Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book 23: The Pretender

The Summary
Tobias is having trouble eating baby rabbits because of liberal guilt or something. But that's not important. What's important is that Chapman is trying to find Tobias, who is apparently registered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Some lawyer has a letter from his father to read to him, and also a cousin named Aria wants to adopt him.

The free Hork-Bajir have misplaced one of their children, so the Animorphs go looking for him. But it is while following Aria that they find the missing Hork-Bajir, Bek, locked in a cage in a roadsize zoo. Aria lectures the owner about the poor living conditions of his animals. The Animorphs try to rescue Bek, but the Controllers beat them to it.

Toby plans a raid on the place where she suspects Bek is being held. Along with some free Hork-Bajir, the Animorphs infiltrate the place and rescue Bek. But during the fight, Visser Three Aria. Aria has been Visser Three in morph the entire time. Tobias sits on the ground and angsts while everyone else tries to blow each other up.

On Tobias' birthday, he goes to the lawyer to have his father's letter read to him. Aria is there too. The letter reveals that Tobias' father was Prince Elfangor, as seen in The Andalite Chronicles. Tobias pretends that he thinks the whole thing is stupid and his father was obviously a lunatic, and leaves in disgust. Then he goes off to cry.

The Review
Ifi: This cover is so ridiculously ridiculous
Adam: I like it!
Ifi: I mean, it's good.
Ifi: Especially compared to some of the others
Ifi: But it is also a picture of a bird turning into a rabbit
Adam: This series is seriously devoid of nonhuman to nonhuman morphs
Adam: What is your opinion on the whole Spirit-Tobias thing?
Adam: Because they will be doing it in all the remaining Tobias books
Ifi: I see the logic. I like blonde Tobias better, for the record.
Ifi: I mean, it looks goofy if you don't know the series, but if you do it's like "yeah ok sure that makes sense"
Adam: That was pretty much my entire initial reaction.
Ifi: I also really love the background
Adam: It doesn't really do anything for me, honestly.
Adam: Though it would look nice as a sunset in real life, I suppose
Ifi: Pretty colors!
Adam: Also, the second to last stage in the morph gives the bunny little defeathered chickenwing arms.
Adam: And that's just silly
Ifi: I think I've mentioned that I never look at the in-between stages
Adam: Look into it!
Ifi: nuuu
Adam: Stare into the abyss.
Adam: It stares back.

Adam: We have here our first ghostwritten book.
Adam: We should throw confetti.
Ifi: I would not have guessed at all.
Adam: Yeah, it isn't that bad, all things considered.
Ifi: I am surprised Applegate opted out of writing this one. I mean, it's not filler. Stuff happens.
Adam: Well, I tend to think of this more as the "Let's mention stuff in the chronicles books, just so you know that it's canon."
Ifi: For the record, I never read the Andalite Chronicles when I first read this book. So Elfangor being Tobias’ father was a complete surprise for me.
Ifi: Came out of nowhere and frankly, I thought the whole thing was a very very poorly thought-out Yeerk practical joke and was confused as to why Tobias fell for it.
Adam: Man, I never really thought about reading this book before Andalite Chronicles.
Adam: That must have seemed pretty surreal.
Ifi: It was. I remember the moment I read that.
Ifi: Because it wasn't like the Visser One thing. It's not mentioned in every other book. In fact, after this, it's maybe mentioned two more times.
Ifi: So if you're not like Adam and reading every single book the day it’s released, you could easily miss the whole thing.
Adam: Well actually.
Adam: I read this book before I read the Hork-Bajir Chronicles.
Adam: So I was really confused about the sudden introduction of Toby and all the other free Hork-Bajir.
Adam: Though admittedly that is much less big of a deal then the Elfangor thing.
Ifi: I mean I can see how the whole "Hork-Bajir who uses pronouns" thing could throw you
Adam: Well, when she shows up, they refer to her a seer, and even though they don't specify what that means (when applied to Hork-Bajir specifically), it isn't exactly difficult to figure out.

Adam: Okay, now am I the only one who finds this whole rabbit subplot remarkably dumb?
Adam: It's the sort of thing you expect to show up in a bad Cassie book.
Ifi: It is! And the frustrating part (aside from the fact that Tobias is becoming anorexic) is that it is presented as if he is having magical visions, so you could think that this is the Ellimist screwing around with him. But no. It's all in his little hawk brain.
Adam: It totally comes out of nowhere, too.
Adam: He's been eating wild animals just fine in the intervening periods between books.
Ifi: Tobias is having big problems! There is a new red tailed hawk cramping his style. And also when he goes to eat some adorable baby bunnies, he has a seizure or something.
Adam: I prefer to think that he was having a run of bad luck at hunting due to the other hawk, and that is causing him to hallucinate.
Ifi: Ooh, I like that. Let's go with that.
Ifi: So instead of morphing to human and going to McDonalds, he decides to eat roadkill and gets all bent out of shape when Rachel spots him.
Adam: I also have a two-part theory as to why he is such a dingbat here.
Ifi: Insane theories are our specialty.
Adam: 1: As a human, Tobias has had a really terrible homelife, so he would likely have had to be unusually self-reliant all of the time, so asking for help doesn't come naturally to him.
Adam: 2: Hawks are a naturally solitary animal, and this instinct is subconsciously influencing him.
Adam: Put the two together, and the result is him being a complete dolt during this entire book.
Ifi: In any case, there is quite a bit of angsting before we get to the point, which is that someone wants to adopt Tobias.

<My cousin? Who does she say she's related to? I mean, who is her mother or father?>
"I didn't exactly cross-examine her," Rachel said snappishly.
I laughed. Don't ask me why, but Rachel being cranky always makes me laugh.
"This comes secondhand," Rachel clarified. "From Chapman."
<Chapman?> I asked sharply. <How did he figure it out? Did he ask you specifically?>
She shook her head, a movement that caused her long, blond hair to shiver across her shoulders. "No. He was asking his daughter Melissa if she knew anything about Tobias. I just happened to be there."

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: I think the Yeerks pulled this off incredibly well.
Adam: Oh?
Ifi: I will talk about it more in-depth later, but basically they suspect that they might be dealing with someone who is Elfangor reincarnated. So they are careful.
Adam: Wait, wait, wait.
Adam: Elfangor reincarnated?
Adam: I just thought that they had assumed that Tobias was in cahoots with the Andalite bandits.
Ifi: Not -literally- reincarnated. But someone just like him with his talents who could terrorize them the same way Elfangor did.
Adam: Ah, okay.
Adam: Also, "The Andalite Bandits" would make a great band name.

Ifi: Anyway, there is this boring old lawyer who Tobias goes to see.
Ifi: He can't be that great, seeing as his office shares a wall with a laundromat
Adam: Aw, he seems like a decent enough guy though.
Adam: I sorta feel bad for him.
Ifi: I always feel bad for every Yeerk who isn't an officer. Nobody cares about them one bit.
Adam: Well, I mean, he offers Tobias a soda and a place to stay overnight.

"I've been hoping I could locate you, Tobias. Have a seat, please. Would you like some water? A soda? Coffee? No, I guess you don't drink coffee at your age. A soda? We have Coke, Diet Coke. And we might have some Dr. Brown's cream soda. I'd have to have Ingrid check."
If he was getting ready to pull a gun and shoot me, or expecting to have Visser Three come storming in the door, he hid it very well.
I relaxed a little. But I was baffled. Water? Coffee? Soda? What was the right answer?
Good grief. You'd think it was Final Jeopardy and the category was Obscure Modern Poets. I was so out of practice being human.
"I'd like a Coke!" I practically yelled.
DeGroot pressed his intercom. "Ingrid, our young friend would like—"
"—a Coke. Yes, I heard him. All the way out here."

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Tobias will be playing the part of Ax today.
Adam: So how about that product placement, huh?
Adam: I already showed the Wayne's World clip in an earlier review, didn't I?
Ifi: Yes yes
Adam: Ah well.
Ifi: Thing is, I don't think Applegate was sponsored at all. I think she threw in all the brand names just to make the world feel more 'real'. For better or for worse.
Adam: Unfortunately, a lot of these attempts just make it seem dated, and got edited out in the rerelease.
Ifi: Good.
Ifi: However, if they edit out the mustang, I will incite a riot.
Adam: You and me both.

"Tobias…" He leaned across his desk. "Your father, that father, the man who died? That may not have been your real father."
"I have a document…it's a strange situation. Very strange. Look, Tobias, I'm going to level with you. My father used to run this office. He's dead, too. He left this document along with the rest of his clients' papers. But on this he wrote me specific instructions. Very specific. On the date of your next birthday your father's last statement was to be read to you, if at all humanly possible."
I didn't know what to say. If this was a trap, it was a weird one.
"Now there's this new complication. A woman named Aria, who says she is your cousin. Your great-aunt's daughter. Apparently she's only just learned of your situation. She's a very acclaimed nature photographer and she's been on a long-term assignment in Africa. She wants to meet you."

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Also Tobias has no clue when his birthday is.
Adam: He later kinda patches it together.
Adam: And I have the same birthday.
Adam: And that is awesome.
Ifi: Yes. Adam wouldn't shut up about it the other day.
Adam: =D
Adam: Let me have my moment.
Ifi: Some guy tails Tobias for no reason but it's Tobias so he escapes in like ten seconds.
Adam: Yeah, the Yeerks kinda do a terrible job of tracking people.
Ifi: The Yeerks need to branch out. Start some special ops units.
Adam: You'd think they would be experts in that field.
Ifi: Right?
Adam: I mean, you get the ability to control a person's movement and read their thoughts.
Adam: My first thought would be: become a spy.

Ifi: Tobias goes to drip his angst all over the Hork-Bajir, who tolerate his bullshit far more than anyone should have to.
Ifi: But.

"One of the children, a male named Bek, is missing. He has left the valley. We fear that he may be taken by humans or by human-Controllers. That he may be harmed. Killed. Or worse, made into a Controller."
"Bek is not in the valley," Toby said. "I…we found tracks leading out of the valley. The right size for a Hork-Bajir of his age."
I said several words I can't repeat. Jara Hamee asked what they meant.
<Never mind,> I said. I couldn't believe this. A Hork-Bajir child missing! Wandering the woods alone. Or worse: not alone.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: To cope with the situation, Tobias teaches the Hork-Bajir human profanity.
Adam: Tobias, you are a bad influence.
Adam: Also, there is another point that I would like to cover here.
Adam: Toby is speaking and thinking at a level that surpasses the main cast.
Adam: She is also less than a year old.
Adam: And, I can understand that Hork-Bajir gestation rates are faster than humans.
Adam: But this really just stretches my suspension of disbelief.

<What do you mean? You leave the valley?>
"Yes, Tobias. How else can we free our brothers and sisters?" She waved an encompassing arm around the group. "How else have these Hork-Bajir come to freedom?"
<I…I guess I just assumed the Ellimist made it happen.>
Toby grinned the frightening Hork-Bajir grin. "We make it happen. We go at night and raid places where we know Hork-Bajir are."
"But…but the place where we liberate Hork-Bajir is a secret Yeerk facility that is being built. Not in your city. In the human town beyond the far end of this valley. Tobias…it is very important for us to continue freeing our brothers and sisters. We are few. We must become many. To fight the Yeerks. Also…" She let it hang there.
<Un. Be. Lievable,> I said. <You "seers" really are a different breed, aren't you?> I said harshly. <You're looking for the day when the Yeerks leave, aren't you? You need enough numbers so that humans don't just slap you all in a zoo.>

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Toby is the single most awesome character in this entire series.
Ifi: Also, Tobias, stop being a little bitch. You know damn well the humans would put the Hork-Bajir in a zoo.
Adam: ;_;
Adam: I wouldn't.
Ifi: Yes but you are an overgrown mantis shrimp and I am a robot.
Ifi: We are exempt.
Adam: I'm fairly average in size, honestly.

Ifi: So. Missing Hork-Bajir baby. Who knows the secret of the Animorphs.
Ifi: Sorry guys. Game over.
Adam: Well, he's both new to their forest, and he is a baby, so he probably doesn't know their secret.
Ifi: Maybe. Still. Big hole in the security system.
Adam: This is true.

It was Jara who stepped forward then. Toby may have been the brains, but Jara and Ket were the heart of this tiny community. Jara put his big, dangerous claw out, palm up, and I hopped into it. He lifted me up to his goblin face and said, "Tobias ask the Hork-Bajir. Hork-Bajir give. Always. Forever. Anything. Even life. Jara Hamee never forget."
Toby nodded her agreement.
Well, what are you going to do? People like that you pretty much have to try and save.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: The Hork-Bajir are better at guilt tripping than my grandma.
Adam: I love these guys.
Adam: I just want to give them all big hugs.
Adam: Although I would probably lose an organ doing so.
Ifi: Worth it
Adam: I'd like to think that without the Arn's influence, the Hork-Bajir have the potential to develop intelligence in later numbers. So after the war is over, and they are competeing with other species for territory, intelligence becomes a more selective trait, so you end up seeing more and more thoughtful Hork-Bajir.  
Adam: So then around the year 3000, you go to all the Hork-Bajir villages, and they have big statues of hawks everywhere.
Adam: I am babbling.
Ifi: Do you need to take a break?
Ifi: Or are you just on drugs?
Adam: I do not need drugs. I am naturally this way.

Rachel went into her bald eagle morph. I've seen her do it many times before, of course, but for some reason this time it fascinated me. Is that the right word? No, it mesmerized me.
Rachel is a beautiful girl. She's beautiful in that way you know will last her whole life. She'll be a beautiful woman. But beauty alone isn't that big a thing. What makes Rachel "Rachel" is what's inside.
And watching her morph to eagle was like seeing her soul emerge through her flesh.
Feather patterns appeared across her skin. The golden hair gave way to the characteristic white feathers of the baldie's crown. Her arm bones narrowed and hollowed and grew feathers to become wings. Her face, never exactly soft or inviting, became forbidding and intense. Her blue eyes turned golden brown and glared with the fierce glare of a raptor. Her lips became the eagle's huge beak.
She grew smaller. But she was becoming one of the largest birds in existence.
Was she more beautiful to me because she was a bird now? No, of course not. For one thing, eagles and hawks don't mate. For another, her eagle morph is male.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Adam: ...
Ifi: I actually have no idea where to even start with this.
Adam: That is incredibly creepy.
Adam: He is totally getting off on that, isn't he?
Ifi: Uh yah
Adam: Gah.
Adam: I need to wash my brain out with soap.

Ifi: Tobias and Rachel hang out outside a hotel and watch Aria change (well, Tobias can't see through the reflective glass, but Rachel can)
Adam: This book is just
Adam: really creepy sometimes

<Ah. You mean she's changing clothes, right? Not morphing.>
<She's morphing from a pair of sweatpants and T-shirt into a dress. The dress is, oh, about three, four years out of date.>
<So maybe she really was in Africa. If that's even her.>
<Or maybe she doesn't keep up with fashion. I see a lot of camera equipment. That'd fit with the whole nature photographer thing.>
<The glare is shifting. Is it safe for me to look?>
<Are you always this nice about being a Peeping Tom?>
<I am never a Peeping Tom,> I said sharply. Then I softened my tone. <I cannot use my superpowers for evil.>

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Tobias was very defensive just now.
Adam: Also, he does do a suspicious amount of flying into Rachel's bedroom at night.
Ifi: He sneaks in her room at night and watches her sleep
Ifi: Or maybe that was some other book.
Adam: Well, he at least has the courtesy to wake her up the times he does it in this book.

Aria…if this was Aria…hefted a camera bag onto her shoulder. She paused in front of a full-length mirror, adjusting her hair and checking her clothes carefully.
<Don't worry about your hair,> Rachel sniped, <do something about that dress.>

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: A lot of the things Aria does are absolutely hilarious in retrospect.
Adam: Yes, that is very much true.
Adam: After that, Aria skipped out of her room and went around petting stray kittens.
Ifi: Which is actually completely in character soooo

<It's one of those crappy roadside zoo things,> Rachel reported, having swept low enough to see the garish signs clearly. <It's called "Frank's Safari Land and Putt-Putt Golf.">
<Catchy name,> I said.
<It's just a good thing Cassie isn't here. She hates these places. I mean, she hates these places. She'd have us go in there and free all the animals.>
<Maybe that's why Aria is here,> I suggested. <She's a nature photographer, after all. She must hate places like this, too.>
<Maybe,> Rachel said skeptically.
I banked a turn and went low to check out a sort of marquee that advertised to passing cars. It was one of those signs where they use big plastic letters.
The sign said: All new! Deadly midget freak! The living razor!

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Because they don't feel like paying admission, they steal the entry guard's toupee and put it on a crocodile
Adam: Also, for some inexplicable reason, they don't immediately realize what "The living razor" refers to.
Ifi: Yeah I mean really now.
Ifi: Toby would have figured it out in ten seconds.
Adam: By all accounts there is no way for Toby to have learned to read, but she probably would have anyway.
Ifi: Toby does whatever she wants.
Ifi: Whether or not it makes logical sense.
Adam: Fair enough.
Ifi: The force of her will is that strong.

Adam: So, they overhear Aria talking with another Captain Planet villain.
Adam: Wow, it's been a while since we last saw one of those.

Inside it was about what I'd expected. A very sad place. Miserable, unhappy animals in cages a tenth the size they should have been. Dim lighting that was swallowed up by the black-draped walls.
A mangy fox paced restlessly. A pair of lynx slept, crammed into a cage that would have been small for a house cat. There was an aged barn owl, an adolescent deer, a pair of sheep. There was a Shetland pony in a circular pen, saddle on its back, saddle sores plainly visible. A sign said pony rides $.10. A small female black bear was in a cage so low she could not rear up to her full height.
Rachel leaned close to whisper in my ear. "I was going to say we shouldn't tell Cassie about this place, but you know what? Let's do tell her. She'll get Jake to go along with stomping this horrible place out of existence. What is the matter with people? I mean, I'm not exactly Ms. Tree-hugging-don't-eat-meat-let-animals-vote, but come on, this sucks. They want to treat a bear like that, I'll come back here and introduce these dirtbags to a real bear. See if 'Frank' can stick my grizzly in a little cage. I'll cage him!"

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: This actually was pretty sad.
Adam: It's like one of those obnoxious commercials that you get asking for donations at one in the morning.
Ifi: The policy both at home and in my dorm is that you have to change the channel when those come on.
Adam: That is a good policy.

Ifi: I hate you, Sarah McLachlan.
Ifi: I hate you so much.
Adam: As do we all.

"So what is it, that's what I'd like to know."
Aria shrugged. "I don't know. I've never seen anything like it. But you know, you shouldn't call it a 'freak.'"
"Not politically correct, huh?" Frank said knowingly.
"It's not that," Aria said. "It's just that it's like nothing I've ever seen. No animal I know." She smiled. "You could present it as an alien and no one would be able to dispute you."
"Alien, huh?" Frank nodded. "Hey, that's not a bad idea. Lot of crazy people out there believe in all that UFO, space alien crap."
"Yes. And while you're changing things, maybe you could show a little humanity to these animals. They need bigger cages, more light, more fresh air. At the very least."

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Remember your theory that Visser Three is basically Cassie?
Adam: Indeed.
Ifi: Visser Three loves animals. Humans can all walk off a pier, but animals are AWESOME.
Adam: Well, if there are no animals, what is he going to turn into in order to eat people?

Ifi: So they go to rescue Bek and totally screw it up somehow.

Rachel happily stomped in across the shattered timbers and splintered plywood, trumpeting like mad, swinging her big trunk back and forth and generally making the kind of destructive mess she loved to make.
<Everybody out!> she ordered in wide-band thought-speak. <Rabid elephant! Psycho elephant on the loose! It's Dumbo-zilla!> In the general panic, no one would recall that they didn't really "hear" anyone shout that warning.
I followed gingerly in Rachel's wake. She was busily tossing her trunk up and down, making the low ceiling jump with each impact. I squeezed past her and searched for the little lost Hork-Bajir. I found him in his cage. But I was not alone.
On the other side of the cage stood three men. Two carried standard handguns. The third carried a weapon I'd seen far too often before: a Yeerk Dracon beam.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Adam: Visser Three promptly shows up as well, because as we all know, he is physically incapable of delegating anything.
Ifi: Also true.

<Ah, a renegade Hork-Bajir,> he said, sounding delighted. <The little runaway and the renegade. Ket Halpak, if I am not mistaken. Well, my Hork-Bajir friend, I'll soon have you back at the Yeerk pool. You'll soon belong to us again.>

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Okay so.
Ifi: 1) He can tell Hork-Bajir apart
Ifi: 2) He knows the names of random hosts
Ifi: Just…what?
Adam: Well, the Hork-Bajir had been breaking into Yeerk facilities and freeing people, so I don't think that it is too much of a stretch for him to work out that they survived.
Adam: Although, apparently Visser Three is a more thoughtful employer then we thought.
Ifi: He sits up all night memorizing everyone's name, pool, host's name, birthdays, and hobbies.
Adam: Wait.

Adam: Visser Three is Jack Donaghy!
Adam: It all makes sense!
Ifi: Of course. I mean, have you ever seen them in a room together? Think about it.
Adam: Ow. My brain.

Ifi: Visser Three morphs a thing that spits acid, which is actually sort of cool.

Jerking every muscle in my body, I rolled over Bek, putting my back between him and the Visser's acid spray.
Pain! Unimaginable pain! I was burning alive! I was on fire!
I couldn't think, couldn't control myself, not even for a moment.
I got to my feet, staggered, screaming in agony, to the lagoon, and plunged into the water.
Water. Blessed, muddy water diluted the acid before it could eat right through my spine.
But even as I shuddered at the lessening of the pain, I realized that I had let Bek go. I rose up from the lagoon, dripping mud, and looked frantically toward shore.
No Visser Three. No Kaftid.
And no Bek.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Ok so we completely screwed that one up.
Adam: Visser Three's morph seems like some sort of really odd pokemon.
Ifi: Anyway Tobias goes back to angsting and not eating.

I jerked, startled. I recognized Ax's thought-speak voice and calmed down. He comes around sometimes. We are the weird couple of the galaxy: the alien and the Bird-boy.
<Hey, Ax-man, what's up?>
<Up is the opposite of down. Although, of course, those terms are meaningless outside the context of a distinct, localized gravity field.>
<Was that funny? I was attempting a joke.>

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Never change, Ax.
Adam: I want him to write a joke book.

Ifi: For lack of anything better to do, they follow Aria around and watch her do various uninteresting things all day.

Ifi: And then

And that's when it happened. A little girl broke away from her mother, turned around, and went running back into the street. A city bus was barreling straight toward her.
<Look out!> I yelled out of sheer instinct.
There was a scream from the mother. But she was too far away.
I saw Aria's head snap around. She saw the accident about to happen. She dropped her camera and made a tackle-the-runner-on-the-two-yard-line lunge. She hit the girl in the back, knocked her forward, and rolled with the little girl onto the narrow concrete median strip.
The mother came running. The little girl bellowed, but seemed okay. Aria got up and brushed herself off.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: The Yeerks infested an -excellent- choreographer.
Adam: I honestly like to think that this isn't an act, and this is just how an ordinary day for her is like.
Adam: Or him.
Ifi: I like that too!
Adam: Gah, pronouns.
Ifi: Pronouns mean nothing to Yeerks
Adam: Fair point.
Ifi: They just take them on for fun or something.

Adam: Okay, now there is just one thing I would like to address here.
Ifi: Ok
Adam: Why is Visser Three so good at passing as a human?
Ifi: I know!
Adam: As far as we know, he has never had a human host.
Ifi: He got Alloran before humans were discovered.
Ifi: So logically he has had no other host between then and now
Adam: Exactly!
Adam: So when did he have the opportunity to learn to speak the language and use the proper body language and such?
Ifi: Well he does have the Andalite translating chip...
Adam: Oh, true.
Adam: And that does allow Ax to speak English in a human morph, for some reason.
Adam: But still, you'd expect him to be stumbling around and eating everything in sight.
Ifi: I know! I mean come on it's not like he has any self-control whatsoever.
Ifi: <We must take over every Cinnabon in this nation. FOR THE GLORY OF THE YEERK EMPIRE!>
Adam: But apparently, Esplin possess an extraordinary level of subtly in this book that he never displays ever again.
Ifi: I guess nobody mentioned that part to the ghostwriter.
Ifi: Visser Three does not do clever ruses.
Ifi: Visser Three eats you while you are still alive.
Adam: He also gives a rather heartfelt confession near the end.
Adam: But we will get to that later.

Ifi: Have more angst

"That's just stupid," Rachel said angrily. "It doesn't even make sense. You know what? You have to make a choice, Tobias. You can be a hawk. But you will never, ever, not in a million years, be a pure, true hawk. If you want to stay a hawk you'll be like you are now: confused, conflicted, torn up inside, never knowing what you really are. Or…or you can be human again. All human. You can live with the Aria woman and eat at the table and sleep in a bed."
<And never fly,> I said. <Never fly again. Never see with hawk's eyes. Never morph again. I know you guys would all be nice to me, but I'd lose all of you. I'd lose being an Animorph.>
"You wouldn't lose me," Rachel said.
For a long while neither of us spoke. Then Rachel, in a whisper, said, "What am I supposed to do, Tobias? I'm a girl. You're a bird. This is way past Romeo and Juliet, Montagues and Capulets. This isn't Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio coming from different social groups or whatever. It's not like you're black and I'm white like Cassie and Jake. No one but a moron cares about that. We are…we can't hold hands, Tobias. We can't dance. We can't go to a movie together."

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Ugh.
Ifi: You are both idiots and I don't want to deal with you.
Adam: I am trying to think of an appropriately sappy love song to play here.
Adam: Yeah, I got nothing.

Ifi: Anyway, Toby comes up with a plan to save the baby Hork-Bajir, who is still apparently alive and not a Controller, though now that I think about it nobody ever checked to make sure.

Toby got a hard look in her eyes. "Attack! Destroy the entire facility. Even if it means destroying other Hork-Bajir. Even if it means losing Bek."
Even I was shocked. <That's awfully harsh, Toby.>
She smiled grimly. "The Yeerks must not be allowed to think that they can use hostages against us."
"Aren't you kind of missing the point?" Cassie said quietly. "I thought the point was to save Bek."
"No," Toby said. "The point is to defeat the Yeerks. We must be strong. Once we free a Hork-Bajir, he must never be taken again."
"Do you think the Yeerks will respect you? They won't. They'll come after you harder," Cassie pointed out.
Toby nodded. "That is true. But the Hork-Bajir will respect themselves. A fool is strong so that others will see. A wise person is strong for himself. The Hork-Bajir will be strong for the Hork-Bajir. That way, when the Yeerks are all gone, we will still be strong."

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Toby is thinking long, long-term, which is quite odd for this series at all.
Adam: Toby is the only one in this series who does that on a consistent basis.
Adam: And again, less than a year old.

"I fight you," a Hork-Bajir I didn't know said to me as I fluttered along, keeping pace with the group.
"In Yeerk pool. Before. I fight you." He grinned and pointed to a nasty scar across his left eye. Then he pantomimed a bird coming down and raking his face with its talons. "Fal Tagut say 'Aaaahhhh!' "
<I did that? I'm…sorry.>
"No sorry! Fal Tagut not free." He tapped his head with one long claw. "Fal Tagut have Yeerk. Now free. Good! Hork-Bajir and humans friends. Toby say."
It was a long speech for a Hork-Bajir. Fal Tagut seemed worn out by it.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Well that is
Ifi: something
Ifi: I have no idea what to make of this.
Adam: I really like these guys.
Adam: We need another Hork-Bajir Chronicles.
Ifi: Sorry, I am currently all wrapped up in the Controller Chronicles.
Ifi: Maybe someone else will do it for you.
Adam: Somebody else: You heard her.

Ifi: So the Yeerks have some gigantic ridiculous death star laser thing
Ifi: Which Ax sneers at.
Adam: There doesn't seem to be any practical purpose for it.
Ifi: You never know I guess
Adam: I think that Visser Three just wants to vandalize the moon.
Ifi: That's what I would do

Ifi: With the head of a chair, who can blame you for turning to a life of crime? I mean really now.
Adam: It is true.

Jake smiled. "Then we send in three or four Hork-Bajir. It'll look exactly like previous raids. Only these four Hork-Bajir will have hitchhikers on board. They put up a fight, then let themselves be taken. Only then do we demorph and strike."
Marco groaned. "We're not talking fleas again, are we? I hate morphing fleas."

He had good reason. Marco had come very close to being trapped in flea morph. Being trapped as a hawk is one thing. But a flea? I'd rather die.
"Pick a bug, any bug," Rachel said with a laugh. "Flea, fly, mosquito. A bug's a bug."
"Yeah, right," Marco muttered. "I'm an ant and I get chomped in half, I'm a flea and I almost get stuck in morph. I don't have a good record with bugs."
"I got slapped as a fly," Jake offered, like that was helpful.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Adam: Well, that was uncomfortable.
Ifi: And first place for the understatement of the year award goes to Jake Berenson.
Adam: I shall throw confetti.

I swaggered confidently out from behind the toolshed and walked over to the Hork-Bajir who looked like he was in charge.
"They want to see you," I said.
I jerked my head over my shoulder toward the main building. "They."
It's one of the things you can count on in this world: There's always a they.
The Hork-Bajir scowled. The Yeerk in his head was half annoyed, half afraid. "The Visser isn't here yet, is he?"
I turned my head and looked away. Like I wasn't allowed to say more. Now the guy was ten percent annoyed and ninety percent scared. I held out my claw. "Give me the key."
And it was just that simple. He handed me the key. I walked over and unlocked the cage.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: That was refreshingly straightforward.
Adam: I this exact sequence of events happened in an Austin Powers movie.

It came around and swept low. It was a small helicopter. With one of those bubble canopies just large enough to hold a pilot and one passenger.
One human passenger. Nothing else would have fit.
The Hork-Bajir guard had acted as if Visser Three was expected. This had to be him arriving now.
The sun was on the canopy, blinding, hiding the persons inside. An eagle or an osprey might have been able to see better. They're adapted for looking through sunlight on water. But all I could see was the vague outline of a human form. A finger pointing at my friends. And a flash of a pony-tail.
The helicopter roared past, oblivious to me, spinning me roughly in its rotor wash. It disappeared around the far side of the mound.
How could I have been so stupid?

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Derrrrrp
Ifi: Once again, Visser Three proves that he is utterly incapable of delegating.
Adam: It is the truth!
Ifi: He would fight the war single-handedly if they'd let him.
Adam: Why couldn't he get another controller to do this?
Adam: Then he wouldn't have to go to the bathroom every few hours.
Ifi: I guess he gets bored.
Ifi: Nobody wants to hang out with him on the ship, they're too intimidated
Adam: Also, why didn't Tobias find that more suspicious?
Ifi: These are the lengths he goes to for some quality entertainment
Adam: Man, I guess being a Visser is not a fun job at all.
Adam: They don't give you a dental plan until you make it to the Council of Thirteen.

Ifi: Tobias then proceeds to sit on the ground for the rest of the battle until Toby comes by and takes him home.
Adam: Everyone assumes that he was wounded or something, so they just let him be about it.
Ifi: So now Tobias has to go back and see the lawyer because it is his birthday and it is letter-reading time

Aria smiled a big smile. "You must be Tobias," she said.
I remembered seeing her for the first time. Watching her through her window at the hotel, me flying hundreds of feet in the air. Then it struck me. The thing that had bothered me then: Supposedly, she'd been in the African bush for years or whatever. But when she'd left her room, she'd paused to check her hair.
Perfectly appropriate for a normal woman. Just a bit wrong for a woman who spent her days hiding in blinds and racing around in open-topped Land Rovers.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Uh
Ifi: What?
Ifi: Just
Ifi: brain
Adam: So, it is odd for a woman who spends her time in the African wilderness.
Adam: But utterly normal for intergalactic warlords.
Ifi: my...brain...
Adam: Also, all I can think of during that scene was this:

Adam: I bet it was warm and snuggly.
Ifi: So they read the letter

"This will all seem very strange to you, my unknown, unseen, unmet son. But I am not one of your people. I have taken on the form of a human, but I am not human."
My lungs wanted to stop breathing. My heart wanted to stop beating. I felt like suddenly everyone, everything was very close in, like Aria/Visser Three was breathing on my cheek, and the lawyer was leaning clear over his desk to whisper his words right in my ear.
Not human!
A reaction! I needed a reaction!
I rolled my eyes and said, "Oh, man," in as sarcastic a tone as I could manage.
The lawyer glanced at Visser Three, then went on.
"I was in a terrible war. I did terrible things. I had to, I suppose. But I grew tired of war, so I ran away. I went and hid among the people of Earth. Among humans. While on Earth, and living as a human, I took the name Alan Fangor."
The lawyer was quoting from memory now, no longer reading. His eyes were narrowed to slits as he watched me.
"I took the name Alan Fangor. But my true name is Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul."
Time stopped.
I felt like I'd grabbed hold of a million-volt power line. Every cell in my body was tingling.
Elfangor! My father!
I could not let a flicker of recognition appear. Not a movement. Not a widening of the eyes. Nothing! Nothing!
The lawyer had stopped. Visser Three glared at me with a woman's eyes.
I shrugged. "Is that it?"

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Adam: I would have at least acted more incredulous in that situation.
Adam: Given a big dramatic "What?!" and whatnot.
Ifi: Tobias just sits there with his blank hawk face

"But I was part of something larger than myself. I had my duty. There was a great evil I had to fight. There were lives I had to try and save. Including yours and your mother's. I am from a race called Andalites. Duty is very important to us. As it is to many, many humans. I cannot say that I love you, my son, because I do not know you. But know that I wanted to love you. Know that, at least.
"It's signed Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul, Prince."
I barked out a harsh laugh. "Well, that figures, doesn't it?"
"What figures?" the creature calling itself Aria asked.
"My so-called 'real father' shows up and he's some lunatic. Some idiot. Perfect. So: No money, right?"
"No money," DeGroot confirmed.
I stood up. Aria did, too.
"You really want to take me in, or were you just hoping I was going to inherit something?" I demanded.
"I do want to take you in," she said, smiling falsely. "But it may have to wait just a little while. You see, I was suddenly called back to Africa to do some reshooting of…of some lions."

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: Visser Three is phoning it in.
Adam: Yes, see, I was just told about the lions on my…invisible phone here.
Adam: The lions have actually developed the ability to speak, and have told me themselves.
Adam: And with that, I must be off! And awaaaaaaaay
Ifi: Are you done.
Adam: You never can tell, can you?

"Tobias," Aria said.
I turned back to face her. "What?"
"I…I knew your father. We were, shall we say, on the opposite sides of certain issues. But he was no fool." Suddenly Aria/Visser Three smiled. It was a faraway smile, like she/he was remembering something from long ago. "Prince Elfangor-Sirinial-Shamtul was no fool. And the galaxy will not soon see his like again."
I threw up my hands. "Good grief, you're as crazy as he was."
I walked out and closed the door behind me.

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: This book is really something.
Adam: …Did we get a legitimately heartfelt moment from Esplin here?

Ifi: Then Tobias works through whatever his issue was with the rabbit, I don't even know.
Ifi: I think I blocked it out because it was so dumb.
Adam: Okay, this ending bit?
Adam: I honestly found it to be the most disturbing thing in this entire book.
Adam: So he eats the rabbit's mother.
Adam: And then morphs the rabbit, and takes care of the babies.
Adam: That.
Adam: That is just horrible.
Ifi: It was weird enough with the skunks. This is just wtf.
Adam: And it is presented as the moral thing to do!
Adam: With the skunks, it isn't like he ate the mother skunk beforehand.
Ifi: He did eat one of the babies.
Adam: Yeah, but he didn't replace that baby skunk afterwards.
Ifi: I am going to let this one slide because he has had a really strange week and is starting to hallucinate from hunger.
Adam: This is like some Invasion of the Body Snatchers level nonsense going on.

Ifi: Then we get our ending.

That night I went to Rachel's room. She was asleep. She was ticked off when I woke her up. But she rolled out of bed and put on a robe and told me she'd never get any sleep with some idiot bird coming in and out at all hours.
Then she showed me the cake. She lit a candle and I blew it out by flapping my wing. Neither of us sang "Happy Birthday." But she said it.
"Happy birthday, Tobias."

----Book Twenty-Three, The Pretender

Ifi: And then they had sex.
Adam: Stay classy, Ifi.
Adam: …You worry me sometimes.
Ifi: I didn’t make that up. That was in the book.
Adam: You and Michael Mates, you both worry me.
Ifi: Wait who?

Ifi: I think this book had the highest number of independent WTF moments of any book since the Andalite Chronicles.
Ifi: Nevertheless, I really liked it.
Adam: I had mixed feelings about it.
Adam: I mean, I like the Hork-Bajir plot. And I thought the Tobias's family plot was interesting, but it was largely dependent on him carrying the idiot ball nearly the whole time.
Adam: And the whole rabbit thing was just ridiculous
Ifi: At least Visser Three had a good time.
Ifi: You can always tell when he's enjoying himself.
Adam: I am telling you, this is how he spends all his weekends when he isn't off the planet looking for dragons.
Ifi: Checking his hair in the mirror?
Adam: Checking his hair in the mirror, saving kids from getting run over, improving the living conditions of animals.
Ifi: I actually really like that.
Ifi: I like to think he went back and adopted all the animals in that horrible place and then tied up the owners and set the whole thing on fire.
Ifi: I love happy endings.


    This was one of the first animorphs books I ever read. Its weird tot hink about now, but I read it long before I ever read the first book, and before I read the Andalite chronicles. But instead of that making the whole plot feel even mopre shoehorned-in, like it did for ifi, I made it more real. I read earlier books, and I saw the little foreshadowing clues that made it clear that this had been planned, and It made me like the entire series more.
    I love, love, LOVE, your depiction of visser 3 with his kittens. I can totally see him going around freeing mistreated animals :D

  2. The final pictures, with Visser and the kittens and the Facebook part, literally made my day.

    By the way, when exactly Tobias' birthday would be? I'm curious now!

    Ah, and - as I said before - I read this book without having read neither the Andalite Chronicles nor the Hork-Bajir Chronicles. So both the plot points came totally out of nowhere for me.

    1. They specify that it is in the middle of spring and on the 25th. So it's either May or April 25th.

    2. And Adam was born on BOTH OF THOSE DAYS!!!!

    3. (My birthday is May 25th, just for the record.)

  3. Good stuff as usual guys! I always felt this book sort of started the second half of the series as it were. Obviously 23/52 is about halfway and the ghostwriters have different styles than Applegate, but I always felt that the David trilogy was a turning point for the characters emotionally in a sense and we're really into the heart of the series now. Tough to explain, just a feeling.

    1. No I completely agree... I even made an 'updated' version of the pictures I use for the profile pics, because I felt like they'd all aged after the David thing.

  4. Just so you know, this one isn't actually ghostwritten. The Michael Mates guy mentioned is KA Applegate's husband (Michael Grant is a pen name), who co-wrote all the books with her. They put that in as an acknowledgment of him. The ghostwritten books start with #25.

    1. Oh, thank you for that! I shall let Adam know if he ever wakes up today.

    2. I stand corrected! Thanks for letting me know.

    3. ...which means that all the weird stuff Esplin does as Aria in this book is totally legit characterisation by the blessed author! This is officially how he spends his weekends.

  5. Visser Three and the kittens was great, as are the continuing facebook jokes.

    Now about the whole...err...Tobias Rachel thing....guzzles brain bleach...MAKE THE IMAGES GO AWAY!!!

  6. Oh wow. I love that happy ending picture with Visser 3 and the kittens. XD

    (His tail blade's on backwards, though!)

    1. If you pay close attention to all of my drawings, I have never been consistent on the direction that andalite tailblades point.

      Yeah, I really ought to get better about that.

    2. Don't worry about it. Even the official arts can't decide which way they should go. For example the cover arts for the Ax books and the Andalite Chronicles has his tail blade curving away from the body whereas Visser and Hork Bajir shows the blades curving toward the body.

    3. Maybe it's like being right- or left-handed.

  7. Not that there ever needs to be a reason to reference Ghostwriter, but can someone explain the reference?

    1. Referring to the fact that the book was (or so I thought) ghostwritten.

  8. It always bothered me that Toby is at most a little under three years old by the end of the series. I can only assume that the Arn designed the Hork-Bajir to reach maturity quickly so they can start tending to the trees as soon as possible.

    Great review as always!

  9. Toby's improbable age always bugged the hell out of me, too. Particularly the gestation period part - didn't the Visser book state outright that Hork-Bajir have a slower gestation period than humans? At least, Hork-Bajir were classed in the host species level that was marked by low population and/or slow gestation, and I could swear that somewhere in the book slow gestation was mentioned.

    Of course, Toby was such a cool character concept that it's understandable that Applegate basically said, "Meh, forget internal logic, I want badass seer Toby."

    1. Well no. It was specified that Hork-Bajir do have a rather short gestation period. The part in Visser that you are referring to states that they do not breed very often.

  10. Can you imagine how mortified Alloran must be by all this? Saving animals and children and doing his hair? I feel like 80% of the reason for this book was Esplin 9466 wanted a justification to pay back Alloran for driving him insane.

  11. So even though the time has passed and nobody is paying attention to this post much anymore, because I don't know when our next Tobias F. Emohawk POV book will be (and I need to practice typing on my iPhone), here comes

    Trish's Crazy Theory About Tobias:

    He is a commentary on Otherkin from before most people knew Otherkin were a thing that exists.

    Consider: He is a little unpopular Emo wuss with a crappy home life and a ton of issues. "Trapped" inside a beautiful winged creature with the ability to transform who fights a secret war and is so super-important that even God (the Ellimest) takes note. And he is decended from a powerful nonhuman who took a liking to an Earthling. Yeah.

    1. I don't know that this is an accurate characterization of Tobias. I think he has excessive Emo rep because he has the fewest books in the series, so they had to dump a whole series worth of crap on his head. He has six books and Jake has close to twice that, so Jake can have the occasional silly book where they attack a mansion or have jungle dreams or go to a space mall & defeat aliens by the power of kissing.

      Tobias gets hit upside the head with all sorts of crap and he rolls with it better than most of them. This is a relatively happy book for him, because he isn't trapped in a morph or cheated out of his reward or held captive and tortured or forced to return & confront the most traumatic experience of any single one of the group. So yeah, there's angst in his books, but not disproportionately so, and in the megamorphs, when they are all more or less equally featured with no particular emphasis on one member's trauma or drama, Tobias comes across as pretty tough & adaptable, with relatively less navel gazing than his teammates.

      I don't know what an Otherkin is, so I can't speak to that portion of your comparison, but characterizing him as an "Emo wuss" with a "ton of issues" is a bit unfair. Proportionately, he gets the most stuff dropped on him and the most picked-on by fate. He also gets none of the praise and awe that Cassie gets for her whining about made-up morality and artificially-imposed ethics, and he dumps none of this stuff on his teammates. They never stop and go "oh we have to be sensitive about this because Tobias' mom/brother is a controller, or Tobias feels very strongly about this, that or the other thing," like they do for Cassie, Jake & Marco.

    2. And even when they were extra sensitive about Tobias's torute in book 43 he got hella pissed at them

  12. Trish- what is an Otherkin? Is that something from one of KA's other books?

    The Tobias book after this one, he is CAPTURED, EXPERIMENTED ON & TORTURED by a sub-visser who is the only one of Visser Three's subordinate crazier than he is.

    The Tobias book after THAT has him morphing a Taxxon (with all the same horror from the Andalite Chronicles) to help that same now-disgraced sub-visser blow up the Yeerk Pool.

    The 6th and final Tobias book has him meet the adult Loren, his mother who was blinded in a car accident (adn started babbling about aliens) and voluntarily gave him up to a lifetime of neglect. He gets to try and forge a relationship with her and explain everything.

    Yeah, Tobias is sort of the universe's bitch whenever it's his turn to narrate.

    I wonder what it'd be like for Visser Three to meet Loren again after all these years, reminsce about old times...

    1. An otherkin is something that you do not want to google search unless you are okay with suffering a good degree of emotional trauma.

  13. The rabbit thing is representative of his struggle with the human and hawk natures. That conflict comes out because of the change in his status. Back in his first book, he started the book staying in friends' houses and eating food they left out for him and in the course of the book made the decision to move into the woods and start hunting, despite attempting suicide in horror after the first time he killed an animal for food. In the next book he was all fine with the hawk lifestyle despite beginning to miss having access to human stuff, but then he got his morphing power and human morph back, so now he could partake of human stuff again.

    That's where it stands with him in this one - his ability to engage in human life to a small extent has shifted his thinking back towards the humanity, and he is more tempted by human things like a family and a home, and Rachel's suggestion that he stay human forever is not rejected out of hand. Because his brain has been shifting more to humanity, he is back to the perspective of a human who thinks about how the hawk-rabbit dynamic feels for the bunnies, and he has trouble killing cute things. By contrast, he ate one of the skunk babies a little while back with no apology, but now he feels the human empathy for cute little critters and can't bring himself to take a baby. That is the significance of his ultimate decision with the rabbit - despite staying a hawk and eating the rabbits for food, he selects his victim according to his human standards: eat the adult, and spare & protect the sympathetic little babies.

    Like in the first Tobias-narrated book, he adjusts to his new status quo and finds his balance between his human and raptor natures. The balance had to be readjusted from what he found in Book #3, because now he had more human options.

  14. The "frolic" picture is now the wallpaper for my laptop. I also use "lolax" as the profile icon. Just to impress/disturb people when I use it in public.

    Between this one and The Decision, I am really loving the Facebook status updates. More please! :D

    1. I may just make that picture my wallpaper as well. XD

  15. Visser Three's Facebook. . . There are no words.

    This was one of the(if not -the-)first books I ever read in the series. It's still one of my favorites. Probably picked it up because bunnies were one of my favorite animals at the time. That and, "LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY COLOURS! THERE'S A BOY AND A BIRDIE AND A BUNNY! BEST BOOK EVER!! :D"

    "And then they had sex." I died.

    1. Well come ON.

      You know they did.

    2. Tobias specifically repudiates any physical attraction to Rachel in this very book. His visual appreciation is purely aesthetic. Also, they haven't been dating all that long. In fact, I'd say this is their first book in which they are boyfriend/girlfriend. It's certainly the first book where they acknowledged anything verbally. First date is a bit soon for 13 & 14 years old. Hell, 13 & 14 is practically still children. That's not even jailbait yet.

      The delivery of that line was superb, however.

  16. So many Visser Three/Elfangor Foe Yay vibes in this book. I thought that even when I was too young to be thinking things like that all the time.

    Nowadays I so much of the (admittedly small amount) of Animorphs fanfic I see is about all the gender weirdness possible with morphing. Never occurred to me as a kid. :(

    1. And like the only time they ever make an issue of it was Marco whining about being the female wolf in book 3. Rachel's signature morphs are all male: eagle, bear, elephant, even the cat which was her first cover illustration & Hork-Bajir, which was the first alien/sentient morph anyone of them had done, and included her doing male dominance rituals. Gender? Whats' that? Also, V3, Tobias & Marco all morph women at various times during the series, AND Tobias not only morphs a female Hork-Bajir, but the one who is currently doing the male his own love interest morphs.

  17. So girls in Africa never check their hair?

  18. Um.....Ifi, I don't think you realized it, but you just revealed the last name of Jake.That's not supposed to be revealed till, like, book 53.
    Just an honest, sincere suggestion

    1. lol are you serious? We say his last name all the time. It's not a big secret, the finale was published ages ago. It does not require spoiler tags.

  19. Like a surprising number of people, this was one of my first "Animorphs" books. (Did the series suddenly get popular around Book #23? Maybe it was because that's about when the TV show was on. It wasn't good, but it got me interested.) I remember my parents getting me this one and "The Alien" for Christmas; I guess they just (correctly) thought I would like the ones with the weirdest covers.

    When I first read this, the "let-animals-vote" line totally cracked me up. Today, the Cinnabon and Aria-flying-away thing did as well.

    I think Elfangor as Tobias' father made more sense to me BEFORE I read "The Andalite Chronicles." At least then I didn't have to worry about time travel.

  20. You know, I always figured that the little kid who ran into traffic for no reason was a Controller. Visser 3 probably enlisted other Yeerks to help him with his plan to make Aria look like this great, caring woman.

  21. Just read this one, and I've got TWO almost-interesting things to add:

    When Tobias is chilling with the Hork-Bajirs, he mentions their inability to get humor and says something along the lines of "Marco would go crazy if he had to spend a whole day with a Hork-Bajir". If I remember correctly, doesn't he relocate to the valley after the whole faking-his-death thing? In fact, I think they all end up living there near the end. Interesting comment in retrospect.

    The other thing--this book surprised me by making references to both Cassie and Jake being of different races (when Rachel is explaining that SHE AND TOBIAS CAN'T HOLD HANDS), and Tobias questioning the odds of humanity accepting the Hork-Bajir if the Boy Scouts can't accept "some gay kid". Combined with the "peeping tom" stuff, this book seemed a little more "edgy" than usual.

  22. I actually never read any of the Chronicles books, so all of that stuff about Toby and about Elfangor being Tobias's father came as a surprise to me, too. Actually, I think The Change was one of the books that I didn't get my hands on for quite some time, so the free Hork-Bajir themselves were perhaps slightly unexpected when I first read this book.