The introductions to these characters are over, so now it’s time to get real, I guess. With POV books from all the characters excepting Ax* in the bag, these kids are now all in on the fight against the Yeerks, even if they’re not really sure what that means at this point. Sure, they’ve had some harrowing experiences (this whole thing was started with an alien brutally murdering another in front of them, after all), but they’re kids, and so they don’t yet know what it *really* means to fight a war, especially one where they are so greatly outnumbered.
*Ax only gets a POV book every other cycle for the first half of the series, apparently because Scholastic thought kids would be less interested to read from an alien’s perspective . . . do they even know kids at all?? His first book will be #8, coming up for me in August.
Because the others have unilaterally decided Jake is their leader, he often gets stories that involve coming to terms with the harsh realities of their situation. He’s the one that has to make tough decisions, and the burden of weighing the good of his team and their families against the actions they might take against the Yeerks is on him. He’s also the one that has to live with the consequences of those actions. In The Capture, that burden is placed on him regarding his brother Tom, who is a Controller, and whose Yeerk has apparently risen high in the ranks. “Tom” and Visser Three have a plan cooked up to take over a hospital and use it to install Yeerks into the heads of strategic people, starting with the Governor. Jake knows they can’t let this plan come to fruition, but he also knows that if he and the other Animorphs succeed in disrupting the Yeerks’ plans, as the Yeerk in charge, Tom will suffer, perhaps even die, for failing.
Jake gets around this awful choice (with help from Cassie) by staging an initial recon mission, but when it becomes clear that the Yeerks are perilously close to having a Yeerk in such a powerful position, he has no choice but to act. The mission of course has some hiccups. SPOILERS Even though they manage to expose the project, kill a bunch of Yeerks (presumably high-ranking ones), and stop the Governor from becoming a Controller, Jake himself is taken by a Yeerk when he is knocked out in a fight and accidentally falls in the pool containing the Yeerks waiting to enter new host bodies. The rest of the book features the Yeerk alternatively trying to convince the other Animorphs that he’s NOT Jake with a Yeerk in his head, and escaping from their custody, which only convinces them further that he’s a Yeerk END SPOILERS.
This book had a really cool premise, and does delve into some meaty ethical dilemmas, but it doesn’t take any of them far enough, and in fact, cops out a little, giving Jake the easy way out. SPOILERS Ax just happens to be around soon after the Yeerk is done installing itself in his head, so that the Animorphs catch on almost right away that Jake has been taken. The Yeerk that takes Jake just so happens to be the same Yeerk that’s been living in Tom’s head. And the death of said Yeerk after three days of kandrona starvation just so happens to absolve Jake of any guilt he might have felt had said Yeerk been inhabiting Tom and at the mercy of Visser Three when news of his failure got out. It’s just one too many coincidences, that make me think Applegate wanted to have her cake and eat it, too, in these earlier installments. Later in the series, things will not be this easy.
I also thought the pacing was a little off. I wanted more from Jake and the Yeerk interacting, more complexity from that situation. I’d remembered it as taking up the majority of the book, but in reality, it’s less than half of it. The kids as written seem to have no qualms about murdering a hundred Yeerks, even though it’s the first time they’ve had the chance, and don’t even pause about killing the one in Jake’s head, who displays a mustache-twirling evilness that makes you glad when he finally slithers out of Jake’s head and dies on the ground END SPOILERS. In the end, Jake doesn’t really reach a conclusion about whether or not to embrace the predatory nature that seems to be taking him slowly (as represented by the tiger dreams he keeps having, where he stalks and kills visions of his brother, and himself). It’s more like, this will be an ongoing problem for you, and eventually you WILL have to make a decision, but not today. It was less satisfying an installment than I’d been remembering as a result.
A lot of seeds for further conflict are planted here, though. We get a tiny bit of a hint at Andalite and Yeerk history, and the first mention of the Gedds, the first race the Yeerks enslaved, and some dark words about the murky relationship between Andalites and Yeerks from the dying one in Jake’s head, who is determined to make Jake doubt the Andalites before he goes. We also get a very brief mention of a mysterious red eye which will be coming back later, and the kids add not one but two new disgusting bug morphs to their retinue. And Jake comes away with a newfound sympathy for humans and other beings who are Controllers, for the helplessness and hopelessness they must feel every day.
I would like to add that I don’t think it’s a coincidence I haven’t had a cockroach in my home in over six years, and then I read this book where people are just turning into cockroaches all willy-nilly, and one shows up the next morning dead on my bedroom floor. Something is going on and I want it stopped right now, cockroaches!
Next time, we meet The Ellimist. Gotta love that guy.
[3.5 stars rounded up]