Monday, October 24, 2011

The Illusion (K. A. Applegate)

The Illusion
(The Animorphs series, Book 33)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
****+ (Good/Great)

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

DESCRIPTION: Tobias was once an ordinary boy... or so he thought. Then he became trapped in the body of a red-tailed hawk, a predator whose mind became part of his own. Later, he regained the ability to morph: a hawk who could walk as a boy again, but only for two hours at a time. And then he learned that his real father, a man he had never known, was no man at all, but the Andalite Elfangor - who had, for the sake of love, become a nothlit, voluntarily trapping himself in a human body until the Ellimist sent him back to his homeworld.
Boy? Hawk? Animorph? Andalite? Who is Tobias? Even he doesn't know anymore...
The Animorphs set out to destroy the Yeerk's newest weapon: the Anti-Morphing Ray, which - if it works - will force them to demorph in mid-combat. Revealing their human bodies, their true identities. But Jake has a plan to convince the Yeerks that their newest toy is so much scrap metal. See, they can't force an Andalite to demorph if their true body is an animal... a hawk. Tobias knows the plan could be fatal, but for all the confusion about who he is, he knows what he is. A warrior. And no warrior, especially not the son of Prince Elfangor, would hesitate to die for the sake of the greater good.

REVIEW: On the story front, this book felt a bit weak... but, then, the Animorphs series isn't just about fighting aliens and freeing Earth. It's about the characters, about how they grow and change under the strains of war. As a character portrait, exploring perhaps the most complex of the Animorphs, The Illusion succeeds brilliantly. (I suspect this is also the book that launched a thousand fanfics - the sometimes-strained relationship between Rachel and Tobias, which seems even more angst-ridden and doomed than that of Romeo and Juliet, comes to the forefront here, with Rachel showing a rare, tender side of herself that only Tobias gets to see.) It also continues Applegate's trend of showing different faces of the Yeerk enemy, in this case an embittered, voluntary human host who personally handles Tobias's interrogation/torture. The Anti-Morphing Ray itself proves a non-event, but the book really wasn't about it, anyway. After the disappointment of the previous installment, I enjoyed a return to depth here.

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