Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Ellimist Chronicles

The Summary
Toomin (screenname Ellimist) is a young Ketran hooligan who spends all day playing Spore. One day, he is lucky enough to get assigned to an exploration ship just before the planet is attacked by an alien race who thinks that the games the Ketrans play are real. The Ketrans are almost completely wiped out, and Toomin and the few survivors take the ship and look for a new home.

Fifty years pass, and still the Ketrans can't find a home because they have ridiculously high standards. They go to check out a moon, which turns out to be overrun by a giant tentacle sponge monster that calls itself Father. Father murders everyone except Toomin and forces Toomin to play all sorts of games with him. After a few thousand years, Toomin finally beats Father at music and then absorbs Father the same way that Father has absorbed so many others.

Now ridiculously powerful and boasting a decentralized cybernetic spaceship body, Ellimist goes around forcing all the other species in the galaxy to not murder each other. It goes pretty well until Crayak shows up and starts murdering everyone. Ellimist is super depressed and hides out with early Andalites for a while until he realizes that if he creates a bajillion different alien races, Crayak won't be able to kill them all.

Crayak is mad, so he tricks Ellimist into falling into a black hole, which gives him the godlike powers and innate understanding of space-time that we are familiar with. Crayak realizes that he wants this too, so he jumps into a black hole as well. Now equals, the two decide that they need to make some rules for this new game they're going to play.

The Review
Ifi: Of all the xenofiction I've ever read, this is the most xenoficticious
Adam: Oh yes.
Ifi: The alien species were so well developed and intricate that I almost didn't feel like I was reading Animorphs at all.
Adam: Out of all the books in the series, this one really gives the sense that there is a massive universe out there where there are other stories going on independently of the Animorphs.
Adam: It's exactly the sort of thing I wish we had gotten more of.
Ifi: Right? If the Andalites or the Yeerks or ANYONE got even a tenth of the development that the Ketrans got, I would be a happy Ifi.
Adam: What's particularly impressive is that we get this whole impression of an alien society without even getting a full description of what the things look like.

Ifi: Let's talk about this...rather underwhelming cover
Adam: Oh good, so I am not the only one who thinks so.
Adam: Out of all the potential imagery from this book, you leave us with a picture of Gandalf standing around in smoke.
Adam: It's not just that it's a bad cover. (Which honestly it is, mostly on account of just being kind of boring.)
Adam: It's that it's such a massively wasted opportunity.
Ifi: Yeah, that was my thing. This book is easily the largest of the series in terms of scope, but the cover does nothing to convey this fac.t
Ifi: In fact, like you said, it gives the impression that the story will be boring
Ifi: When it's not. The story is amazing. The story could be a whole series by itself.

Adam: The inside cover is a little nicer looking, but is arguably even more disappointing, if for slightly different reasons.

Adam: I get that they they want to connect this to the Animorphs series more directly. It makes sense from an editorial perspective.
Adam: But one of the things that I like about this book is that it isn't the Animorphs’ story.
Adam: So giving them such prominence just seems misleading.
Ifi: One Animorph makes a small appearance, though she isn't identified (but we all know who she is by now)
Adam: And that's really just for the sake of having a framing device, which is pretty much tradition for these books by now.
Ifi: Also it gives away that one of the main six is going to die at the end.
Ifi: (Though honestly, they've all 'died' at least once so I didn't take it seriously at the time)

Adam: Now, one other thing I'd like to discuss is the size of this book.
Adam: Like you said, this is larger in scope than anything else in the series.
Adam: But it's the shortest of any of the Chronicles books, (only a little longer then a normal book in the series.)
Adam: And unlike Hork-Bajir Chronicles and Visser, this one was only released in soft cover.
Adam: Which is a shame, because this book really deserved something special visually.
Ifi: I think this was because it was before the Harry Potter craze kicked up and taught publishers that kids would read longer books, so Applegate was forced to cut parts.
Ifi: This thing could have been a sprawling epic and I would not have complained

Adam: So, enter Toomin.
Ifi: Toomin is a young hooligan who spends all day playing the Sims
Adam: It's really closer to Spore, honestly.
Ifi: The point is to not let your civilization die, and Toomin kind of sucks at this.

Adam: Before we get into that, I would just like to point of that this book predates Spore by about 8 years, which I find kind of impressive.
Ifi: I actually noticed that too.
Adam: So yes.
Ifi: Also I spent like fifteen minutes on the first two or three pages, just trying to take in all the worldbuilding.
Ifi: There is culture and traditions and slang and anatomy and and and
Ifi: *falls over*
Adam: And it wasn't even the worldbuilding of the main characters.
Adam: There is that much effort put into worldbuilding of an in-universe videogame.
Adam: Which admittedly has worldbuilding as the main concept.
Ifi: To be fair, it is a very impressive videogame that boasts over a million different scenarios
Adam: And completing them all just nets you a lousy certificate.

Ifi: Now, Toomin's species, the Ketrans, are these insane bird-things that live on floating crystals underneath the surface of a planet.
Ifi: The crystals are kept aloft by the Ketrans holding on to it and BEATING THEIR WINGS
Adam: It is implied that there is something either about the crystals or the atmosphere or something that keeps smaller crystals naturally aloft.
Adam: But the big ones require 90% of the equivalent of a large city to stay attached at all times.
Ifi: The book states that they COULD fit it with an engine...but nobody wants to.
Ifi: So everyone just takes shifts

Ifi: Actually yeah that basically sums up the Ketrans
Adam: Well, if they didn't keep the crystal aloft, they'd basically all be Ketrans on the roof.
Adam: But yes, it does work as a comparison.
Adam: The Ketrans started their compulsion to stay near the crystal at all times as a way to keep their society alive, but it ultimately starts to hold them back once they develop the capacity to move past it.

"Hey, Lackofa," I called up, using my spoken voice rather than a uninet memm. His head jerked, causing his rather long and art-fully unkempt quills to quiver. He blinked un-adorned eyes. He peered around at the sky, as though unsure where the sound could have come from. Finally, slowly, reluctantly, he lowered his magenta gaze to me. "Toomin. What is it?"

"I lost another game."

"Ah. Well, I can certainly understand why you would feel the need to inform me personally of a fact that, were I remotely interested, I could learn from the net."

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: I love Lackofa.
Ifi: I love him so much.
Ifi: I think he's my favorite character in the whole book.
Adam: Okay, maybe this is just me, but the relationship between these two is basically Squidward and Spongebob Squarepants.


Ifi: So the Ketrans are going to outer space or whatever. They've built a crystal ship and they're going to explore some shit.
Ifi: Everyone wants to be on the crew, including Toomin and his friends, despite the fact that they have no skills.
Adam: Lackofa's going, because he's actually spent his freeflight time doing something with his life.
Adam: Toomin on the other hand isn't just a slacker, but an inept slacker at that.

Ifi: So Toomin and the other hooligans go to listen to the announcements to see if they got picked from the lottery to do the space exploration thingwhatsit
Adam: Apparently Ketran society likes to take semirandom civilians on interplanetary explorations.
Adam: Which is nice of them, I guess?
Ifi: Let's face it, nobody has anything to do.
Adam: I can honestly think of a dozen ways which a layman could accidentally mess up some sensitive equipment and kill everyone, but maybe that's just me.
Ifi: So Toomin obviously gets picked, as well as a girl named Aguella.
Ifi: Despite being so far out of his league that's it's almost funny, she flirts with him and throws pheromones at him and all that.
Adam: Toomin is hilarious inept at talking to females, and I am torn between laughing at his expense and sympathy.

I returned to my dock, barely making it in time. I clamped on and yelled up to Lackofa.

"Hey! Hey! Lackofa!"

He opened his eyes and favored me with his usual disapproving scowl. "What now?"

"I made it. I'm nonessential!"

"As nonessential as it is possible to be," he said dryly.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: Have I mentioned I love this guy?

Adam: Lackofa is actually the one who sponsored Toomin in the first place, so now he gets to regret Toomin showing him cat gifs and requesting he preview a Let's Play for the whole trip.

"Yes, and don't play coy with me. You know you're smarter than gamers who beat you regularly. You lose games you should win, not deliberately, but stubbornly. You're playing the game at a different level. Not trying to win, trying to win with kindness. Altruism."

I was embarrassed. Amazed that. Lackofa had been paying attention to me at a level that I never suspected.

"Anyway," Lackofa said. "We have any number of brilliant scientists, brilliant analysts, brilliant communicators, brilliant theoreticians, brilliant physicists, brilliant techs, and brilliant astronomers on board the MCQ3. I asked myself what we didn't have, and the answer came to me. We had no brilliant losers. So, yes, I sponsored you. Now please shut up, I have work to do."

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Adam: And the award for most backhanded compliment goes to...

Ifi: Another city-crystal comes by to visit
Ifi: Filled with dangerous radicals who do things like stick wings on their cities and vote about stuff and want to send data into space.
Adam: When will the madness end?
Adam: Now, there is something that puzzles me about this.
Adam: It's specified that the high level of background radiation on their planet makes crystal-to-crystal telecommunication pretty much impossible.
Adam: So if the individual crystals have so little contact with one another, why do they all speak the same language?
Ifi: You're nitpicking language? In this series?
Adam: …touche

We Four-Effed: flew free, fast, and furious. Not a moment to be lost. Aguella, being female, was faster than me, of course, but she restrained her im-patience to allow me to keep up. I rode her wind, staying just behind her. This had the advantage of offering me a view that included both the amazing soon-to-be airfoil and Aguella herself. She had lovely pods.

Not the point, Toomin, I thought. Not really what you need to be thinking about right now.

Mones! She was spreading the mones for me! For me? No, surely not Aguella could have any male she wanted. She was beautiful, well formed, sturdy, intelligent, funny, beautiful, very beautiful.

That was several too many "beautifuls," I said to myself. It was true then: Aguella was
spreading mones. And I was helpless in her slipstream.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: omg Aguella you slut
Adam: Oh gosh, poor Toomin.
Adam: Ladies on his planet apparently have the ability to play move their quills sensuously in tune with the background music on command.

"Maybe someday we'll be able to play against them," Aguella said.

"Maybe sooner than you think," I said, remembering the Polars' strange, constrained looks when I mentioned crystal-to-crystal communication.

Had the Polars solved that problem? That would be a true revolution, far more profound even than replacing the government of the Wise Ones.

Of course their transmission would be pretty pointless until other crystals had receivers. Otherwise they'd be a voice crying in the wind, unheard.

So I thought, and comforted myself with that illusion.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: This is like that part in the horror movie where the whole audience screams "HE'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!" at the screen, to no avail.
Adam: But enough thinking, we get to go on a spaceship!

Ifi: So a few days before launch, Toomin and Aguella are doing grunt work on the ship.

"You have to be careful not to drop any," Jicklet said. "We're right above the engines. You don't want to be down there in an en-suit burning it off the pods. There you go. Good work. Now polish it down and give me a yell when you're ready for me to look it over."

She beat wing and elevated to the other pair of amateurs she was supervising. Aguella and I shared a sigh of relief that she was gone.

And then Equatorial High Crystal blew apart.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: Uh
Ifi: Damn.

Adam: Well, I suppose this is as convenient a day for an alien invasion as any.
Adam: The Ketrans as a whole have no weapons, and are pretty much a great big target for the invading Capasins.
Adam: Which after thinking about it, does make a certain degree of sense.
Adam: Well, the Ketrans need to keep their populations above a certain number in order to ensure that the crystals stay in the air.
Adam: So if they were to go to war, and even if say, 15% of their population was killed off, it would pretty much be guaranteed genocide for both sides.
Adam: Hence the lack of weapons development.
Ifi: So everyone dies horribly

But the alien ship wasn't done with its work. This time no beam weapon. This time it sprayed a cloud of flechettes. Small, so small they could barely be seen with the naked eye, millions of tiny shredding metal hooks. The sound was like a volcano blowing. The flechettes sprayed or five seconds, no more, but at the end of that time every unshielded Ketran was torn apart.

The entire crystal might have been dipped in blood.

The bodies began to fall away. The crystal itself began to fall. Straight down, down, and gathering speed, with no one left to hold it up any longer. It would take a long time to fall three hundred miles.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: D:

Adam: The crew of the Emcee escapes up into space.
Adam: While the crystal basically falls down to the surface and kills everyone.
Ifi: All the other crystal-cities are hit as well, though Toomin manages to steal one of the Caspain fighters and do some damage
Adam: He breaks one of the central tenants of Ketran law to do so, but nobody except him really cares.
Adam: Also, at this point it is mentioned that the Ketran atmosphere is ridiculously, impossibly thick.
Adam: The crystal falls 300 miles to the surface.
Adam: The breathable atmosphere on Earth, by contrast, is about 30 miles.
Adam: Now, I was previously under the impression that Ket had much lighter gravity then us, in order for it to be possible to keep those crystals floating.
Adam: But to have an atmosphere that thick, that wouldn't be possible.
Adam: In other words, Adam's brain is breaking slightly just trying to figure out how this sort of environment functions.
Ifi: idklol
Adam: Thank you for that brilliant insight.

Adam: Anyway, back to the genocide.

The Capasins were surface dwellers, had to be. They flew their ships like surface dwellers, more in two dimensions than three.


"They're disabled!" Lackofa cried triumphantly

I fired again. Not thinking. Not intellectualizing the decision, just knowing. I fired and the beam missed.

"What are you doing? She's disabled," Lackofa said.

Careful aim this time. I fired and held the ring down. The Capasin ship blew apart, a thousand small fragments.

"Now she's disabled," I whispered.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: Bad. Ass.
Adam: Well, Toomin's basically lived and breathed pop culture his entire life, it's not surprising that he had a few witty one-liners backed up in his head.
Ifi: Also, they run into the remnants of the crazy super radical democratic self-propelling crystal and get an explanation for all this

"What signals did you bounce through Z-space, Polar?" I asked.
"Can't you guess, my Equatorial friend? Simple mathematical formulas at first, for the earliest tests. But we had to see whether the system could handle heavy data traffic."

"Mother Sky, you broadcast games! You bounced games through Z-space."

"Yes. Brilliant, wasn't it?" Menno sneered. "Except for the slight, small fact, that some species don't know the difference between games and reality. These aliens are here to exterminate us because they've seen our games and believe them to be real. They think we make toys of other species: That we interfere with their development with utter indifference to the results. They aren't here to do evil. They're here to annihilate what they believe to be a race of murderers."

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Adam: Menno
Adam: Menno
Adam: Why did you do that?
Ifi: The moral of the story is WoW will ruin your life.
Adam: Seriously, what could have been the thought process behind that decision.
Adam: Do you know what radio signals NASA sent up into space?
Adam: Math equations and the Beatles.
Ifi: On a lighter note, I wonder how aliens would react if we bounced some MTV at them?
Ifi: I wouldn't even be mad.
Adam: Wait.
Adam: Actually, I think I figured it out.
Adam: The folks over at Menno's home crystal are experimenting with democracy.
Adam: But they haven't figured out how to properly regulate it yet.
Adam: So they basically allowed their internet to decide what to send up into space.
Adam: This is their equivalent of the winning entry of the "what to name the next Mountain Dew flavor" contest being "Hitler did nothing wrong."
Adam: (which is a real thing, I will add)

Ifi: goddamnit /b/
Adam: Indeed.

Ifi: Anyway that's basically the end of the Ketrans. There's seventy-some survivors but let's face it, their race is over.

Ifi: Then there is a disappointing time skip.
Adam: Now everyone is old and depressed.
Adam: But at least they are old and depressed in space.

We had learned to expect nothing. We'd learned to discount every encouraging datum and to believe every ill omen. Seventy-nine systems in sixty-three years. And that was only the systems worth investigation. How many other systems had we visited solely for the purpose of mining mineral-rich asteroids, or to accumulate hydrogen?

It was what we did. It was who we were now. The Ket: less than a hundred wanderers in search of a new home.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: Why the hell are you being so picky?
Ifi: They cannot accept that they will never find another radioactive lava acid ocean planet with floating crystal islands in the sky.
Adam: It comes down to the whole "tradition" thing from earlier.
Adam: They're so focused on maintaining their prior lifestyles that they refuse to admit that it's no longer possible.
Ifi: Then one day the Ketrans decide to check out some moon or another, because what the hell, why not.
Adam: It's covered almost entirely by ocean, but they're bored, so even if it isn't possible to colonize, at least it might be something new to look at.
Ifi: And one of the girls thought she saw something shiny.
Adam: Sounds like a good enough reason to me!

Adam: Unfortunately this was a bad idea.
Adam: Because, oops, giant tentacle monster.

"The creature that has us appears to be quite large. Unless I'm getting false readings I show a continuous nervous-electrical system extending out to the limits of the sensors. This thing extends beyond the horizon. In every direction!"

I did a quick mental calculation; the circumference of the moon, distance to horizon…

"It has to be a sensor glitch," I said. "Nothing is that big."

"We're moving," Lackofa pointed out quite dispassionately. I had already felt the motion. We were being drawn lower

"Okay. Shock the hull," I ordered.

The lights dimmed as power was diverted into the hull's metallic components. Anything in contact with us would receive a severe jolt.

"It still has us," Lackofa pointed out unnecessarily.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Adam: At of all the places in the universe, they landed on planet Cthulhu.
Ifi: Toomin cannot, and never will, catch a break
Adam: It is literally built into the universe.
Ifi: Then Toomin wakes up at home.
Adam: Oh. Well, I guess that worked out okay in the end.
Adam: So Toomin goes back to playing video games. The end.

"Father's reach goes beyond the water," Menno said. "He controls everything on this moon. We were skimming the surface, trying frantically to fit out one of the fighters to go in after you. And all at once a wall of water impossible, of course—it rose up from nowhere, a wave a half mile high. And you're right: The Searcher doesn't do well in water."

"Aguella?" I asked.

"Right here," she said.

"How did you…Are you all right?"

"I was killed, Toomin. We all were. All but you."

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: It's true.
Ifi: Hey do you want to see their dead bodies?
Adam: Nope?
Adam: Well, too bad.

And all at once the crystal was gone, the sky gone. I was underwater. Underwater but breathing. Something held me. Tentacles. Deep worms, they were inside me! The tendrils grew into me, penetrated me, made me a part of them.

I floated, tethered, in a field of tentacles that spread as far as the eye could see. Menno floated nearby, tethered, penetrated, incorporated. His eyes were closed. His chest had burst open. I could see his insides.

A few feet away—Aguella. My lovely Aguella. Tied. Attached. A dead thing grafted onto the creature called Father.

Lackofa. Jicklet. Bodies, more and more, I twisted to see more and more. They were all
around me, some seemingly uninjured, others torn apart by impact wounds or by sudden depressurization.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: This book.
Adam: Indeed.

Ifi: So Father has a huge collection of dead bodies, which all become a part of him.
Ifi: He can tap into their brains, even though they are dead.
Ifi: He is basically a pile of corpses.
Ifi: Spread out across a small planet.

Adam: Come to think of it, I still have to read Solaris.

How many spacecraft had been drawn to this blue moon? Father was old. He had been old before the first sentient lit his first rocket.

"What do you want with me?" I cried.

Menno said, "It is lonely with only the dead for company. I want to play a game, Ellimist."

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: And here we go.
Adam: Man, this next part.
Adam: So cool.
Ifi: Father has a billion games from a billion different people.
Ifi: We are going to play all of them.
Ifi: Allllll of them.
Ifi: And true to form, Toomin loses all of them.
Ifi: Alllll of them.
Adam: Y'know, you play tic tac toe enough, and you eventually tie every game.
Adam: But Toomin would probably still lose.

Ifi: Then one day, Father comes up with a new game
Ifi: a different kind of game

Adam: This whole scenario has this whole 1940's era nightclub noir feel to it, which I just adore.

We, me and Father in the person of Menno, were performers at one end of the room on a raised platform. We each held a tool of some sort. A long thing, nearly my own body length, a sort of flattened, whimsically shaped board. And stretched along the board were seven taut strings. There was a mouthpiece as well that reached up to where I could, by bending my neck just a little, place it in my mouth.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: I guess if you play enough games for hundreds of years, you're bound to eventually find something Toomin doesn't suck at.
Adam: And apparently if you beat Father once, then it hurts his self esteem so badly that he keeps losing afterwards.

Ifi: In the meantime, Toomin figures out how to download the dead brains into his own brain, which also deletes them from Father
Adam: Not sure how his brain has the processing capacity for that, but hey, plot.

The last mind I absorbed was Father himself. And when I took him, I took nothing. There was no Father. No mind at all. He was nothing but a sponge, in the end. A creature of the simplest biology, an accident of evolution: a predator sponge that linked with its prey.

Father was nothing but his victims. Andwhen I had absorbed and cut him off from all of his victims, Father was nothing more than so much seaweed.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: God this is so creepy.
Adam: So cool.
Ifi: Oh my God I just realized
Ifi: It's Pandora
Ifi: It's Pandora!
Adam: ?
Ifi: The planet, from Avatar
Adam: The whole "living planet" concept predates that by decades, though.
Adam: I mentioned Solaris before, I think that might be the first use of a Genus Locii type planet in a scifi context, though I could be mistaken.
Adam: That came out in 1961.

Ifi: Anyway, Toomin is not done encountering eldrich abominations
Adam: Somehow he manages to swim his way to shore, and upgrades himself into this awesome postsingularity techno-organic demigod thing.
Ifi: And he spends the next millennium enforcing peace and all that
Adam: LAME

It was as if the galaxy had conspired to make sense of my disjointed, fractured, bizarre life. I had been a wastrel Ketran gamer. I had been a survivor of mass destruction. I had been a Zspaceship captain. I had been a helpless captive, forced to be a new type of gamer. I had evolved into something the galaxy had never seen before, a melding of many technologies, the minds of many civilizations, all flowing in and through a matrix of music. And now that strange resume seemed to match perfectly with a job that needed doing. I would be a peacemaker. And more: I would foster the growth and advancement of species. I would teach them the ways of peace. The massacre of my own people by the Capasins would not be repeated on any other world. Not so long as I was present!

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: Fuck your prime directive
Adam: And true to form, he does a sucky job at that as well.
Ifi: He doesn't do badly, per se...he just has a very limited view, even with all his power. He's still a hooligan kid.

Then he showed himself to me. I saw with a shock that he was like me: As much machine as biological. But his biology was entirely different. He was evolved for the surface, or perhaps even for a subterranean life. No wings would ever lift those massive, muscled limbs. And no creature with that single, dominating red eye could ever navigate easily in three dimensions.

"I am called Crayak. Of course, that's just my game name." He laughed a knowing laugh, a ridiculing, belittling sound.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Adam: Ah, been waiting for you to show up.
Ifi: Apparently he'd been crashing on some other universe’s couch for a while until finally the owner kicked him out for being a mooch.
Adam: Ah, but now that he's finally arrived, I can finally share my pet theory about the Crayak.
Adam: Been waiting to do this for months now.
Ifi: Go for it
Adam: Well, one of the prevailing themes in the Animorphs series is the idea that everything ultimately comes in shades of gray. There is no true evil, and when terrible things happen, it is a result of bad circumstances that we are born into.
Adam: So the idea of a being in this series that is basically pure evil, really makes no thematic sense.
Adam: Now, when the Crayak shows up, he gives them impression that he has been watching Toomin, or at least observed his effects for quite some time before making his presence known.
Adam: My theory is that this has been going on for quite some time earlier, and in fact he is directly responsible for Toomin's ascension to godhood.
Adam: In particular, the Capasins have some notable similarities to the Howlers, particularly the giant blue eyes and the fondness for guns that shoot lots of tiny knives. So they may be some sort of predecessor to them.
Adam: So ultimately, the Crayak found Toomin, had his world destroyed, and then led him to Father, so that ultimately he would have some kind of fair opponent.
Adam: Or possibly a companion of sorts, even.
Ifi: Shippers gon ship
Adam: I totally ship it.
Ifi: Haha
Adam: But really, Crayak claims to be a proponent of an extreme form of social Darwinism. But to what end, really?
Adam: My personal guess is that he wants someone to ultimately become powerful enough to do him in. Maybe he regrets everything he's done, or his past actions before ascension have resulted in some severe self loathing. But the scifi equivalent of Satan just doesn't make real sense in the Ani-verse, so somewhere in his past there has to be some sort of sympathetic backstory.
Adam: End rant

"Not many," Crayak said. "No, often you've succeeded admirably. Your solution to the Mamathisk self-annihilation game was brilliant. Subtle. Effective. You redirected them to a life of productive peace. I had to go in and destroy them myself."

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Adam: Dude!
Adam: Uncool, man.
Ifi: It is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, as you can see.
Adam: That's like completing your pokedex, only to come home and find that your brother erased your file when you were away
Ifi: This pretty much sets the tone for their relationship. Crayak calls the Ellimist over and says, "Watch me kill these people." Ellimist says, "No!" And tries to stop him, with varying degrees of success.
Ifi: This happens for like, a few thousand years until the Ellimist says, "Fuck it" and runs away.
Adam: He ends up in orbit around a little planet that we are all pretty familiar with at this point.
Adam: No, not Earth.

I looked at myself as my new self looked at me. With eyes and ears and deep-probing sensors. I observed the biological me; I was a strong beast standing firmly on four hooved legs. I had a slender upper body, not so much different from my own Ketran torso, but with, only, two arms and no wings at all.

The four eyes were familiar but on this creature evolution had invented the wonderful device of movable stalks so that two of the eyes could be aimed in divergent directions. I had shaggy blue-and-tan fur and a tail weapon of limited utility. I ate by running, by crushing grasses within my hollow hooves and digesting bulk and nutrients. I had no mouth.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: So he runs around with Andalites for a while, which explains why he favors them so much in his later appearances.
Ifi: The Andalites at this point are barely out of the stone age.
Adam: They aren't even in the stone age. I don't think they have tools yet at this point.
Ifi: Well when you have a tail-blade, inventing the spear isn't really a priority
Adam: So how did their hands develop, anyway?
Ifi: From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes no sense.
Adam: There doesn't seem to be anything about their environment that would cause dexterity to be an advantageous trait or anything

Adam: Toomin builds himself an Andalite body and joins a tribe for a couple of decades.
Ifi: He even marries a lady Andalite and has a baby.
Ifi: But it dies.
Adam: I feel like they are just doing this so they can follow the formula of the other three chronicles books.
Ifi: Well, he learns something important from it.

Tree came to me and made the hand-words for "child."

"You want to have another child?" I signed back, incredulous.


"But another child may die, too, my wife."


"Then why have another child? If not the disease, then the monsters, or a famine. Why have another child?"

"Disease take one," Tree admitted. Then, with growing defiance, "Monster take one. Famine take one. More children, some live."

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Adam: The moral of the story is to have lots of babies
Ifi: When you're a new species, that's basically how it is, actually.
Ifi: Toomin just decides to apply this on a larger scale

I had gone there making sanctimonious noises about learning, never really expecting to learn anything new. And yet from these primitive, precivilized creatures l had learned how to defeat, or at least resist, Crayak. More children, some live.

For every race Crayak exterminated, I would plant two new ones.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Adam: His first attempt at this, as to be expected, is a furry OC.
Ifi: Screw you I love the Pemalites
Adam: Everyone loves the Pemalites, it's literally written into their genetic code.

And, for the first time, I grew a wholly new species. They were invented in my body/ship, created of bits and pieces of DNA. I accented their intelligence. I quashed their aggressiveness.

I called them Pemalites.

To the Pemalites I gave technology. They became an advanced species within a few decades of my creating them. As their creator, I gave them laws: They would never practice violence, and they would conceal their existence as long as possible.

And I gave them a mission: to carry life everywhere.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: The more we learn about the Pemalites, the sadder I get.
Adam: Well, they do a good job while they were around.
Adam: Still, Toomin, you really ought to check in on your kids every once in a while.
Ifi: I think the issue is that Toomin is sort of unable to comprehend time as well. So he turns around and oh hell, has it been a thousand years?
Adam: Well, your comprehension of time gets like that the older you get, and he's pushing into the millions at this point, so it is understandable.

Ifi: Then Ellimist and Crayak engage in some fisticuffs.

He ran. I chased. I ran. He chased. And as the battle raged through normal space and Zerospace we each grew. That was the strange paradox of it: We each grew stronger. Each more deadly. Each more accomplished at inflicting pain and damage on the other.

We had become symbiotic at some level. Neither of us could kill the other, neither of us could pull away because now, now after so much time, now the other was even stronger.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Adam: And that's why lensman arms races are bad, mkay?
Ifi: Check out this mutually abusive relationship.
Adam: Are there any cosmic beings who they could go to for counseling?
Ifi: Then the Ellimist slips on a banana peel and falls into a black hole.

The universe itself seemed to disintegrate. The stars fell apart, opened themselves up like blossoming flowers. And then…and then…

I seemed to float in a place like nothing I had seen or imagined. All around me I saw massive, twisted lines of pure power, snapping and color-shifting. I saw numbers, deluges of them, I could hear them roaring around my ears. I reached out a vast hand and could run it over the curves of space itself. I could stroke the very curves of space-time.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: You know what, I don't think that's what happens when...
Ifi: Oh, forget it.

Adam: I think the implication was that this happened because he was both inside and outside the singularity at the same time, so his consciousness spread throughout the whole universe.
Adam: Then again, I could just be pulling this out of my bum.
Ifi: Nah, it actually works in context. It's only afterwards when we analyze it that it sounds kind of silly.
Adam: Then again, can you think of a way for someone to ascend to proper godhood without it sounding a bit silly?

Ifi: Eventually Crayak figures out how the Ellimist has gotten so powerful, and presumably throws himself into a black hole as well.
Ifi: Then the two of them just stare at each other as they slowly realize that they have nothing left to do and all the time to do it in.
Adam: "Yeah, I guess."
Adam: So, they end up putting together a ridiculously convoluted game with no properly explained rules, and no well-defined goal.
Adam: Basically, they decide to play Calvinball for all eternity.

Ifi: They're really just killing time.
Adam: Well, better to kill time than each other, I guess.

The human was silent. No begging, no pleading for life. At the end, acceptance came even to this strong, turbulent spirit.

"You said I could ask one more question."


"I can't ask if we win, I can't ask if it will all turn out okay."

"I don't know those answers."

"Okay, then answer this, Ellimist: Did I…did I make a difference? My life, and my…my death…was I worth it? Did my life really matter?"

"Yes. You were brave. You were strong. You were good. You mattered."

"Yeah. Okay, then. Okay, then."

A small strand of space-time went dark and coiled into nothingness.

----The Ellimist Chronicles

Ifi: Not gonna lie, I cried.
Adam: Rachel, you are okay in my book.

Ifi: So that's that.
Adam: That is indeed that.
Adam: Any closing thoughts?
Ifi: This book should have been made into a whole spin-off series.
Adam: Seriously. It feels like Applegate went and picked up some Ian Banks, and said to herself, "Hey! I could write that!"
Adam: And it worked out in the best possible way.

Ifi: I wish the rest of the series could have been more like this book.
Ifi: In terms of worldbuilding, at the least.
Adam: Alas, this book was not ghostwritten, and we have only two others left that weren't either.
Ifi: My life is sad.
Adam: Ain't it.

Adam: Oh, also, next week's book is weird.
Adam: Really really weird
Ifi: Craychel?
Adam: Yes
Ifi: Let's do it.
Adam: Oh yes.


  1. Definitely a wonderful book. Tied with HBC for the best Chronicles book, and probably in my top 10 Animorphs books overall. The sheer amount of detail and worldbuilding put into all of the alien races (even the minor ones like the Jallians and those eugenics guys whose names escape me at the moment) are all extremely detailed and thought-provoking.

    If only this book was about two hundred pages longer... it feels like a lot of things are rushed through here where there could be a lot more information (eg. the prehistoric Andalites, Pemalites, The Ellimist's first big war against Crayak, etc.) And someday, if I find the time, I want to write The Crayak Chronicles.

    As an afterthought- does anyone think that this ( video is basically a perfect summation of the Howlers? Maybe someone at Valve is an Animorphs fan... :p

    1. Are you referring to the Inner Worlders?

    2. My comment died, and now I forgot what I wrote because it was long -_- I hate book reviewing on the internet. Should have used MS Word. :/

  2. This book was awesome! For once, it's even better than I remember it, especially in terms of world building. Also, I don't believe I ever shipped Ellimist/Cryack, but I just might now :)

    Next week... y'know, I remember really liking the Cryrachel book. I guess we'll see.

  3. The best book in the series has come!

    I thought I had this book memorized, but I forgot that the last of the Ketrans died against Father.

    It's too bad, I had this idea floating around that they escaped and the Ellimist just sorta sadly watches their descendants now and then.

  4. I have a pet theory for Crayak too. In it, Crayak was part of a galaxy that was controlled by a greater power, who controlled this galaxy through the means Crayak meant to control this one, by having one species populating the whole galaxy that they were all controlled by the greater power. Some of these species were selected for more power, and the greater power turns them into what Crayak is when the Ellimist is when he meets him; a collection of sentient ships/planetoids armed with super weapons. Crayak is one of these, but desires more power, and when he tries to assurp this power, the greater power discovers it and attacks. Crayak barely survives, and escapes, swearing to destroy his former master. He decides to do what the other guy did, and create a superspecies and control anothergalaxy so he can go to war. He finds a suitable galaxy, but there's a snag: there is another being similarto him, if not more powerful. The Ellimist. He considers attempting to ally himself with the Ellimist, but further investigation reveals the Ellimist's goals are polar oppisited from his own. So he sets out to slowly thwart Ellimist's work, and eventually destroy him. But, when the Ellimist creates the Pemalites and etc., he realizes that previous strategies won't work. So he creates the Howlers to continue the genocide, and attacks Ellimist. Eventually, he tricks the Ellimist into the black hole, and without him preventing his work, continues. But, when the Ellimist figures out his new powers, Crayak realizes what happened, and jumps into the black hole, etc.
    Also, as I read this book, I originally thought Menno would become the Crayak, until he died.

    1. There is another book, somewhere, where the Ellimist mentions that Crayak fears a power greater than him (or both of them). I always took this to be a tacit admission of a true God-figure that KAA didn't want to rule out with the seemingly all-powerful pair.

    2. I was thinking along more Lovecraftian lines, myself.

    3. Do Lovecraft's great old ones even measure up to Crayak and the Ellimist at their final stages? I mean,I'd question their ability to put down the pair before they fell their asses into blackholes, but post-mastery of time and space, anything short of the truly omnipotent just can't measure up.

    4. Certainly. Yog Sothoth is conterminous with the entire universe, and all of existence is merely a dream of Azathoth, and we shall all cease to exist should he wake.

      Really, Crayak and the Ellimist don't possess absolute master of time and space, but just a limited capacity to observe and manipulate it. (Toomin all but admits that he really doesn't know what he's doing.) Really, they're just slightly above the level of the Weavers from the Bas Lag cycle by China Mieville, (who were omniscient but not omnipotent.)

  5. This book was so good! Looking back, I only wish it had come earlier in the series so I could have reread it more times before Animorphs ended and I lost interest. This definitely would have been my #1 favorite if I'd ever bothered to update my mental "favorites list" after the 20s. It's pretty funny how well the early bits fit into some of the online and gaming culture that didn't even exist yet whenever this was written. Toomin's easy to relate to, I think, because he is a constant failure without seeming incompetent. He's got no idea what he's trying to do half the time and his principles put him at a disadvantage most of the time, but he's determined to win and to win the right way, which is very appealing in a character.

  6. You know, they weren't actually picky with choosing a new home, it was just they evolved for very specific environments. A thick atmosphere, a low gravity, etc. Some of them wanted to alter themselves, so their children could live on a world that was ininhabited, Menno included in this. Others, like Toomin, wanted to just find a new home, because that technology was expiremental.
    There were several things you guys skipped. Like how the Polar Crystals were bending the rules of the game, instead of subtly changing environment or atmosphere or such, they were establishing themselves in the game by ruling over the simulated creatures like a god, which disturbed Toomin and Augella. Or how Father, between the games, simulated the Ketran homeworld through Toomin's and the dead Ketrans' memories. In the simulation, he and Augella propagated, he and Lackofa grew old together, and him and his friends who died on the Capasin attack played the Ketran game til they died. Or how he used all the dead Ket's memories on the game to stop violence, both before he met Crayak and after they assimilated themselves into Time/Space.

    1. Also that the Ellimist revealed his newfound godhood by protecting a Mesozoic Earth from Crayak (also, there was apparently life on Mars at the time, though the planet was slowly dying even before Crayak presumably finished it off).

  7. This was always my favorite when I was a kid and it's really vindicating to revisit it now and find that it was just as badass as I remember.

    Also, when Spore came out, I was really disappointed that it wasn't more like the game Toomin plays.

  8. The spectacular irony of this book is that the Capasins created exactly what they feared. As a result of the attack intended to put an end to a race that indulged in social engineering for fun, Toomin rises to power, and promptly becomes what the Capasins sought to eliminate.

    And regarding the games, KAA was not really anticipating any particular game, she was extrapolating from games already on the market (or the mentality those games were invented to service). I think the first Sim City came out for the 16 bit Nintendo system in 1992 or 93. The Ketran game is pretty much a logical extension of that concept. Spore & the Sims came later, because that was when computing power caught up to the concept.

    If you want to go WAYYY back, the idea comes from the book of Genesis. The temptation for Adam & Eve to eat the fruit was not "Yum, fruit!" it was the promise that eating it would make them like God. "Playing God" as the Ketran game allows one to do, is literally the oldest temptation in the book.

    IMO, the Ellimist vs. Crayak is not a struggle between God & Satan, it's a fight between two Satans, one of whom is very self-delusional about his own actions. I was actually hoping while reading the last book, once it became clear that the Yeerk war was over so early on, that it referred to "The Beginning" of a universe without any meddling upstart aliens, that they would dig up the Time Matrix and somehow use it to take out both the Ellimist & Crayak.

    That guy was no friend of the Animorphs, ever. All the stuff he did was aimed at making Tobias more dedicated to the cause (and before Ax showed up with his limitess abilities, who saved their butts more than Tobias did? The 100% survival rate of their first 3 books is entirely due to his actions), or preserving Earth when it was the last hope of stopping the Yeerks (whom Toomin was betting against in his Game). Then, after they save the Iskoort, and provide a hope for the Yeerks in the distant future after Earth goes down, they get no more aid. He shows up twice more, and once indirectly, sending the Drode. The first time is to smugly gloat about his clever assembling of his team and the second is to bother a dying hero with his self-absorbed whining, looking for validation (while of course, denying responsibility for setting her on this path, as he did the other 5). This book, more than anything, really turned me against the Ellimist.

    Also, I never got that Crayak was "...the scifi equivalent of Satan..." for the simple reason that, as you guys point out, such a concept...just doesn't make real sense in the Ani-verse.... By the rules of logic, therefore, he is NOT some ultimate evil or source of evil (assuming that is how you are using the term 'Satan' because not even Satan is that conception of Satan, theologically speaking). I don't actually think anyone said he was the devil or anything, and the series never seemed to be portraying the Ellimist & Crayak as opposing Manichean powers. It was simply that Crayak's goals were incompatible with anything Animorphs could live with, so that for all intents and purposes, in their eyes he is evil.

    1. I disagree. Tobias wasn't the thing that kept them alive. In book one, he got the memory dump, just because he was Elfangor's son. That could have been any of them, and it's only because of the Ellimist he even was what he was:by having him part of his team, and pulling strings so he would still exist after Elfangor left for home. Nothing else he does in the book does anything useful, and then he traps himself as a hawk. Big help. In book two, he does nothing. In book three, he does, once again, nothing. If you are referring to his hawk abilities, like look out, any of them could do that, but he does it because that's the only thing he can do to help. Everything he does, others could do, but he does them because that all he can do.

    2. Toomin is basically a teenage nerd who wound up with more power than he ever expected to have, and is forced to try and regulate a galaxy while someone else attempts to destroy it. I don't think he's supposed to be Satan or God.

    3. Book 1, they were only supposed to be reconnoitering the Yeerk pool, but Cassie got captured by the Controller cop. She was about to be shoved into the pool, and Jake was too far to save her in time, when Tobias hit her captor and freed her. Cassie gets infested there, they are all IDed on their first mission. Save, Tobias.

      Book 2, Tobias taught them to fly and might have been the difference between them getting shot by the rednecks. He found Melissa's cat, found the bait they used to lure him, brought the cat in time to prevent Melissa from interfering, and airlifted Rachel from Visser Three (after Jake got her captured). Most of those things were well outside a red-tail's specs, BTW.

      Book 3, when the others were all trapped inside the Yeerk ship, with no expectation of survival, Tobias shot down the ship and saved them. Also, he saved a human from getting killed by the Hork-Bajir, saved them from getting trapped as wolves, and got them out of a fight with the other wolf pack. Anyone who thinks Tobias "does nothing" in book 3, is not someone whose opinion is worth consideration, because he is too ignorant of the books to pay any attention to.

      Before they got Ax, in Book 4, he had to shake them out of getting lost in dolphin morph, and he found them a ship and was able to help them figure out where it was going and how fast.

      I really didn't think THAT notion, of all the things I said, was going to be the one I'd have to defend. Tobias is far and away the MVP of books 1-4. This is absolutely indisputable.

    4. IMO, one of the purposes of the Chronicle books is to take a legendary character in the Animorph series and show their ascent to this legendary status from their humble beginnings. What I think Applegate is trying to remind us is that the Ellimist is not truly a God- he's a kid. He's a kid like the Animorphs, and Aldrea and Elfangor who happened to be in a particular spot at a particular time and got a ton of responsibility shoved onto him. To me, this makes the Ellimist much more humane, in that he tries to save what he considers his world but makes mistakes in doing so.

      He's definitely not a dependable person for the Animorphs because he has different goals in mind- while they are trying to save Earth, he is trying to figure out how it will affect everything else in the universe. I honestly don't think he deserves so much hate. Even though he can be frustrating, he is not a bad person at heart.

      About the Tobias issue- In the first three books, it was clear that Tobias sacrificed the most out of everyone else at that point, and the fact that he was hawk made him seem like he didn't completely belong in the group. In addition, he is dependable and always there, watching over the rest of the group. There are parallels that can be drawn, I think, between Tobias and the Ellimist, which prehaps makes it easier for the Ellimist to help him.

    5. "Book 1, they were only supposed to be reconnoitering the Yeerk pool, but Cassie got captured by the Controller cop. She was about to be shoved into the pool, and Jake was too far to save her in time, when Tobias hit her captor and freed her. Cassie gets infested there, they are all IDed on their first mission. Save, Tobias."
      Yes, but still, they all made saves like that. It was only pure luck Tobias was in the right morph and in the right place. It could just as easily been Rachel.
      "Book 2, Tobias taught them to fly and might have been the difference between them getting shot by the rednecks. He found Melissa's cat, found the bait they used to lure him, brought the cat in time to prevent Melissa from interfering, and airlifted Rachel from Visser Three (after Jake got her captured). Most of those things were well outside a red-tail's specs, BTW."
      Who taught TOBIAS to fly? No one. Like all animal instincts, like beavers building dams, horses running, et cetera, he learned through the animals instincts. They did to, but he just said things he learned through experience. Even if the drunk rednecks had managed to shoot them, which I doubt they could, since they were drunk, they could just land, and demorph. His help wasn't really necessary. When he located Fluffer, he just flew up and spotted it. Any of them could have done that, but that was all Tobias could do, since he was trapped. By catching the shrew for bait, a shrew is a small rodent. That is what a red-tail is designed to do, plus, he didn't use the shrew as bait. They used Rachel, in shrew morph, as bait. Great boyfriend. Nothing special there. When he airlifted Rachel out of there to save her from Visser Three, any of them could have done that, but once again, that is all he can do to since he's hawk.
      "Book 3, when the others were all trapped inside the Yeerk ship, with no expectation of survival, Tobias shot down the ship and saved them. Also, he saved a human from getting killed by the Hork-Bajir, saved them from getting trapped as wolves, and got them out of a fight with the other wolf pack. Anyone who thinks Tobias "does nothing" in book 3, is not someone whose opinion is worth consideration, because he is too ignorant of the books to pay any attention to."
      Okay, I'll give you the saving of a human. But, when he shot down the ship, it was pure luck he got the gun, and pure luck he even sot the thing. All of them get a lucky save, and this just happened to be a major one. As for the wolf pack thing, if I remember correctly, Jake and the real wolf fought it out til the Animorphs fled. Tobias just watched and tried to distract the other wolf to no end. And finally, he didn't save them from being trapped as wolves. He was flying after the lady hawk, realized that the others were around the two hour limit, and flew off to find them, and when he did, they were already demorphing, and screamed for them to hurry up. Not that heroic.
      "Before they got Ax, in Book 4, he had to shake them out of getting lost in dolphin morph, and he found them a ship and was able to help them figure out where it was going and how fast."
      They have gotten lost in morph so many times, I don't even know how many times. But they always snap out of it. Even if Tobias hadn't snapped them out of it, they would have done it eventually. As a matter of fact, even if hey needed him to snap them out of it, why did he wait until the forty five minute mark? He didn't find a ship. They all morphed seagulls and found it together. As for the speed, he made an estimate, and they hoped it was accurate.
      Don't get me wrong, I love Tobias. But really, he didn't contribute to the team's survival any more than any other. Not for the first few books. Everything that really helped them survive for a while was luck, at least until they got their act together.

    6. Your argument is ridiculous. It all boils down to "he deserves no credit because the only reason he did that stuff was because he happened to be in a position to do so." By that logic, none of them deserve credit for ANYTHING, since someone else would arguably have done the same thing in their places. The Animorphs aren't even really heroes, by your reasoning, they were just the lucky group who wandered through the construction site at the right time.

      The fact that circumstance hands someone an opportunity does not change the fact the ones who act on such opportunities are the ones who end up as heroes.

      And you're wrong about the wolf pack. They were about to get into a fight over a carcass, and Tobias dove into the middle, risking his own life to remove the bone of contention. Jake was trying to stare down the other wolf, because he wasn't sure he could win the fight, but was afraid they'd attack if he and the girls tried to leave.

      And they were not already morphing when he told them. You have that sequence of events absurdly wrong. It goes:
      - the group splits, Tobias flying casually, and the others moving out to head home in wolf morph. Tobias recognizes the she-hawk, feels the instincts for the first time, and is creeped out. He goes looking for his friends.
      - He finds Jake in a staring contest with the other wolf boss, grabs the rabbit to distract the larger pack, giving the Animorphs a chance to escape.
      - After they get away, he goes looking for a clock to check on their time, without being asked or anyone else worrying about the time they have left.
      - He sees they are out of time, and races back, yelling at them to demorph. They only start to change when they get his warning, Marco asking how much time was left, and Tobias telling them "None!"

      Never question or contradict me. It always ends badly for the other person, because I, in addition to being the preeminent house thief in the Eastern United States (Carneasada on the West Coast is pretty much my equal, and he has all those wide-open spaces to stash them in), I am also never, ever wrong. Sorry, man.

    7. Hey Cannoli, if you have the East Coast, and Carneasada has the West Coast, who has all the space in between? And what about different countries and continents? Are they free of house-thievery?

    8. We meet at the Mississippi. Don't even get me started about the Moustache Petes who run the show in Europe (they watch too many movies - they all think they're the Godfather or something) or the cartels south of the Rio Grande (lots of violence - bad for business). We split the jobs in Australia, New Zealand and the British Isles. Asia... you don't want to know about Asia, trust me. And Africa, they're pretty much street-level, the equivalent of pickpockets. All the corruption and tribal violence keeps the pros away.

    9. I have long since given up any hope at understanding this conversation.

    10. No, you are missing my point. My point is that though Tobias is a hero for doing that stuff, that does not mean he is the one responsible for the whole groups survival. Like ninety percent of the survival in the first ten or so books were dependent on luck. Clearly, as you pointed out, Tobias is COMPLETELY ESSENTIAL and without his courage and other amazing talents the Animorphs would have been taken down almost instantly, but the same can be said of Cassie, or Jake, or Marco. No one team member in the very beginning was responsible for the general survival of the team. Most of the team makes these saves, usually in one of their books, sometimes in other books.

    11. Wow. Looks like Cannoli has a new archnemesis. *hands Owl Nutter her Cannoli's-archnemesis mask and cape* You two have fun. Play nice.

    12. About Games-- this is actually a book more about Abstract Game Theory, and could have been written at any time in the history of any civilization advanced enough to have War, Government, and Religion. Definitely wasn't predicting those games, and also wasn't even relying on the built up attitude/culture of gamers, persay-- because it's been that way ever since the First Games Ever Played By Anyone, Ever.

      I also had a really interesting argument cooked up about the interesting comparisons of Toomin and Crayak to God and Satan.

      Toomin is a smashed up amalgam of a lot of things, plus humane characterization. He's a beautiful image of what to make out of Illuvatar, if perhaps there was a whole lot of Beginning BEFORE Illuvatar. Where the HECK did such a being as Illuvatar come from, if not spontaneous existence? Ellimist Chronicles explores some possibilities.

      Toomin is still NOT Illuvatar, though, because Toomin did not Create Crayak.

      Crayak is Morgoth, which is a decidedly very rational outlook on Satan.

      In my attempt to smash together things completely shamelessly syncretically, I would hazard a guess that Illuvatar is the Living Force, Crayak is Morgoth, and Toomin is something kind of like Tom Bombadil, something kind of like Illuvatar, and something just really hard to describe in this analogy. Some kind "Son of Illuvatar" or "Avatar of Illuvatar". Maybe Toomin is Author-Self-Insert.

      Yeah. Toomin made himself an Andalite body, but he himself is just a Ketran body of Illuvatar?

  9. One thing I do like is that Applegate openly explores the idea of the mass extinction of intelligent life. Sapient species don't have that happen often in sci fi. At least not on screen.

  10. The whole notion that you fade away into nothing after death in the Animorph's universe just ups the tragedy of it all for me. I guess you could say that it makes the fight all that more important since there's no afterlife so you have to make it count, but if you just fade away after it, to me, it just seems like it didn't matter what happened during your life because you'll just cease to be anyway. :/

    Although, I'm pretty sure that the Ellimist said he didn't know what happened after you disappear, so their souls could have just been pulled into a secret alternate dimension, or something.

  11. The thing I remembered most about this book was the section with Father. Because holy hell it was creepy. That would make a horrifying but awesome book just on its own.

  12. I have done it! After months of reading backlog while re-reading the series, I have finally caught up!
    Love the blog, glad I can finally comment and join the discussion in real-time.

  13. This is the Ellimist's personal theme tune.
    No, really, it is.

  14. I'm totally down with the idea that Crayak had a hand in the Ellimist's existence, because it fits completely with his extreme Darwinism; he's just applying it to HIMSELF when it comes to Ellimist. Think about it. Through their struggles with one another, the book flat-out states that they got stronger and stronger. Before Ellimist came along, Crayak had probably run out of suitable competition to pit himself against. He'd maxed out and hit his level cap. As far as he could see, the species which grew stronger were the ones that had something to strive against. Conflict breeds innovation, and all that. So he needed an enemy. Someone who could match him, who could get stronger as he got stronger so that he'd just keep going up and up and up, but also someone who would never quite exceed him. Someone with, say, a built-in handicap in their mentality, so that even if they became substantially more powerful, they would never be as willing to exploit that power as Crayak himself was, and so would always be just a half step behind.

    It's entirely possible that Crayak became more aggressive and villainous in order to style himself as Ellimist's enemy, just to make sure that the other would have a reason to fight him. I mean, that whole first encounter just screams of intentional baiting. 'Oh? Did you like that whole entire species you worked really hard to save? Well they're all dead now. How d'you like THAT? Bet it makes you angry, huh?'

    For some reason I always pictured Crayak as having very similar origins to Ellimist - coming from a peaceful race that was wiped out by a more militarized civilization and all. Only, after his species was wiped out, Crayak just swung wildly in the opposite direction and rejected peace and pacifism and playing nice altogether, since the only thing it had done for his species had made them sitting ducks. Having survived the annihilation of his people, he became obsessed with surviving everything else, too, and then with finding or creating a race of beings that simply could not be destroyed. Where Toomin ultimately found his solace in the 'Crayak can't destroy everything if I plant more crops than he can raze' idea, Crayak's thinking was more 'if I keep on razing these crops, pretty soon we will have fire-proof plants'.

    So basically Ellimist exists because Crayak needed someone to fight so that he could become stronger. Best part is, it worked like a charm. They've hit the 'celestial divinity' level, and they're still going at it. Maybe Ellimist thinks they've reached the upper limits of where they can go, but Crayak probably disagrees, especially if there's anything out there that's still stronger than him.

    It works particularly well with the knowledge that Ellimist can't figure out what happens to people when they die in the animorphs universe, and so Crayak probably can't either. Imagine being that powerful, getting to that level, and still the only thing you know about death is that it seems to wink you totally out of existence. Now imagine you are a cynical, traumatized pessimist who was already obsessed with finding a way to make yourself invincible by any means possible.

    Conclusion - Crayak is terrified. Constantly. He is stuck in a perpetual mortality crisis that will only end when he is absolutely, one-hundred percent certain that nothing will ever, ever destroy or kill him ever.

  15. Regarding Andalite hands - I wonder if they evolved out of some need to manipulate their environments. Ours came from limbs, in the Animorph universe at least, the explanation is they are strong and powerful and capable of throwing motions, because they were once used for swinging through trees. The Andalites were never arboreal, so their hands would have been all about fine manipulation, and as we see in the Neanderthalites, they are used for communication among the herd. They have eyes that let them see in any direction, and crappy little noses (not have taste, scent is probably not a big deal for them either) and no sound-producing mechanism, so it makes sense that their early communication was visual rather than aural or pheremone-based. The psychic aspect probably developed because of the insufficiency of sign language as they got more complex and intelligent.

    Thus, because they originally used their hands for a complex system of communication, they have delicate hands with lots of fingers, good for adept manipulation of objects, but not so good at the brute strength tasks at which Elfangor & Ax are generally noting human superiority.

    1. They and their non-sentient ancestors probably used their hands to groom each other. That's a pretty big social thing in tons of animals, and Andalites don't exactly have mouths to do it with.

    2. Yeah, that's another good one. Both ideas dovetail with my long-standing theory of Andalite herd psychology.

    3. My theory is that Andalites were originally arboreal Chadoo-like things. Then they moved onto the plains and their arms weakened and their legs strengthened. (Like chimps to humans but more dramatically.)

  16. So I read this on a computer that didn't let me leave comments, then I forgot to come back and comment later.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say, I didn't like this book that much at the time I read it (I think first the genocide then everything with Father just really creeped me out as a kid), but I appreciate it a lot more after reading your review :-) You guys made me notice all the good points I missed the first time around.

    Anyone else ever read Remnants? The whole plot of that series sort of reminds me of this in some ways, and they were both pretty dark, even for AppleGrant.

    Anyway, loved the review. Thanks Adam and Ifi!

  17. I remember really liking this book as a kid because it was so neat to find out more about the Ellimist and Crayak, and the having the imagery pleasantly overwhelming my senses. Then I read it a few years ago again and I was like "this isn't as neat as I remembered it." But I just reread it again... and man... the book is incredible. But on a totally new level. Maybe I've matured or something... or worse, regressed back to childhood... but it was pretty enthralling.

    I completely agree that this could've spawned its own series itself. There was so much to talk about. It felt so rushed towards the end. From the parts with Father onward. It was like POOF this is what made the Ellimist smarter and POOF this is what made the Ellimist stronger and then POOF this is what made the Ellimist god-like. I missed those days when Ellimist was a kid playing games... as much as I missed the Animorphs in their happy-go-lucky days I guess. Man, this is all really saying something about me, isn't it? Good grief.
    As much as it was profound, it made me miserable too through the book. I just kept feeling bad for Toomin. Poor kid. Everyone he loves is dead. The loneliest guy in universe basically. With the only person to match wits with as a peer is a complete jerk.

    Don't want to complicate or violate things here by introducing religious topics... although I guess it has been done even on this article, but I thought the implications of a small, seemingly insignificant yet intelligent creature "evolving" over the course of time and strange events into a god is an intriguing reasoning point with atheists. Not to say that's what happened, but could it have been done? Aren't we in a sense "gods" compared to cells that we've came from? We can manipulate and destroy and even create cells that are vastly inferior to us. Toomin became immensely more powerful and intelligent than his Ketran family. Couldn't that have happened somewhere along the line? Could a person of another timeline or dimension have become the God of this universe? Its silly. Of course. But to me, the concept that something came from nothing, with no direction or design is silly too.

  18. I think the later Remnants book series #13, “Survival,” echoed a lot of the feeling of loss and searching. Like the Ketrans, Tate wandered space looking for just the right planet. Adaptation was a big theme there too.
    I wish you’d mentioned the major theme about music—it’s what Toomin used to finally beat Father! That one instrument taught him the ways of music and remember, he even used his own voice. I believe the musical instrument was called the “adge” and after that, Toomin caught on to the other games and was able to beat Father every time. So much came from him learning something as amazing and precious as music.

  19. I think there are (so far) two miatakes in the characterization of the Ketran world? One is that the crystals are in fact above the surface and not below. Two is that learning is done mainly dur7ng docking time and not during free-flying time