The Android is an excellent example of the greatness of the Animorphs series. If you were going to jump in to this series rather than start from the first book, you could do worse than start here. In addition to the now-boilerplate introduction required to get such new readers up to speed, Applegate continues to expand the mythology of the series. We meet the Chee, programmed to be peaceful by the joy-loving but now extinct Pemalites. And Marco’s parent—this time his dad—is threatened again by the Yeerks.
The writing is stellar in this one. Unlike the disappointing plot in The Secret, which takes a turn towards bathos at the end, the plot The Android is tense and suspenseful up until the final page. First, Marco and Tobias stumble onto the fact that this kid, Erek King … isn’t exactly human. But he’s managed to infiltrate the Sharing. Why? The Animorphs have to get to the bottom of this mystery … and when they do, they find out they have to pull a heist to stop the Yeerks from gaining control over all the computers on the planet.
So the stakes are high.
Oh, and Marco’s dad is starting to work with the company that has the crystal the Yeerks are using. Which means he might be a target.
The stakes are really high.
Navigating the security during the heist is tense. I love heist stories! The Animorphs use bat morphs—an excellent choice. But I particularly love that, after they go to all that trouble to be sneaky, they decide they can’t lift the crystal as bats … so they’re just going to turbo their way out.
That is totally something I would do in a video game. (I save often….)
Emotionally, there’s a lot going on here too. For Marco, the prospect of losing his dad to the Yeerks is too much, especially considering what happened with his mom. Marco seems lately to be all about drawing lines: if this happens, I’ll do this. Applegate portrays here the emerging conscience of an adolescent: Marco is no longer saying things are right or wrong because an adult told him so; he’s actually internalizing, expressing, and acting on his own sense of ethics.
But where will those ethics lead in time of war?
The pacifism of the Chee is a stark contrast to the child soldier nature of the Animorphs. And Applegate does not pull any punches. Not a single one. Erek manages to rewrite his programming to let him slaughter the Controller guards, thereby saving the Animorphs from certain death … and it’s horrible. Everyone seems shocked and scarred beyond imagining. It feels like they kicked and killed a baby. The fact that Marco was unconscious and only learns about it secondhand makes this sentiment all the more potent. Sometimes, it’s about what you don’t say, and the way that the other Animorphs have trouble expressing how disturbing that scene was says it all.
Beyond that single moment, however, lies the enduring ethical question. Most of the Animorphs understand why Erek has now changed sides and agrees with Maria that the Chee cannot surrender their pacifism. This allows us to hold the Chee up as a foil to the Animorphs, who will become increasingly militant as this series progresses. As always, Applegate asks the question: how far are you willing to go to win?
The Android, even this early in the series, hints that there is an event horizon you should not cross.
It’s serious business. Despite being a Marco book, and therefore replete with the usual Marco humour, there’s a sombre tone to this story. This complementary sense of black humour to stave off the darkness is key to Marco’s role in the series, and it’s one reason this book is so successful.
Next time, the Animorphs get timey-wimey wibbly wobbly again. And Jake goes crazy. It’s basically The Real World meets I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here.