Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book 2: The Visitor

The Summary
About a week or so has passed since the events of the first book, and the Animorphs have decided they want to take another shot at this whole 'saving the world' thing. But their only lead is Vice Principal Chapman, a known Controller. Rachel was once friends with Chapman's daughter, Melissa, but they drifted apart over the years. But she remembers that Melissa had a cat, and decides to use it to get into the Chapman residence undetected.

After some very long and painful scenes that show the kids attempting to catch the cat so Rachel can acquire his DNA, she gets inside the house and follows Chapman down to his ultra-secret futuristic basement, where he communicates with Visser Three via hologram. Visser Three spots Rachel, but Chapman manages to convince him that Rachel is just a regular old housecat. Visser Three seems to have an affinity for cats, so he lets it go. But then Rachel realizes that Melissa is totally miserable as a result of her parents being controlled by aliens, and so she decides to go back to the Chapman residence a few nights later.

This time, Visser Three isn't buying the 'oh just a housecat' charade, and Rachel is captured. Chapman takes her to Visser Three, but luckily, the other Animorphs show up and attack the aliens with construction machinery, which works way better than you'd expect. While Visser Three is busy killing his own men in a fit of childish impulse, the Animorphs manage to escape alive, but with no actual strategic advantage.

The next day, Rachel leaves a note for Melissa that could have easily blown their cover if this series followed logic.

The Review
Ifi: That is an ugly cat. On the cover.
Adam: It is fluffy.
Ifi: What’s wrong with its head?
Ifi: It looks pasted on.
Ifi: Oh wait, I realize what it is. It's the cutout!
Ifi: Silly me.
Adam: Dur.
Ifi: Gimmie a break. I'm reading pdf's. Not all of us have spent over $400 in Animorphs merch.
Adam: Clearly you need to prioritize better
Ifi: Clearly
Adam: Also, Mattingly is still doing that whole floating head thing for the morphs
Ifi: Well I still prefer the heads to the full-body transformations.
Adam: I disagree
Adam: The whole "floating heads" thing always just seemed really awkward
Adam: I am glad that Mattingly gave up on it by the third book
Ifi: Okay, okay.

Ifi: So we open with a melodramatic recap.
Adam: One of the first of many recap hells that this series is somewhat infamous for
Ifi: I quickly learned that it is perfectly safe to skim the first few pages.
Ifi: You're probably not missing much.
Adam: Well, first page and a half, then the story proper starts

Ifi: We have the group flying around in bird morphs for the hell of it, when some rednecks start shooting at them. This came out of nowhere and seemed like it was basically thrown in there to preach about the evils of hunting.
Ifi: I mean, if you shoot at a bald eagle, you're a jackass. But this was just silly.
Adam: Those poor rednecks!
Adam: I felt sort of bad for them
Ifi: I didn't even know there were rednecks in California.
Adam: There are rednecks everywhere
Adam: Anyone could be a redneck
Adam: Even you
Adam: Fortunately, five kids have been granted the ability to turn into animals so that they can stop them
Ifi: All rednecks, everywhere?
Adam: Yes
Ifi: But seriously. I know it's just a throwaway scene, but there is no part of it that isn't completely ridiculous. They're in the back of a freaking pickup truck! Drinking beers! Shooting at endangered birds! Speaking in southern accents!
Adam: One has a pony tail
Ifi: Why is this in a book about aliens.
Adam: Guys drinking bear in a pickup truck and shooting endangered birds is pretty alien to me
Ifi: That's because you live on Long Island.
Adam: Shhh
Adam: I do like that this book starts out all in medias res and the like
Ifi: And Rachel throws the gun into the ocean because guns are evil. This is incredibly ironic because she will go on to slaughter countless sentient aliens with her paws.
Adam: Well, she has the right to bear arms
Ifi: That was terrible.
Ifi: That was really terrible.
Adam: =D

Adam: They have that thing where Rachel tries to fix her haircut by morphing
Adam: And they resolve a plot hole by creating an even larger one
Ifi: Yeah I...
Ifi: I dunno
Ifi: That whole thing was just...
Ifi: Raised a whole bunch of confusing questions.
Adam: You can practically see the dust as Applegate just sweeps the whole thing under the carpet
Ifi: I already stated once before that nothing about morphing makes sense.
Adam: It's magic. We don't have to explain it
Adam: Oh wait
Ifi: Why do you have to be in your natural form to acquire? Why can't someone in a human morph use thought-speak? WHY CAN'T YOU GO FROM ONE SHAPE TO THE OTHER WITHOUT HAVING TO STOP AT HUMAN?
Adam: Yes

Ifi: Okay there actually is one quote I wanted to talk about. You might remember it. It's right after they morph back to human. Marco is talking about how he doesn't prefer a bird's superior eyesight.

"Look, Jake, how many times have you been walking around the mall or whatever, and you'll see a girl who seems good-looking from far off, but when you get closer it turns out she's a skank? I mean, if you could see this well all the time—"

----Book Two, The Visitor

Ifi: ...did you just say that?
Adam: I don't think that word means what you think it means
Ifi: Keep in mind these kids are like fourteen.
Adam: I think this book is really before the authors come to a definitive idea of how old they are yet
Ifi: Maybe so. But that just made my jaw drop. It came out of nowhere.
Adam: Marco is ever the classy guy

Ifi: There is some angsting, and they finally decide to use Melissa Chapman to find another way in to the Yeerk Pool.
Ifi: Melissa Chapman was a character that made no sense to me.
Adam: How so?
Ifi: She was all depressed and withdrawing from everything because her parents were being neglectful and also creepy. Wouldn't it have made more sense for her to throw herself into a social life to make up for that? That's generally what happens in real life. She'd have turned into a party girl, not this weepy broken thing that not even Rachel can be bothered to hang out with.
Adam: I guess
Adam: It was really only there so there could be (spoilers) a red herring about her being a controller
Ifi: I liked how she blushed when Rachel asked her to go to the mall.
Ifi: Because that wasn't weird or anything.
Adam: And suddenly I am much more interested in these books
Ifi: Haha.

Adam: Anyway, after that, Rachel is walking home, and she gets accosted by some college guy
Adam: Isn't she supposed to be 13 or so?

A guy got out. He looked like he was in high school or even college. He also looked like trouble.
"Hey, baby," he said. "Want to go for a little ride?"
I shook my head and clutched my gym bag close. What an idiot I was to be so careless!

----Book Two, The Visitor

Adam: Erm...
Ifi: Yeah. That whole scene was just...what.
Ifi: I guess it was just an excuse for her to morph into a bear and scare the shit out of him, but it came off as awkward and forced and just WRONG.
Ifi: Elephant, rather.
Adam: She doesn't have bear yet
Ifi: wank wank wank
Adam: What I am wondering is just what sort of neighborhood this is
Ifi: No aspect of this scene makes sense.
Adam: It's enough that they have an alien invasion, but they also have hillbilly captain planet villains and errant rapists everywhere
Adam: The housing prices must be very cheap
Ifi: I'm gonna say fuck it, let the aliens HAVE earth.
Ifi: It clearly sucks.
Adam: It'll probably set them back more than anything

Ifi: Fluffer McKitty.
Ifi: Melissa named the cat Fluffer McKitty.
Ifi: She deserves to have aliens for parents. Just for that.
Adam: Fuck it, let the Yeerks have earth
Ifi: Also, he's black and white, not grey tabby like on the cover. But that is nitpicking.
Adam: The covers are never accurate to that
Adam: The Animorphs always have normal clothes
Adam: And it is always a clean transformation
Adam: Whereras in the book, Rachel sprouts fur first and such
The new cover got it right, at the expense of striking you blind.

Ifi: Fluffer is also a horrible monster and the reason you're meant to get male cats fixed.
Ifi: So that's another strike against Melissa, for not taking her cat to the vet
Adam: This is why I do not like mammals
Ifi: Fixed male cats are actually the most friendly of cats.
Adam: Hmm
Ifi: I feel like most of the buildup is just trying to get Fluffer to cooperate.
Ifi: Which he does not.
Ifi: Because he is a cat.
Adam: It is a bit funny that the most prominent action sequence in this book is a bunch of kids and a talking bird trying to catch a cat
Adam: It sounds like a plot out of sesame street

Ifi: Okay so we have angst, more angst...
Ifi: And then they invade the Chapman residence
Adam: I want to know how they build that secret door into his basement without anyone noticing
Ifi: I was thinking of that, too.
Ifi: How are the Yeerks doing all this secret construction?
Adam: Somebody Else's Problem field?
Adam: Not to mention they have those giant underground caverns where they have the Yeerk pools

Ifi: Okay. Now let's discuss Visser Three's latest morph.
Adam: Okay
Adam: It is confirmed
Adam: Visser Three gets his morphs out of a dungeons and dragons manual
Ifi: Somehow, somewhere in the universe, a creature has evolved with the specific ability to remove Yeerks from their hosts and eat them.
Adam: Well, I think the assumption was that these things are from the same planet as the Yeerks
Ifi: I guess that makes more sense. Marginally.
Ifi: Why aren't the Andalites breeding these things?
Adam: Well, the Yeerks have guns, first of all
Adam: Also, the Andalites are herbivores, so they are weirded out by the idea of eating creatures
Adam: Although!
Adam: Although although
Adam: This is something I had noticed a while back
Adam: And it is never addressed by the books
Adam: But the Yeerks are plants
Ifi: Wait really?
Adam: I mean, they're photosynthetic
Adam: Or autotrophic, anyway
Adam: They feed off their sun's rays
Adam: They're totally plants
Ifi: Ax totally does mention eating a slug by accident. And his reaction is "ooh yummy nutrients!"
Ifi: When he is grazing I mean
Adam: >>
Adam: It was a worm
Adam: But yes
Ifi: It's sad that I have to make that clarification.
Adam: Completely
Adam: But if you think about it
Adam: In a way, this sort of makes the Andalites a natural predator of the Yeerks
Adam: Which sort of adds another level to this war between them
Ifi: Are you going to write a Dark and Edgy fanfic now?
Ifi: Where the Andalites eat captured enemy soldiers?
Adam: Is this really the series that needs another level of darker and edgier applied to it?

Ifi: Alright, after nearly getting caught by Visser Three (in hologram form) Rachel decides to snuggle with Melissa for no real reason.
Adam: Close friends indeed
Ifi: Okay that wasn't just me? Good.
Adam: No, it’s just you
Ifi: Damn it.
Adam: Get your mind out of the gutter
Ifi: You're mean.
Adam: But yes
Adam: Visser Three is totally a cat person
Adam: I can completely picture him in a small apartment with nine or so cats
Ifi: It was pretty funny.
Adam: Giving some catnip to Mister Fuzzywinkles, or whatever the heck Applegate likes to call her cats
Adam: <Who's a little fuzzy head?! You is! Yes you is!>
Ifi: Oh dear.
Adam: Excuse me, I'm going to go make a Visser Three lolcat
Ifi: x_X

[image removed for being unfunny]

Ifi: *sigh*
Adam: ^__^
Adam: It seems that Visser Three is completely unable to end his sentences with a period
Ifi: He's hamming it up.
Adam: He is such Saturday morning cartoon villain
Ifi: Are you done?
Adam: Never
Ifi: So anyway. There's a few more chapters of angst, and then Rachel decides to go back to the Chapman house, because narrowly escaping death once was not enough. Luckily her friends manage to subtly* slip Jake-in-flea-morph onto her.

*not at all subtly

Adam: Y'know, if you become a secret alien fighting force, I would think that learning how to lie half-decently would be a top priority
Ifi: I actually couldn't believe that they did that. I mean, not because it was a surprise, because it wasn't. But that the others would go behind her back like that.
Adam: Well, they are still new to this, and I guess they don't fully trust each other yet
Adam: But yes, it was kinda pointless
Ifi: And after seeing the cat only twice, Visser Three decides it's an Andalite warrior.
Adam: He's paranoid
Adam: Bear in mind, in later books he has Controllers basically running around shooting any random animals that he thinks might be out of place
Ifi: I think a good cover would have been pretending to be asleep.
Ifi: Cats are asleep like 75% of the time anyway
Adam: Well, you are the cat expert, not me, so I will trust you on this
Ifi: It totally would have worked.

Ifi: There is also some interesting stuff with the hosts.
Ifi: When Chapman and his wife think Melissa is in danger, they are actually able to overpower their Yeerks for a few moments.
Adam: Which is pretty awesome

Chapman snatched up the cage and carried me to the top of the stairs. "Now," he snapped at his wife, "go get...ungh!"
Peering through the slats in the side of the cage, I saw him stagger. His face was twitching like he was a crazy man. He seemed to be having a hard time getting control of his mouth.
"Go...get...the...girl," he said through gritted teeth.
Ms. Chapman started to obey, but then Chapman cried out.
"Oh! Ungh!" He fell to his knees. "He is...urgh...he is...fighting me..."
"Host rebellion," Ms. Chapman muttered under her breath. She seemed horrified and
fascinated all at once. Then, suddenly, her left hand slapped her own face.

----Book Two, The Visitor
Adam: Actually, if you think about it, Chapman's Yeerk doesn't seem to be that bad of a guy, all things considered
Adam: He doesn't want unnecessary people being killed, and he tries to save Chapman's daughter
Adam: (foreshadowing)
Ifi: The whole thing was very interesting, I though.
Adam: Well, Tom did fight back in the previous book, though not to such an extent
Ifi: So Rachel gets taken to Visser Three, who lands his ships right in the middle of the construction site with no cloaking whatsoever.
Adam: Subtlety, thy name is Visser Three
Ifi: No, seriously. Rachel just looks up and sees them.
Ifi: Apparently the rest of the city is blind and deaf and on vacation.
Adam: Well, in the Discworld series, cats can see Death
Adam: Maybe they can see past cloaking devices as well
Ifi: You're an idiot.
Adam: I'm crying here
Ifi: Boo hoo.
Adam: Yes

Ifi: So there is a lot of talking in this scene.
Ifi: It is mostly talking.
Adam: Jake is somehow able to morph back to human without anyone noticing
Adam: Probably because they're all so occupied by their banter
Ifi: Distracted by the epic proclamations.
Adam: Yes
Ifi: And then the other Animorphs...hijack some construction machinery?
Adam: Seemingly
Adam: I guess this is the start of Marco's grand tradition of destroying stuff while trying to drive?
Ifi: Oh, and then Visser Three morphs into...
Ifi: Something
Ifi: And Rachel's only got five minutes left on that morph! So there is tension!
Adam: Five minutes is actually plenty of time though
Adam: She's fine
Ifi: Oh right. They explode a Bug fighter by driving into it.
Adam: You'd think those things would be a bit more stable
Adam: I mean, flying out of the atmosphere puts a lot of strain on a vehicle

The earthmover had ground forward and slammed into one of the Bug fighters. The Bug fighter had exploded.

----Book Two, The Visitor

Ifi: That is incredibly poor design.
Adam: Seriously
Adam: It’s like some sort of spaceship version of Every Car Is A Pinto

Adam: So they escape and Tobias drops Rachel into a tree
Ifi: Romantic as all hell.
Adam: How is he able to lift her?
Adam: I mean, I am hardly an expert on ornithology, but I would assume that a housecat would be heavier then a hawk
Ifi: Yeah I am not sure. I mean, it might be possible, but I have no idea.
Adam: Puzzling!
Ifi: I mean, he can probably lift a rabbit...
Ifi: Well it is just a mystery.

Adam: Okay, so she falls into a tree
Adam: And lands on her feet
Adam: Of course
Ifi: And turns around to see Visser Three slaughtering his own warriors
Adam: Really structured fighting force those Yeerks have
Ifi: Seriously, it's a wonder anyone stays loyal.
Ifi: No but really. The good guys all escape, so he turns around and starts killing his own soldiers.
Ifi: Just, what?
Adam: They really should be doing what Chapman says: Sacking him and giving Alloran to a Yeerk with some semblance of sanity
Ifi: That body is wasted on him.
Adam: Really
Adam: I do have to wonder though, where does he get all these weird morphs
Adam: Does he just have all these dangerous animals shipped to him or something?
Adam: Or is he a regular at Yeerk zoos?
Ifi: He sometimes says, "I got this one on such and such planet." So it almost seems like he goes out looking for them on weekends or something.
Adam: So in retrospect, Visser is actually a pretty cushy job
Ifi: And apparently there's no sorts of inspections from higher-up.
Adam: Well, there are, but not until much later on
Adam: Where they happen to introduce one of my favorite aliens in the series
Ifi: Oooh I can't wait.
Ifi: But seriously. Want to get rid of Visser Three? Follow him around with a camera for a week and mail it to the Council of Thirteen. Bam, done.
Adam: Of course, you'd probably get eaten before then
Adam: Guy does seem to like eating people
Ifi: Yeah that is actually incredibly fucked up
fi: Think about it. His species isn't predatory. His host’s species isn't predatory. But he has this somehow predatory instinct.
Adam: In any sane species, they'd have him locked up with a gag and giving insecure FBI agents advice on their cases
Ifi: Oh God you are right.

Adam: I felt like this book, more then most of the others, seemed like a direct continuation of the one before it
Adam: I know it technically takes place a few weeks or so after, but it seems like you can read book 1 and book 2 back to front without losing pace
Ifi: No, you're right. It does seem that way.
Ifi: The ending was weak though.
Ifi: WEAK.
Adam: Rachel completely risks blowing her cover by giving Melissa a sappy note
Adam: It was pretty sappy
Ifi: WEAK.
Adam: Yes, yes
Ifi: I forgot how soft-hearted they all start out.
Ifi: That gets hammered out of them pretty fast.
Adam: Happy end!
Adam: =D
Ifi: Yeah whatever.
Adam: You're just a regular ball of delight
Ifi: The final battle was just them running away!
Ifi: I guess I just felt like not much even happened in this book.
Adam: Well, they are still on the setting up stages for the franchise
Ifi: Okay, you're right
Ifi: And we learned a lot about the Yeerks as people, rather than a faceless invading force
Adam: Which was one of this series strongest points, really
Adam: It does away with that whole idea of a naturally evil species, or whatnot
Adam: And I know that Tolkein did that first, but it is still the sort of thing that you don't really see enough
Ifi: No, you are right.
Ifi: It's an easy trope to fall back on.


  1. "I can completely picture (Visser 3) in a small apartment with nine or so cats"

    Oh God, I need to draw this.

    Also, pretty sure a house cat and a red-tail are roughly the same size (and they go after the same prey; I like that little moment where Tobias and Cat!Rachel look at each other for the first time and start screaming and freaking out).

    And I cannot stop laughing at that new cover...

  2. I made a Visser Three lolcat when we in the middle of discussing this. It seemed the only logical thing to do at the time.

    And yeah, a cat and a hawk are presumably about the same size, but a hawk would also have hollow bones, so it would be lighter as well. So idunno. Maybe Tobias has a little barbell set that he works out with in his spare time without telling anyone.

  3. Here is what my biology major friend says on the matter:

    "Nah. It depends on how far the hawk wanted to go, hawk size, cat size. Flight is complicated enough. Load-bearing flight is altogether more irritating. I think the hawk would have difficulties. And no matter what, the hawk wouldn't be able fly very far.

    I used to have a simulation program in BASIC that could estimate maximum distance and maximum speed for different birds with different payloads (specifically carried as body fat, but I imagine if a bird couldn't carry a weight of fat, it couldn't carry that same weight of cat...) I can't find it right now, but if I do, I'll run it for you. If you're really desperate for an answer, try Bird Flight Performance: A Practical Calculation Manual by CJ Pennycuick."

  4. ^ So how far could a swallow carrying coconut shells fly? :P

    Was there anything that said the Animorphs couldn't acquire and morph plants? 'cuz Cassie morphs into a yeerk in #29 I believe. You'd think they'd all try morphing trees or something if they could, though.

  5. Oh yeah, forgot to add. Rachel does *not* look 13 on that cover. More like 16 to early twenties if you ask me.

  6. I always figured that there was really no reason that they couldn't morph into plants, but turning into something that is both totally motionless and has no way to sense its surroundings would have no real purpose, so they didn't bother.

    I mean, for there is nothing stopping them from morphing into a sessile animal like a sea squirt or anemone or some such, but again, what purpose would it serve?

    And as for the Rachel on the cover, I did notice. Rawr. *creepy*

  7. Darn it, Anonymous beat me to the only question worth asking about that birds carrying stuff BASIC program. <:(

    Anyway, I believe I said something earlier about having to draw something:

  8. Given that we're talking about alien species here, concepts like "plant" and "animal" are probably rather more abstract; andalites aren't animals, but that's the closest approximation in English. The chances of so many different planets evolving the same sorts of cellular structures are very rare.

    Given that, for the technology to work on terrestrial animals at all, it must be extremely versatile. Even if yeerks are more plantlike, they're probably equally different from the technology's intended use than terrestrial animals are.

    That said, I disagree with the reviewers' conclusions -- yeerks clearly possess far more animal than plant characteristics. They most likely have animal-like nervous systems (apparently all nervous systems throughout the galaxy have near-identical signalling components, as taking hosts from a variety of planets doesn't seem to be a problem at all), and their only plantlike characteristic is implied photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is practiced by non-plants, too, and not a strictly defining characteristic to be placed in the plant kingdom. Furthermore, the method of kandrona absorption is not expanded upon -- it could be that yeerks eat unstable vitamins in the yeerk pool rendered stable by continuous kandrona exposure instead of literally absorbing kandrona rays themselves, or they could have microbial symbiotes under their skin that absorb the rays for them like some Earth animals.

    Either way, if forced to classify yeerks via earth classifications (which is inaccurate in itself, since they're not part of our evolutionary tree at all), they fit better in "animal" than "plant".

  9. ^ This response = The best thing I have read all day.

  10. I'm a biotechnologist. I take my biology slightly more seriously than I should.

  11. I think you mean, "as seriously as you should."

  12. Overall, I think the "no biochemical barriers" of this series deserved some kind of hand wave, a good one would be "the Elimist and Crayak are interfering in the evolutionary process, resulting in both a high amount of consistency in biological structures and much more intelligent species than would have evolved by chance"

  13. Um...I remember reading somewhere that it was someone else who did the first two covers. sorry if you or someone already mentioned it.

  14. As a kid, I bought and read every single one of these books. Every single one. I admire them and they shaped a lot of how I look at things and especially what fiction I like. Parts of them are the least annoying morality stories ever (like the Chapmans sacrificing themselves for their daughter) but parts of them are painfully annoying (like the gun scene).

    I decided to reread them to find out if they were how I remembered (and you're right, a lot of that darkness went over my head as a kid; I'd recalled the series as *becoming* dark, not starting that way) to see if I wanted to give it to my cousin's girl, and I just finished the second book.

    The exploding bug fighter made so little sense I thought it was a combination of my ADD and reading it while sleepy. Good to know it's just because the first few books don't even try to make sense.

    I mostly wanted to comment on the idea of why didn't Rachel just pretend to sleep as a cat. Through the entirety of both cat scenes, I kept thinking "Why the hell isn't she grooming?" Cats love grooming, and Rachel spends most of her time making almost no effort to control the cat. If she had groomed, it would have played out like this:

    Visser Three: "Hey! The cat's here again! That is mighty suspicious! Kill it!"
    Chapman: "I dunno, Mellissa might cry at me about it."
    Visser Three: "Wait... What is it doing?"
    Chapman: "It's cleaning it's asshole with it's tongue, sir."
    Visser Three: "... Yeah, nevermind. No sentient creature would do that in front of it's greatest enemy."

    1. Doesn't Cassie try something like that with a horse morph later, and fail?

  15. Recent life experience that made me think of this book:

    I was walking along one side of my school's campus to get to a classroom so out of the way that it's more direct to walk through the unwatched area than use the walkways. Some guy who seems to think he's "gangsta" whether he was or not drove up in a red car and slowed down as he approached.

    Guy: "Hey, Little Sister! Need a ride?"

    I kept walking for a couple moments before realizing that he was driving along with *my* pace and there was no one else around. I turned and saw it wasn't anyone I recognized. I pointed to myself. He nodded.

    I burst into laughter. "Oh my god, people DO THAT?! Ahahaha! No, that's okay. Thanks. Ahaha!"

    Never in my life did I ever believe that people actually did stuff like that. In all fairness, though, it was college campus, so he was aware I wasn't 13 probably.

    1. "Little Sister?" Unless you collect processed sea slug for a living and he was wearing a diving suit, that is just not okay.

    2. XD Sea slugs?

      It was hilarious. Like I have no idea what that was supposed to accomplish.

    3. sry I forget not everyone is as much of a loser as me:

      Yeah but seriously. I would be curious to know if anyone ever in the history of ever got in the car with him. My reaction would have probably been the same as yours.

    4. Oh, yeah, I don't video game much at all. The controller got taken away from me by boys too much so I stopped trying. XD

      It'd be so funny if he was actually a concerned citizen offering me a ride because that side of the school is lame.

  16. "Why do you have to be in your natural form to acquire? "
    - Because that's the shape that touched the morphing cube. The changes that enable you to acquire DNA & morph affect your original mass, which is in Z-Space and cannot scan new DNA from there. Also, it is busy maintaining your connection to your original form, and cannot do a second thing.

    That’s what happens to a nothlit: that connection cannot be maintained for more than two hours, and attenuates, causing the original mass (with the changes that allow morphing) to be lost and dissipate in Z-space.

    "Why can't someone in a human morph use thought-speak? "
    - Because the morphing ability is not working at the moment. It is switched off, and thus not touching Z-space, and not capable of transmitting thoughts. I would theorize that Andalites communicate through Z-Space somehow, and the changes that enable morphing allow humans the same ability (because they need to use thought to activate the power), but only when actually using that power. I imagine that with some mental effort, they could use the power to thought-speak in their original bodies, but the process is not intuitive for humans. In other forms, it is the only way to express their communications, so they get around that mental barrier, but in their own forms, their minds instinctively go verbal when they try to communicate.

    For a nothlit, I assume something of a nascent connection remains (as a function of the sentient mind, which presumably exists on some sort of quantum level, trying to preserve itself in a brain no longer suited to its thought process), so as to enable Tobias & Arbron to retain thought-speech. That remaining connection to Z-Space would also interfere with the implantation of a new quantum transmitter/scanner/memory device, and block it from getting its signal going. In other words, the active functioning of a weak connection to the remnants of the sentient mind blocks a new signal from forming that will allow the creation of new bodies from Z-Space matter. The only way to make a new morphing connection would be to literally lose one’s mind, as the new connection would disrupt the last connection of the now-gone brain to the nothlit body.

    - Because the “power” or the subatomic device that enables the ability, can only keep track of one shape at once. It would mess up your normal form to try building a new shape on top of another new shape. It’s like, Marco’s a gorilla, with his human stuff (clothes, etc) in Z-Space. Then he goes osprey, so the gorilla mass get’ put in Z-space, and new mass is used to make the osprey, and the gorilla stuff gets all mixed in with the human, and now you need to sift though all the morphing data in there to separate his human from gorilla, from osprey, from whatever other morphs he decides to use. Whereas by de-morphing, he simply resets the power, and ditches the mass of the morph, and the memory queue of the “power” has a clean slate, with nothing to confuse it.

    1. Nommer of Dementors the Dementor Eater (also the Redundant Scribe of Redundancy)July 6, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      This comment made my day.

  17. You do realize that a red-tailed hawk is quite a large bird?

    1. By bird size, yes. But still smaller and lighter than a large cat.

  18. This was pretty good. I loved all the scientific discussions in the comments. For myself, I think Tobias just pushed his normal limits. I know some birds carry food away from the place where they catch it, like to feed hawk-babies or chow down in private or whatever, so they could probably carry stuff that weighs a bit. I read not long ago about a hawk carrying a puppy and dropping it safely. Maybe a real hawk would never bother carrying something as heavy as a grown cat, but Tobias pushed extra hard, because it was a friend. Maybe even because it's Rachel, although IDK if they were "dating" yet. Rachel never acts like she feels anything for him in this book, except feeling sorry for him.

  19. In the reprint version they change skank to dog