Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Hidden (K. A. Applegate)

The Hidden
(The Animorphs series, Book 39)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
***+ (Okay/Good)

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

DESCRIPTION: The puny Helmacrons left months ago, leaving behind nothing but the wreckage of one of their toy-sized spaceships. Unfortunately, Helmacron technology can detect morphing energy... and, somehow, the Yeerks managed to repair the sensors on their ship. The strongest source of morphing energy on Earth is Elfangor's blue box, the Andalite device that transfers morphing capabilities. And Visser Three will stop at nothing to get his hands on it.
As Cassie and her friends begin a deadly game of hide and seek, the unthinkable happens. An animal - an African Cape buffalo bull - somehow triggers the blue box's powers - and unthinkingly acquires a human morph. Cassie knows it cannot be allowed to live. At best, it's an abomination. At worst, it's a liability; if the Yeerks caught it and infested it, it would reveal the identity of the Animorphs, whom it has seen as both bull and man. But she can't reconcile herself to the bull's destruction, especially as its sometimes-human brain begins learning with unexpected speed. On the loose in the woods, the unnatural mutant seems to think the Animorphs are its herd... and, to a buffalo, a herd is to be defended at all costs. Even against Taxxons, Hork-Bajir, and the ultimate Abomination, Visser Three himself.

REVIEW: Yet another bend-till-it-breaks warping of Animorphs canon forms the backbone of the subplot; the idea of an animal accidentally triggering the blue cube seems on par with an animal accidentally bumping against a computer and coding a website. The general idea of outrunning a morph-seeker hearkens back to the first Megamorphs book, as well. Still, it's not all bad. Cassie wonders whether human DNA can make a subsentient animal into something more, even as she knows that the necessities of war, and not philosophical puzzles or ethics, will determine the bull's fate. I might have considered dropping this a half-star for general lack of originality, but I just read a far more atrocious YA book (Witch & Wizard, by James Patterson); by comparison, I danged near bumped this one clear up to Great. (Check the time stamp on this review versus Patterson's review... yes, I needed a dose of Applegate to counteract that one.)
On a vaguely related note, my copy - with the original "morphing" cover cutout to an internal illustration - demonstrates that this stretch of the series just wasn't getting the oversight it needed. The cutout cuts right through the front-cover "hype" excerpt, leaving word fragments to either side.

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