Book 41)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
*** (Okay)

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

DESCRIPTION: After yet another loss to the Yeerks, the stresses of battle nearly tear the Animorphs apart. Marco nearly got himself killed when Rachel refused the order to retreat. Cassie feels the deaths of the Hork-Bajir-Controllers she took out, innocent creatures enslaved by their Yeerk masters, crushing her soul. Tobias and Ax have their own personal problems, drawing them apart from the group. And Jake... Jake can hardly find the energy to care anymore.
He stumbles home, nearly running into his Yeerk-controlled brother Tom, before crashing in bed. How can he go on like this? His own friends, his warriors, at each others' throats, the Yeerk invasion marching on with nary a stumble for all their efforts, knowing that the Andalite warships that they'd been counting on for relief may not show up for years (if at all)... the war might as well already be over.
Jake wakes up the next morning to find himself in a strange room, wearing strange clothes, in a body that is strange... but familiar. It's his own body, aged maybe ten years. He looks out the window to see the New York City skyline - only radically altered. Yeerk Bug fighters and Andalite warships swoop over the gloomy city streets - but as allies, not enemies.
Is this a dream? Is this the work of the Crayak or the Ellimist? Has Jake finally gone insane? Or did the Yeerks win the galactic war?

REVIEW: The "dream" episode is almost invariably a sign that the writers of a given franchise are running out of ideas... or killing time before sweeps. This book seems to fall in a similar category. The nightmare world Jake wakes into is too riddled with inconsistencies for even him to fully believe, yet he has little choice but to endure it; pain, even in a dream, is still pain, and he's not willing to bet his life that none of it is real. There's enough weirdness and action, and enough personal torment on the part of Jake (who blames himself for this "future" and the fates of his friends and family), to keep turning pages. Still, it's hard to feel much urgency over what is clearly an unreal situation. It ends with what amounts to a cop-out... one with absolutely no follow-through in the rest of the series. That pointless conclusion lopped off the half-star over Okay that it almost earned.

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