This book was a lot more complicated than I remembered it being. Ax is so frequently the source of comic relief when the other Animorphs are the POV characters. (He was my FAVORITE when I was in middle school.) But here, in his own book for the first time, one of the first things that strikes you is how serious he is in his own mind. I wouldn’t say he’s *humorless*, but he’s very close. It’s the only thing that saves his ridiculous behavior while in human morph from collapsing the narrative. He’s supposed to be this supremely advanced alien, and he can’t even figure out that crawling around on a movie theater floor for discarded candy and then trying to grab more from a little kid isn’t a good idea? But it just works because he’s so measured otherwise, and it’s played off as him not being able to control the human morph, just as the others haven’t been able to control previous animal morphs like the ant, the shrew, etc.
Also? Ax is keeping secrets.
The Alien has a really nice arc for our young Andalite aristh. He’s dealing with some stuff. All of his life, he’s just been Elfangor’s younger brother, for one thing. Even here on Earth among his human companions, he’s still in Elfangor’s shadow. But Ax is also not telling his human friends much of anything, and they are starting to notice. They’re doing everything they can to help Ax learn about Earth and fit in, and he won’t even tell them how Andalites eat. (It’s hooves. They eat and drink through their hooves.)
The Animorphs feeling distrustful of Ax coincides with a sudden onset of Yeerks dying in their host bodies in very public places. It’s been several weeks since the Animorphs destroyed the Kandrona ray, so it’s strange that only now should they be seeing the effects, when it only takes three days for a Yeerk to starve to death. Ax also inadvertently gifts technology to humans when Marco has to stop by his house to grab something (he’d been set by Jake to try and get Ax to open up about what he was hiding). He thinks he’s playing a game on the computer, “correcting errors,” when really he’s singlehandedly pushed technology ahead about a century. (And keep in mind this is late 1990s computers, those big boxy things. Somehow this makes it way more funny. I have a tiny computer in my back pocket right now that can do about 1000 more things at a million times the speed than Marco’s computer could do in 1997). When Ax realizes that his mistake will enable him to communicate with the Andalite homeworld, he risks asking Tobias to help him infiltrate the observatory where Marco’s father’s software ended up, ostensibly to delete the software.
SPOILERS But a Controller is in place at the observatory, and catches Ax sending a message to his homeworld. Thing is, he hates Visser Three as well, because his mate died due to Kandrona starvation; the Visser did not think her important enough to shuttle up to the mother ship for feeding*. The whole thing ends up with Ax being told the location of Visser Three’s secret feeding grounds, and because of Andalite tradition, as the murderer of Ax’s brother, Ax has an obligation to avenge his brother’s death by killing Visser Three. The vengeful Controller has given him possibly the best shot he’ll ever get.
*You’d think he’d be mad at Ax because he’s the reason the Kandrona was destroyed in the first place, but . . . no END SPOILERS.
It kills me that Scholastic originally did not want Ax to have POV books. They thought it would be too weird or something. But Ax books turned out to be extremely popular, and he went from having one book only every other rotation, to being one of the regulars. In retrospect, their popularity should have been obvious. They combine the mass appeal of Ax’s weird obsession with food and mouth sounds with the ability to finally convey lots of information about the outside galaxy. Ax brings the alien to this series, and I like it so much.
SPOILERS The most intriguing thing we learn is of course the existence of Seerow’s Kindness, the most important law in Andalite society. The reason the Andalites fight the Yeerks so hard, the reason they won’t give technology to other civilizations, or even explain why they won’t, is because an Andalite named Seerow several hundred years before felt pity for the Yeerks stuck on their home planet with only blind, clumsy hosts. He wanted them to see the stars, and so gave them the technology to leave, at which point they began infesting the galaxy. It is the Andalites’ guilt and shame that drives them, for inflicting the Yeerk menace on the Universe, and it’s that Ax has to overcome to be honest with the rest of the Animorphs END SPOILERS.
Ax’s humor doesn’t amuse me nearly as much as it did when I was a kid, but this book still really worked for me, shading in a bunch of blank spots in Ax’s character, the worldbuilding, and in the dynamics of the team going forward. It plants a lot of really interesting seeds. (I can’t wait to get to The Andalite Chronicles.)
Next up, our second Cassie book, and I have zero memory of it!