The Invasion - Katherine Applegate

As I have decided to start doing now, I'll gloss over everything you need to know about the book before I get into some spoiler territory, which I will mark as containing spoilers.





Spoiler-Free Portion


My Copy of the Book: I noted in an entry a month or two back how I got this book to begin with - I found the first ten in this series as a quarter a piece (the condition they're in does leave something to be desired, but in better condition Half-Price was selling them at a buck a piece, which is a bit much, for a nostalgia-induced impulse buy) at the Franciscan Center near where I live.  Out of all of the books I bought in the set, this one is in the absolute worst condition - so much so that I ended up selling it in the hopes that I can find another one in good condition if I can.  This one is, frankly, a bit gross.


Summary: Do you not know of the Animorphs series? In case you don't -


*intake of deep breath*


Animorphs is a 90's-riffic sci/teen series that revolves around the desperate struggle that is a group of pre-teenagers who are gifted with the power to Morph by a dying alien prince who warns them of an oncoming invasion by an alien race who takes over the bodies of all members of a species on a planet until all members of a species are essentially meat puppets that enhance the further cruelty of the alien race that pushes further into the universe, with the Adalites at their tail.  What this all essentially means in that the city that these children live appears to be the main point of entry for a subtle take-over of the human race on planet Earth, and as they were the ones who arrived on the scene of the dying Andalite prince, he gives the group of pre-teenagers a power previously known only to alien races - the power to change into anything that a being touches and creates a mind link with - in other words, living creatures.  This means what you would think it does - the children gain an ability to change into whatever they have managed to touch and create a mind link with, which they use in a variety of ways to spy and counterrattack om those who seek to take over the Earth(tm).


*Deep draw in of breath*


If you were not a kid in the 90's, you very well may have skipped past this series but if you didn't, then this all may sound all too familiar to you.  Hell, you might have been fanatical for this series back in the day.


The real question here, though, is does the first book in the series stand by itself right now.


Simple answer?  Well, this isn't the best written thing I've ever come across and I have moments in the story where I want to throw my hands up and yell, "Why? What!", but to be frank, I feel as though a part of that just adds to some of the fun - the campy, nostalgic kind of "bad quality" that just reminds you of those days when you wondered what a Reptar Bar must have tasted like and when you could watch any episodes of Goosebumps that was not The Haunted Mask or any of the Night of the Living Dummy without bursting into laughter.  Fuck it, I'm biased as hell, why deny it?


Still - there are very real problems, such as with continuity or your usual, "If the aliens are so scientifically advanced, why can't they tell their being fucked with by 90'S KIDS?", and I am therefore not saying that this book is not without very real issues that could be cleared up, if someone ever got around to waving money in front of Applegate with the caveat that she clean this shit UP.


I really like this book.  No, I mean it - all of the little details lead up to making me surprisingly fulfilled, happy.  I feel like Applegate really got the mindset of a kid eerily well, in a way that other writers just keep fucking up over and over.  If only for the fact that Applegate clearly knows how to write kids I think that this book deserves a read, if you want to read some middle school fare.


Want to know what I especially appreciated?  Although outdated, I think that with the way that Applegate describes Jake's liking of video games was so real and sincere, coming across as though he actually PLAYS them.


Ha ha, guinea pig, you have NO IDEA what you're doin' there



"At that moment, something weird happened.  I was looking at Tom, and he was smiling at me.  But then his face twitched."


We join our heroes moment before their lives change completely.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, the aliens in this series all look roughly... Nightmarishly terrifying.   The worst - and what's stated as the most villainous alien species is a creature that crawls in your head and takes total control of everything you do - all that is, sometimes, able to be seen of your true self is an occasionally terrified look that you can at times gather the strength to project. 




The first major thing on the docket for the kids is to start touchin' things.  Cats, birds, ect., ect. - this leads to a chase in the Staff Only portion of a zoo where four of the characters try to get away from the staff before they: A. get caught looking suspicious in a city where the Yeerks have already aggressively begun their invasion and are on the look-out for these children and B. have a chance to gather the information needed from touching animals to turn into said animal.  




They already have the inkling that they might have to mix it up real well, having witnessed the terrifying/tragic death of the benevolent Andalite Prince Elfangor (see how Applegate managed to get "Elf" in his name?  Yeah, just be happy she didn't make Visser "Orc") by Visser Three, who transforms into something awful and eats him alive.




The pacing of this is really amazing, it's one of my favorite aspects of this book.  You won't be dealing with Jake moaning over a low score on a test - you want transformation and spying, and damn it if you don't get exactly that, as the story starts becoming more personal to Jake as he begins to understand that his beloved older brother is a Controller (those who are infested with a Yeerk), tries desperately to discover the location of the Yeerk Pool (the only place where it may be possible to free a person from their Controller, due to their Yeerk needing to swim around freely in the pool to replenish their necessary nutrients to continue living) and then becomes worried over one of their own as he (Tobias) grows increasingly out-of-touch with being a human.




I spent much of the book very VERY pleasantly surprised by the great, age-appropriate prose that moved quickly and spoke in the language of a child at Jake's age, but Applegate did not use the intended audience as a crutch to use sub-par writing or to dumb down the intensity of the science fiction aspect of this story.   I was waiting to see if the ending would prove whether this story was leading up to something great, or if it would die out, as so many other writers fall into doing.




Holy shit, guys, the INTENSITY of the scene at the Yeerk Pool is just... shocking.  I am not being sarcastic here - for a kid's book, Applegate seems to plumb some level of hell for the imagery described in the last scene of the book, with humans screaming in cages and awaiting for the eventuality of their bodies to be re-taken over by the parasitic monsters that have taken over their lives and the aliens watching them in this massive cavern sometimes operating with their own Yeerk as they make sure that people patiently allow their Yeerk to wiggle out of their ear for a nice swim and then re-allow the Yeerk to wiggle back into their heads through their ears.




Oh, and then the bloodbath begins when the kids fuck up (I gotta say, I love the realness of these naive kids royally fucking up what was supposed to be re-con and turned into disastrous rescue mission) and two innocent people (well, a lady and a Hork-Bajir) die when they attempt to flee like motherfuckers in their really awesome animal forms and Visser Three proves that there's a reason that he's this universe's Frieza when he transforms into a gigantic tube monster filled with rows of teeth that tosses fireballs at people.




Yes, this was made available to you, courtesy Scholastic Books, folks! 




I have no idea why I didn't stick close to this series to begin with - my mistake, obviously!

(show spoiler)



Who Should Read This: A Science Fiction fan who wants to read something for Middle Schoolers who has a dark streak.   This stuff is for kiddos with some real courage!