These “Chronicles” special volumes are always a delight. Visser is the story of Visser One, aka Edriss 562, whose host body is also Marco’s mom. Visser One is on trial by the Council of Thirteen, the ultimate governing body of the Yeerks, subject only to the whims of the Yeerk Emperor, whose identity is known only to the council members. Visser Three is prosecuting the trial, and his rivalry with Visser One is a major source of conflict in this book. Visser One must tell the story of how she discovered Earth’s existence and made preparations for the Yeerk invasion—meanwhile, Marco and the Animorphs might be her only hope of getting out of this trial alive.
There is so much to love about this book!
First, we get unprecedented exposure to internal Yeerk politics. Up until this point, all we really knew about the Yeerks was that they have an “empire” with military positions including vissers, sub-vissers, etc. We knew that Vissers One and Three have a long-standing rivalry over how to handle the invasion of Earth. Visser One sheds more light on this in her story, and through her, Applegate reveals the schism within the empire: all Yeerks want Earth, but how to get it remains up in the air. Visser Three is pressing for an all-out invasion, to conquer humanity by force. This puts the reader in the awkward position of sympathizing with Visser One’s point of view, because even if she is arguing for the invasion of Earth, she is at least keeping it on the down-low. At one point, Marco briefly muses whether all-out warfare wouldn’t be a bad thing—at least the Animorphs would not have to hide, then. (Ugh, so much foreshadowing!) Yet Visser One points out that this would cause an immense death toll. Hence, the complexity of this problem should not be understated.
Given that this book is from her point of view, Visser One appearing as more sympathetic probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nevertheless, I don’t think we had a grasp on how close Visser One is to turning traitor. She pretty much admits in this book to falling in love with humanity, to forming some kind of weird marriage alliance with her first host, her host’s husband, and the Yeerk controlling him. And she would do anything to protect the human children that she had with her host/host’s husband, even though they will never know her. Remember that, owing to how Yeerks are born in pools, they do not have any sense of “family” in the human sense of the word. Latent in this revelation, then, is the idea that humanity’s cultures and values are somehow infectious, even viral. Visser One arrives on Earth and “goes human”, as they put it.
Visser gives Applegate an opportunity to fill us in on the history of how Yeerks found Earth and the invasion began. This is essentially the purpose of the Chronicles series: The Andalite Chronicles showed us how Elfangor’s involvement changed the war between the Yeerks and Andalites forever; The Hork-Bajir Chronicles showed us how the Yeerks got their formidable warrior hosts. Now we get to learn about why Visser One created the Sharing, how she first implemented it, and what her ultimate plans were. Along the way, Applegate comments on what she perceives are both the strengths and weaknesses of humanity.
I also love that we get some time with Eva, Marco’s mom. It’s heartbreaking but heroic of her to volunteer to continue hosting Visser One because to escape would be too suspicious. While there is clearly no love lost between Eva and Visser One, or Marco and Visser One, there are nuances here to the relationship that helps belie the buffoonish depiction of other characters, like Visser Three. (To be fair, I feel like this latter portrayal can mostly be chalked up to Visser One’s unreliable narration—Visser Three might be more hot-tempered and less competent than her, but he clearly hasn’t bungled the invasion yet.)
As always, Animorphs is a series deceptively complex given its often juvenile branding and marketing. Visser is just another example of that.