Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back to Before (K. A. Applegate)

Back to Before
(The Animorphs series, Megamorphs 4)
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: Another battle done. Another night over. Jake crawls away from devastation, from pain, from blood - the enemy's blood and his own. At home, he tries to forget, but can't. How did this burden fall upon his shoulders? How can he go on like this? If only he'd never walked home through the construction site... had never met Prince Elfangor in his dying moments... had never heard of morphing or the Yeerks.
Thanks to the Drode, meddling assistant to the evil Crayak, and a bargain with the (sometimes) benevolent Ellimist, Jake's wish is granted. He and his friends took the long way home from the mall. But that doesn't mean that their lives are safe. After all, just because you don't know you have enemies doesn't mean they aren't out get you...

REVIEW: This book answers the question that fans (and fanfic writers) were asking themselves since the start of the series: could Jake and his friends have resisted the Yeerks even if they'd missed their fateful meeting with Elfangor, and never acquired the power to morph? The characters drift off in their own directions, but somehow keep finding themselves coming to the same conclusion: something very, very strange is going on in their hometown. Jake grows suspicious of the Sharing after his brother Tom pushes him too hard to join. Tobias, on the other hand, becomes their perfect victim, a troubled and bullied boy who finally thinks he's found a place where he belongs. Marco and Rachel spot Marco's dead mother, while Cassie fights a persistent feeling that something is terribly wrong with time itself. Perhaps the most profound difference is Ax; forced to escape the wreckage of the Dome ship alone, he attempts to expose and destroy the Yeerks entirely on his own, a lost alien on a primitive, hostile world. With action, paranoia, and a grim sense of fatality, this might've earned a solid Great rating, but for two things. First off, it is, ultimately, a redundant timeline, a classic sci-fi cop-out. Secondly, it strikes a very similar note to The Familiar (where Jake experiences a simulated future Earth under Yeerk rule), which was released at the same time. Ordinarily, two negatives like that would've dropped it a full star in the ratings, but, as I've mentioned before, I've been on a mediocre-to-bad reading streak lately. It was also nice to see the series pick back up after some less-impressive installments. Overall it's perhaps the darkest and most powerful of the four Megamorphs titles.

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