Here we are, the last of the Animorphs Chronicles books. The impending conclusion of the series feels a lot more real having read this, and not just because the book opens with the Ellimist alluding to one of the Animorphs dying!!111.
Despite the book being set during the final battle of the last book, however, this book was published following #47: The Resistance. Julie, my guru of all things Animorphs, did everything short of threatening me with time-travel–induced regrets if I didn’t read this in publication order. So I capitulated to her superior series-organization logic, and here we are. The Ellimist Chronicles. The story of everyone’s favourite nearly-omnipotent cosmic being of the Animorphs universe.
I remember reading this one as a kid and really enjoying it. And this one is dark. I keep saying that; I keep pointing out how “dark” the series as a whole is becoming. But, I mean … this one involves the destruction of the Ellimist’s entire species followed by the Ellimist’s transformation into a semi-gestalt cyborg that eventually migrates its consciousness into the quantum substrate of the universe. Maybe what I didn’t pick up on when I was younger was how, in some ways, this book is a really strong work of posthumanist science fiction on its own merits. Oh, and it has some real revolutionary vibes when it comes to the Ellimist’s interactions with the people from the Polar Crystal and their overly democratic zeal.
The posthumanist SF themes really stuck with me during this reading, perhaps because since my childhood reading I’ve imbibed enough posthumanist literature that I’m nearly sick to death of it. The Ellimist’s torture by Father and subsequent transformation is almost gory and definitely unsettling. Applegate skirts a lot of the common questions about what it means to be yourself and identity, especially as the Ellimist continually upgrades his technological components. On a moral level, is the Ellimist right to interfere with all these other civilizations simply because he has the power to do so? He might be acting in what he sees as an altruistic fashion. Or is he required to interfere because he has the power to do so? Arguably, Crayak’s arrival on the scene makes this a moot point, as he is now required to interfere if only to balance out Crayak’s interference.
All this just makes me glad I’m not a posthuman.
On a more disturbing note, I’m tempted to make a semi-serious argument that with this book, Applegate basically positions the Ellimist as the God of the Animorphs universe.
Think about it. So much of what is relevant to this series—the Andalites, humanity’s own existence, etc.—was directly influenced by the Ellimist at some point. The series has hinted and even, in some cases, blatantly stated that the war with the Yeerks and the Animorphs’ own existence are all components of this larger game between the Ellimist and Crayak. When you get right down to it, the Ellimist is the ultimate cause of everything in this series, the Prime Mover, if you will. Right down to visiting an Animorph at the moment of their death to essentially help them lay down their burden.
Finally, The Ellimist Chronicles gives Applegate a chance to show us the extent of the worldbuilding done for this series that we don’t always get to see in the regular books. There is so much material here. So much going on. This is a universe teeming with life, with species both spacefaring and not, and the entire series exists within just a small corner of it. This book is a lesson never to underestimate middle grade and YA novels just because their language might occasionally be different from adult novels: the imagination and planning that goes into these series is never less, and occasionally more, stringent.
This book was a lot of fun to revisit. It also left me feeling a little sad. Not just because of the reminder of the Animorph’s death, or the proximity this book has to the end of the series. More so because the Ellimist as a character has all this power, yet he is ultimately as constrained or more constrained than the Animorphs themselves. This is not a breathtakingly original theme, but it’s something Applegate demonstrates well here: with more power comes not just more responsibility but often fewer degrees of freedom too.
Speaking of freedom, next time we see the Animorphs’ greatest mistake come back for vengeance.