Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book 9: The Secret

The Summary
So it seems that our intrepid heroes have a problem on their hands. The yeerks have determined that the woods near Cassie's barn are the most likely hiding spot for andalites. Fortunately for them, just going out and blowing the whole area up would call unnecessary attention to them, so instead they need to deforest the area through legal means. To this end, they've built a logging camp in the middle of the forest. A logging camp with a force field and dozens of laser turrets. Yikes.

So, the the deciding vote as to whether the yeerks get logging rights comes down to this one board member guy named Farrand. The Animorphs need to somehow determine as to whether Mr. Farrand has already been taken as a controller, and if not, save him and somehow convince him to vote no.

Meanwhile, Cassie and her dad rescue a wounded skunk that has been injured in a yeerk attack. She learns from Tobias that skunk is a mother, and has a litter of babies out their alone in the forest. She also learns (gasp) that Tobias has already eaten one of them. The fact that Tobias will eat one of them, and then go out and help her save the rest causes her to question her previously rather black and white views on the ways of nature.

So Jake has the bright idea to morph termites in order to dig underneath the force field so they can sneak inside the logging camp. This backfires horribly when the termite queen's orders overwhelm their own minds, and they find themselves assimilated into the hive. Through a great deal of effort, Cassie manages to break free by killing the queen, though she is greatly traumatized for her effort. The Animorphs retreat, and take some time off to mentally recuperate.

Cassie spends most of this time taking care of the skunk babies, nearly loosing herself to the morph. She falls asleep, and is almost trapped, but the others manage to find her and snap her out of it in time. They call her out on what she's been doing, but the sheer adorability of the baby skunks manage to win them over, and they all soon find themselves taking shifts in order to watch over them.

But alas! It seems that the yeerks are reading their deforesting ahead of schedule, so the Animorphs go on the offensive. Unfortunately, Cassie is caught and held captive, along with Mr. Farrand, but she morphs the skunk and sprays Visser Three. The smell causes the yeerks to run away with their tails in between their legs, and they manage to get Farrand to safety by blackmailing them for a cure to the smell. To add insult to injury, they tell Visser Three that grape juice will eliminate the odor, rather than tomato juice, and they all have a good laugh over this afterwards.

With this all done with, Cassie takes the now healed skunk-mom to be reunited with her babies. It's all very sweet.

The Review
Adam: Well, the cover is…kinda bland
Ifi: In the context of the story, it would make more sense for Cassie to be turning into a skunk
Adam: agreed
Adam: And I guess they wanted to get a cover of her battle morph, but they honestly could have waited
Adam: they did for Jake and Rachel
Ifi: I like her outfit. It's very Cassie.
Adam: it fits, yes.
Ifi: The fact that she is floating cross-legged in midair means that she is a ninja
Adam: But, I mean, it's a grey and black background, and she is just in a sitting pose, rather than anything dynamic.
Adam: It's just sort of blah.
Ifi: The floating is just so intensely awkward to me. I know it's pretty much completely standard for the series, but it will never stop being odd
Adam: I'm used to it, at this point.

Adam: Well, the inside cover:
Adam: Completely reminds me of that wolves howling at the moon t-shirt.
Ifi: It is a pretty cool image though. Ten year old Ifi would have been down with it.
Adam: What is with everyone's fascination with wolves, anyway?
Adam: I never got it.
Ifi: After dolphins and horses I think wolves were my favorite animal
Ifi: dunno why
Ifi: never met one. never saw one in real life.
Adam: You have the most cliched animal preferences I have ever seen.
Ifi: I do, I admit it...
Adam: I've seen an wolf in person
Adam: at my 7th birthday party.
Adam: We had one of those mini-petting zoo things.
Ifi: wait, what?
Adam: I completely freaked out, ran inside, and refused to come back out until they put it away.
Ifi: Lame.

Ifi: Oh.
Ifi: Oh God I forgot how stupid this opening was.
Adam: So, Cassie has to build a rat maze for a school project.
Ifi: But it is broken.
Ifi: Or possibly the rat is broken.
Adam: And in doing so, Applegate completely fails to understand what the purpose of rat mazes are.
Ifi: That wasn't even my issue.
Adam: It's not to get the mouse to navigate the maze, it's to see if the mouse is able to consistently navigate the maze.
Ifi: My issue was the fact that not only did Cassie morph the rat to solve the issue, Rachel morphed ALONG WITH HER instead of standing guard
Adam: Yeah…that was
Ifi: What would even be the point of having two rats?
Adam: …I don't even know.
Adam: And the stupidity does not end there, mind you.
Ifi: So obviously some douchebags come in
Ifi: and they're like "hurr durr lets eat the rats"
Ifi: that is a direct quotation
Adam: And, seeing some mice in a maze in a science lab, they obviously assume that the school has some sort of infestation.
Adam: …I don't even understand anything anymore.
Ifi: I think they just wanted to kill something. But the editor said that was too dark so they changed it to the infestation thing
Adam: So we can add omnicidal teenagers to the list of captain planet villains, then?
Ifi: Yes
Adam: These kids speak in all caps, so you know they mean business.
Ifi: I stand by my previous assertion
Adam: This kid is a dalek, perhaps?
Ifi: who even knows.

Ifi: Okay so when they're done with that, the actual plot starts
Adam: So the yeerks figure that the andalite bandits would be living in the forest area near there town. (Which is halfway true, mind you.)
Adam: So the decide to deforest it.
Adam: Which is terrible! Because, the poor animals!
Adam: Oh the horror!
Adam: out fighting hitler or something.
Ifi: Oh right I remember that
Ifi: Okay so if the Yeerks know the Animorphs are in the forest, why would they cut it down, which is a slow process and gives them time to get away?
Ifi: Why don't they just napalm it or whatever?
Adam: It would call unnecessary attention to them.
Adam: Same reason that they want to go about the deforestation legally.
Adam: Which is the premise of the whole book.
Ifi: okay okay
Ifi: Alright so they decide to check it out and that's when they morph wolves
Ifi: And they find a perfectly ordinary logging camp except all the workers are armed to the teeth
Ifi: Also they have a force field.
Adam: Perhaps they are just particularly tough lumberjacks.
Adam: But they manage to escape.
Ifi: Yeah it's super easy as usual
Ifi: So they all sit around and argue about the environment and what to do about the super fortified logging camp
Ifi: Rachel suggests they try to blow it up
Ifi: Marco, staying in character as well, wants to steal some construction machinery
Ifi: and ram it into the building
Ifi: at which point it will presumably explode
Adam: Seems perfectly reasonable

Ifi: Oh and Cassie mentions that the woods are a part of a national forest
Ifi: So one of these
Adam: It's also near a mountain range, so that might help us narrow it down a bit more.
Ifi: and not far from the shore
Ifi: I'm gonna guess one of the northern ones for sure
Adam: Now, they're always going on in the narration how they don't want to tell you their names and address, so they yeerks can find them.
Adam: But they really do leave more then enough hints.
Ifi: Well it doesn't even matter because the Yeerks only ever attack one goddamn state
Adam: Touche.

Adam: So, the point is, they need to stop the yeerks from getting ahold of this guy on some board of directors that has the say in whether they can cut down the trees.
Ifi: And to get into this place, they need to morph something tiny.
Ifi: But before we get to that particular PTSD-inducing experience, it's time for Cassie's dad!
Adam: I like Cassie's dad. He came off like decent fellow in the previous book.
Ifi: Except he's a fully trained and qualified veterinarian and sends his 13 year old daughter to rescue a skunk because he's afraid of it
Adam: Yeah, well.
Adam: Cassie is apparently the skunk whisperer.
Adam: Or something
Ifi:Skunks are actually very nice if you don't make them angry.
Adam: I'm sure this is true.
Ifi: Oh, and while they're going to rescue it, Cassie mentions the fate of her dad's old truck, as seen in Andalite's Gift
Ifi: Just a little continuity nod I suppose
Adam: Well, at least we are clear that the Megamorphs books are canon.
Ifi: Okay so they get the skunk and Cassie recognizes it's actually got a dracon beam wound
Ifi: This makes her more upset than the actual Yeerk invasion.
"There was a burn right across the skunk's back. A perfectly semicircular burn, as if someone had simply sliced a scoop out of it." 
Chapter 7, page 55
Adam: Cassie is a girl that has her priorities in order, that's for sure.
Ifi: Okay so they all meet in the food court at the mall.
Ifi: Then Jake pulls out a termite and they all acquire it in said food court in broad daylight
Adam: That seemed like it would require a bit of effort, bringing a termite with you to the mall, without squishing it.
Ifi: well it was in a glass thingy
Adam: Yeah, okay.
Adam: Still, they couldn't have done this at the barn, or something?
Adam: And why did they need to bring Ax? He can't acquire it when morphed, and he would just be a liability when surrounded by food.
Adam: Incidentally, he has been drinking engine oil at some point.
Ifi: Don't worry he's virtually indestructible.
Adam: If you say so.

Ifi: Okay so Cassie's dad talks to her and tells her that the skunk from a few chapters back is female, and she has tiny little baby skunk kittens out in the woods somewhere.
Adam: D'aw.
Ifi: This upsets Cassie more than the Yeerk invasion and the dracon beam thing combined.
Adam: -_-
Ifi: Hyperbole is the BEST THING EVER
Adam: The sad thing is that you aren't really being hyperbolic.
Adam: This pretty much how Cassie prioritizes things.

Ifi: Okay so next comes the termites.
Ifi: I actually don't even want to talk about the termites because it was even worse than the ants.
Adam: An interesting little factoid: termites are actually the only colonial insect with male workers.

Ifi: So when they morphed ants, we saw what happens when a colony animal is in enemy territory.
Ifi: Here we see what happens when a hive animal is at home
Ifi: The worst part of this is, even once they rediscover their identities, they are still unable to resist the queen's commands
Ifi: Which I'm going to assume are pheremornal but the text makes it sound like she is some psychic puppet master wizard thing
Adam: It said earlier that one of the other workers fed Cassie some hormone-laced wood pulp.
Adam: But yes, the termite queen took levels in Thrallherd.
"The queen!"
"I could feel her power. This was her world. These were all her slaves. More than slaves—they had no will of their own."
chapter 13, page 91
Ifi: Cassie manages to kill the queen and break her influence. In that very moment, the entire colony freaks the hell out.
Ifi: Oh PS she kills the queen by biting off her head
Adam: pleasant
Ifi: And Cassie needs to demorph RIGHT NOW so she demorphs inside a piece of wood and it asplodes, taking the rest of the colony with it
Adam: Against all logic, that neither kills her right away, nor gets her caught.
Ifi: Yeah apparently nobody is home at the Citadel of Doom
Adam: Not even at the computer system that conveniently controls everything.
Ifi: So they figure out who they need to save and leave. They just leave.
Ifi: They walk out.
Adam: Yeah…um.
Adam: The controllers were on lunch break.
Adam: All of them.
Adam: At the same time.

Ifi: Sooo once Cassie is done freaking out, around noon the next day, she mentions to Tobias that she'd like to find these abandoned skunk kittens
Ifi: And
Ifi: Oh God
Ifi: This was just so horrible
Adam: Hey, a hawk has to eat sometimes.
Adam: It isn't like he can just fly down to a Wendy's or something.
Ifi: I know, I don't fault him for just being a predator, it was just a twisted coincidence
Ifi: But Cassie is more like, "Yeah I'm never speaking to you again don't even look at me."
Adam: From here on, Tobias is only allowed to eat animals that aren't cute.
Ifi: So Cassie basically spends the next few chapters playing house
Ifi: with the skunk babies, who think she's skunk-Mom
Ifi: And then everyone sort of really gets into it.
Ifi: They name the babies after the Ramones
The skunks were forever doomed to a life of punk rock.
Adam: …My brain hurts.
Ifi: They are actually having lots of fun here, which is nice to see, especially in the middle of the book
Adam: I'm sorry, it's all a bit too saccharine for my tastes.
Ifi: They teach them to hunt, take them for walks, accidentally spray Jake's idiot dog...
Adam: yuck.
Ifi: I lol'd.

Ifi: Okay so eventually the Yeerks start being evil
Ifi: They are cutting down the woods ahead of schedule!
Ifi: Such...evil!
Adam: I'm expecting a Tim Curry to pop out and start singing about pollution any second now.
Ifi: So they have to rescue this dude and also teach the Yeerks that nobody messes with their skunks!
<Really? You know what we'd do if he were a nonhuman controller?> I asked. <We'd go after him and whatever happened, happened, right?>
Chapter 18
Ifi: Holy hell they just acknowledged it.
Adam: So yeah, they're a bunch of 13 year old murderers.
Adam: A chill just ran down my spine.
Ifi: But more importantly, they realized that they are quick to kill Hork-Bajiir and Taxxons but try to leave human-Controllers alive.
Ifi: They eventually justify this to themselves by saying they're protecting the earth, and that includes humans, which includes ALL humans.
Adam: But they still don't develop any empathy for the poor Hork-Bajir, at least?
Ifi: Not until a little bit later, I think.
Ifi: So then Visser Three happens and there is a big fight and Cassie gets put in a box with the Farrand dude.
Ifi: Cassie gets out of this by threatening to kill Farrand if Visser Three doesn't let them go.
Adam: dayum.
Ifi: Well, it works, and Cassie goes on to incite a riot when she sprays Visser Three
Ifi: And some other random people too
Adam: And then she shoots skunk spray at them.
Adam: Yes.

Ifi: It's not very dignified, in any event.
Adam: It would likely have been amusing to watch though.
Ifi: So the Animorphs basically blackmail Visser Three into letting them go, saying they'll tell him how to get rid of the smell
Adam: Astoundingly, this works.
Ifi: Except they decide to be dicks about it and tell him grape juice instead of tomato juice.
Ifi: I mean I know he's an evil murderer and all that but damn guys
Ifi: That was just petty.
Ifi:Also apparently lady Andalites are purple so it's doubly insulting
Adam: =B
Ifi: Chaotic good, folks!
Adam: Also, Ax's line at the end of the chapter is incredibly badass.
Ifi: hah
 <You do realize that one day I will have you all,> Visser Three said. <With all your clever tricks, I will still find you.>
<No, I do not think so.> Ax said, <We are sure to smell you coming.>
Chapter 23, page 153

Ifi: Anyway, in a universe where the evil empire names their evil logging factory after an alien curse word, I suppose anything is possible.
Adam: So, after all that, they bring back the momma skunk to the babies.
Adam: It's very sentimental.
Ifi: Oh right happy ending
Adam: Yeah.
Adam: Any other thoughts?
Ifi: Nothing particularly. This was one of the silliest books.
Adam: It was another one of those "save the environment" books, which always struck me as a bit doofy.
Ifi: I mean, I see what the author was trying to do. And I think the positive portrayal of skunks was a good thing.
Adam: It still falls a bit too much into What Measure is a Non Cute for my tastes.
Adam: The skunks are only worth caring for because they're helpless widdle babies.
Ifi: Skunks = Cute. Hork-Bajiir = Not Cute. Rescue or kill accordingly.
Ifi: also Termites = Satan
Adam: I will give Applegate credit though, later on she does get better about having sympathetic creatures who aren't necessarily aesthetically pleasing by human standards.
Ifi: Always a good thing


  1. So am I the only one weirded out by Cassie changing into the mother skunk and nursing the babies? *Nursing*? Nursing skunk babies? With her temporary skunk-tits? An act in which the other Animorphs -including the male ones- apparently join? Cause, you know, most people who care for injured wildlife (Cassie's dad) have a lot of bottles and different baby formulas handy for that kind of thing. Just sayin'.

    Not to mention how the whole gang is cool with being termites after the ant debacle, but that's another issue.

    1. Skunk-tits were not an issue - they were eating solid food, which Cassie brought to them (a grasshopper). However, that does raise the question in my head of how Walter knew that she had babies and how many (did she carry pictures in her skunk wallet? ) I had assumed that there was some sort of way to look at her skunk-nipples and see that she was currently nursing, or had recently passed a certain quantity of babies through her skunk-vag, but if they are up to solid food, I would think there would not be a way for her surgeon to tell exactly how many skunklings she has at home.

  2. I always wondered at the implications on the group's carefully protected anonymity of Marco stating over and over that his Mom was Visser One's host. In a record of blog posts or published diaries or whatever, being circulated while the Yeerk invasion is under way. I mean, the point of the stories was to warn others right, with the literary agent hypothesis worked in there?

  3. Trish: something that legitimately had not occurred to me, and now that it has, I am a bit squicked out. I can excuse the fact that the other Animorphs wouldn't necessarily want to feed the skunkbabies for fear of being sprayed, and Cassie likely didn't want to acclimate them to humans too much, but you'd think that one of them might have at least pointed out the whole weirdness of it. It would have been a very in character thing for Marco to do so.

    Jaraket: Yeah, the whole literary agent hypothesis really makes less and less sense the more you think of it with this series. They admit in the books that they are human, even though their safety is absolutely dependent on the yeerks not finding this out. They make a big deal over not giving their address and last names, but then they give the names of relatives, teachers and friends, and easily more than enough information for them to be tracked down.

    There's also the fact that the yeerks explicitly do not make any sort of attempt to assimilate the family members of particularly high ranking controllers, which seems like it wouldn't be terribly difficult, and would likely save them a lot of effort in the long run.

  4. Marco's not the only one to do it. Tobias' father, Jake's brother, and Cassie's home and parents' occupations are all very easy clues to track. And of course, the later book where Marco's father is working on Z-space? Their whole safety plan is pretty much blown by the fact that he wrote the book. Not to mention Tobias' later nothlit-who-can-morph status, a big (although often ignored) tactical advantage. Not to mention the Chee, who they most definitely don't want the yeerks to know about.

    I thought it would make more sense to place high-ranking controllers in fully assimilated families as well. Hiding in their own homes has to impede their work.

    I think Cassie does address the cuteness thing with the termites, doesn't she? She gets all guilty about killing them, when she went out of her way to save the cuter skunks. Or maybe that's a later breakdown.

  5. No, you're right. This book does represent some pretty significant character growth for Cassie, in all honesty. She learns that her previous view of nature is rather romanticized, and that life in the wild is often very cutthroat. And at the same time, she learns to reconcile this with the fact that as sapient beings, our intelligence enables us to take a third option on the matter, so to speak.

    This sort of theme is something that will play a much greater role in later books, come to think of it.

  6. I just googled "cinnamon bunz" and... well, this site is not the first link that comes up.

    Also: anyone who wants to catch up on some Animorphs books they may have lost over the years, check out here

  7. I feel I must ask. Just what on earth is this?

  8. Also, I am never googling "cinnamon bunz" ever again. *traumatized*

    1. Why did I do this AFTER you said you were traumatized by it? But seriously, I laughed really hard.

  9. Hahaha I cannot wait to read Vegemorphs tomorrow

  10. ...that was weird. Why did I do that?

  11. Don't read vegemorphs. Do NOT read vegemorphs.

    I got through like 5 pages.

  12. Wow, the Vegemorphs cover is actually a little better than the normal animorphs covers?

  13. Oh good Whale Jesus, I OWN a copy of the (presumably only) _Vegemorphs_ book I got in a thrift store years ago. It's... a thing. I also picked up these two... things:

  14. The thing that concerns me the most is that those are apparently a series. At least with Vegemorphs there is only one of them to worry about.

  15. I never thought about it until just now, but Ax's indestructible digestive system kind of makes sense. In the Animorphs universe, it seems that most things have mouths. Andalites do not; it's natural for them to get curious with them whether they're half as stupid as Ax about it or not. The Andalite scientists probably didn't get even three test subjects in before realizing that they needed to program in some digestive reinforcement.

    Not that I think anyone on the creative team actually thought that one through. Just saying it doesn't necessarily not make sense.

  16. Jarakeet: In book 53 Jake states the books were actually written out by hand, and are hidden away so if the animorphs are caught, one day someone will find out about the Yeerks, even when they're dead/hosts.

    Also, you guys are always griping about filler books and junk, well in order to make the series more realistic, there had to be some missions thet were pointless,or some that didn't contribute to the war victories or losses in general. They arem't their just to make the story longer.


  18. we never did learn what daspen meant