Friday, November 4, 2011

The Unexpected (K. A. Applegate)

The Unexpected
(The Animorphs series, Book 44)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
**+ (Bad/Okay)

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

DESCRIPTION: When Cassie and her friends got wind of alien wreckage discovered by the government, they knew they had to act fast. The Yeerks would do anything to keep any evidence of their technology from ending up in official hands, which means that the Animorphs must ensure that it does just that. Powerful as the invasion has grown, it's still not strong enough to withstand the forces of national defenses should the feds be alerted. During the mission, Cassie becomes separated from the others. One firefight later, and she finds herself in the cargo hold of a jumbo jet... with Yeerk Bug fighters hot on her trail.
By the skin of her teeth and the speed of her morph, she manages to escape, to find herself in the middle of a vast red desert: the Australian Outback. It's not the kind of place the Yeerks would be interested in - unless, of course, they thought an Andalite was hiding there. All alone, in a strange land, Cassie fights for her survival on the slim hope of returning home.

REVIEW: This might've squeaked by with an Okay rating, but it was just too unoriginal to pull it off. The story feels like a "field trip" filler episode of a sagging TV show, when they move the cast and crew to an exotic location in a misguided attempt to boost ratings. Being seen by a native boy who helps her fight back comes straight out of The Extreme (Book 25), when a Native American helps the team find a polar bear to morph. Also like that book, the natives take people turning into animals in stride due to their cultural heritage, mostly because the book doesn't want to have to deal with the ramifications of outsiders learning about the Animorphs. Aside from meeting an Aboriginal boy and visiting Oz, this book serves no purpose in the mytharc. Cassie's character doesn't grow, the Yeerks are neither helped nor hindered by the sidetrack, and the whole adventure amounts to a delaying tactic before the next book, which begins the build-up to the series finale in Book 54. It's not a bad story, per se, but Applegate is capable of so much better... and gratuitous padding like this just cheapens the series. (The book also missed a bet: Australia is home to animals with some of the deadliest poisons on Earth, a worthy addition to the morphing arsenal. The only native Australian Cassie does morph is a red kangaroo, which she could've found at the zoo back home.)

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