And so we’ve reached the ghostwriter era, with The Extreme delivering a fairly dull adventure to an exciting place: the Arctic.
There’s not actually much wrong with this book. The trouble is that it comes on the heels of a particularly strong moment in the series—the David trilogy and The Hork-Bajir Chronicles—and most stories would look boring in comparison. Unfortunately for a story called The Extreme, Marco and the other Animorphs don’t get up to anything particularly new here. We’ve seen them on board the Blade ship. We’ve seen them in bug morphs. We’ve seen them infiltrating/destroying Yeerk bases while facing off against strange alien life.
Rachel acquires her iconic polar bear morph here, and in fact, she’s one of the best parts about this story (but I’m biased). Her comments show an interesting, sympathetic warrior mindset: she is ready to fight, but she’s also sad when she has to kill these strange hybrids programmed to oppose them.
Normally Marco brings the humour to counteract the seriousness of the Animorphs’ war. And the writer tries, but it feels a little perfunctory. The book opens with Marco crushing hard on a date, whom the other Animorphs have to investigate, of course. Unfortunately it doesn’t really factor into the plot—that’s a shame, because it would have been more interesting. Marco having to go on multiple dates with a girl who might be a Yeerk would be a novel worth reading.
I wish I could be more enthusiastic, because the Animorphs go to the Arctic! They meet a (presumably) Inuit man who takes their morphing in stride and reminds them of the value of respecting those who call this land their home. But this part of the plot feels very aimless. On one hand, I love how the writer realistically deals with the fact that they are not prepared for such a cold, inhospitable environment (morphing outfits are not cold-weather garments!). On the other hand, “we need to stay in morph or we die of hypothermia” only stays interesting for so long.
The real missed opportunity is the Venber. They could have spent more time developing this plot, actually explored the implications of what the Yeerks had done much in the same way as they did with the Leerans ten books ago. Instead we get the thinnest exposition. Then they become anonymous, mindless bogeyman who barely pose a threat as the Animorphs curb-stomp their way through the base.
The Extreme is a mess, and not even a hot mess in the good way. It’s an all right story—there aren’t really any major plot holes, but that’s because there isn’t much of a plot. It’s only a level or two above “filler.”
Next time, though, we are in for a treat when the Animorphs get to visit another planet and the Crayak storyline kicks off properly….