Animorphs #6: “The Capture”
Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, January 1997
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: It was really bad when Jake found out his older brother was one of them. It was even worse when Tobias stayed in his morph too long. But nothing compares to the horror the Animorphs are about to face. Nothing.
Jake and the other Animorphs have a feeling they know where the Yeerks’ new base is located. And they’ve found out how to get in – how many people will really notice a few flies on the wall? But they never figured that they might get caught. Or that Jake could fall into the Yeerk pool. That Jake could become a human-Controller. A Yeerk. The enemy.
Plot: I only have vague memories of some of the plots of these books. This one I did remember was about Jake being infested by a Yeerk, but, as always it seems, there was tons more going on in this book that I had completely forgotten! In my memory, Jake was taken over about a quarter of the book in and the rest was his struggles, but nope! That only happens about halfway through the story (and considering how short these things are, you do the math on how much page time that means this plot line actually gets!)
The story starts out with a Jake doing something the Animorphs NEVER seem to do! Practicing a morph! This time it’s a cockroach morph that leads to a short, madcap adventure through Jake’s kitchen that ends with him stuck in a roach motel. It’s a pretty humorous start to the story and Applegate even plays a bit with the narrative, having the scene cut and then finish as a story that Jake is telling his fellow Animorphs later. The crux of their larger mission revolves around some quick deductions (and a mini mission as roaches into a Yeerk meeting) that lead them to believe that the Yeerks have installed a mini Yeerk pool in a local hospital which they are using to infest patients who come in for procedures. While this is worrying enough, the fact that the state governor is scheduled for a minor surgery in the upcoming week is the real kick in the pants they need to investigate. And low and behold, there is a Yeerk pool and in the confusion of battle Jake ends up face first in said pool, only to emerge as a Controller. Luckily, the Yeerk in his head doesn’t have the best self-control and lets out a few major slips early on in his possession of Jake, alerting the others that something is up.
The rest of the book is basically an outwit/outlast scenario set in an abandoned cabin in the woods with the Animorphs trying to coral Yeerk!Jake for the three days it will take to starve the Yeerk in his brain. We get some really interesting looks into the Yeerk’s mind and this portion really serves to flesh out the Yeerks as a species and explain some of the questions about how they are able to mimic the person they are controlling. It’s also a very drawn out Yeerk torture scene, as Applegate doesn’t pull any punches about the reality of what is happening, the Yeerk slowly dying of starvation. In the end, of course, Jake is freed of the Yeerk and the game board is essentially re-set, if only now with a clearer understanding of the Yeerks altogether.
Our Fearless Leader: There are a lot of interesting things going on in this book for Jake. First, he is having nightmares of being a tiger and hunting his brother and then even himself. It’s a bit heavy handed, but I applaud Applegate for trying to bring in the psychological struggle of it all so early on in the series. Through these dreams, we can see the ongoing mental exhaustion that comes from living a life so full of violence and moral dilemmas. And for Jake, the chosen leader of the group, it makes sense that this burden would weight more heavily. Second, a large part of the book is understandably spent simply in Jake’s head and it is interesting hearing his thoughts on his fellow Animorphs as he basically roots for them against himself. Through his eyes, we see just how adept this team has come at managing unexpected and difficult situations as a united group with very few missteps.
After Jake is taken over, we learn a lot more about the Yeerks as a civilization. Particularly, just how entitled they are! We hear about a species called the Gedds, which were the first race of beings to be taken over by the Yeekrs, and through Jake’s Yeerk’s thoughts on the matter, we learn that since the Gedds were simple minded beings, the Yeerks essentially decided they were just made to be infested. And then this mindset just expanded out to the larger universe.
As I said earlier, it was also really interesting (and horrifying!) reading about the process of being controlled. Jake discusses feeling like his brain is being read like an open book. And being amazed and horrified by how completely the Yeerk slips into character, able to mimic not just the words that Jake would say but the way he would say them. It’s all super creepy and really highlights the hell that all the Controlled beings are living in constantly.
Towards the end, when the Yeerk in Jake’s head is dying, things get rather gruesome. But in it all, we get a brief vision of a great red eye. I can’t remember all of the details, but I do know that this is foreshadowing for another big bad who shows up later on. I had completely forgotten that these little bread crumbs were being sprinkled so early.
Xena, Warriar Princess: Rachel’s big moment is getting to be bait in some weird attempt to lure Yeerk!Jake into trying to escape into the woods. There are several problems with this plan, as I detail later in the “bad plans” portion. But another problem with it has to do with the Yeerk’s intimate knowledge of all of the Animorphs based on Jake’s own knowledge. I feel like Jake would know that, of all of them, Rachel would be the last one to sleep on the job and most likely to take the whole thing as a personal insult and just stare angrily at Yeerk!Jake for the entire time. So the fact that the Yeerk (and even Jake) is tricked by this, seems strange and out of character.
A Hawk’s Life: Tobias really doesn’t do much in this book. He helps guard Yeerk!Jake, but can’t participate in most of the action of the hospital mission. Very sad for me, as a major Tobias fan.
Peace, Love, and Animals: The Yeerk immediately narrows in on Cassie as the weak point of the group, misidentifying her caring nature for naivety and carelessness. It’s an easy mistake to make, and I know that as a reader, even I am likely to fall into the trap of underestimating Cassie. But here she proves that her sympathy is a strength. Her greater knowledge of Jake (and people in general) allows her to focus in on the differences early on, and she’s just as fierce as her teammates when it comes to patrolling the woods and containing Yeerk!Jake.
The Comic Relief: Marco proves yet again that he is probably the smartest one of the group. I’ve probably said it before, and I’ll say it again, the decision to make Marco the most canny of the characters was a really good choice that saves him from just being, as this section title implies, the comic relief character with all the one liners. Here, Marco gets the governor’s schedule all on his own by coming up with the direct, yet effective, plan of posing as a member of the press on the phone and simply requesting it. If left to themselves, the rest of the Animorphs would have probably come up with some stupidly complicated mission that involved infiltrating the governor’s mansion with no prior scouting using three morphs they’d never tried before. He also identifies the deeper tell that Yeerk!Jake gives away: the fact that if Jake weren’t controlled, he’d be trying to help them with this plan to hideout in the woods as a necessary precaution, rather than arguing against it.
E.T./Ax Phone Home: Ax plays some pretty important roles in this book, both on and off page. First, if he hadn’t been there in his Andalite form, it’s not a given that the Animorphs would have caught on to Jake’s situation. Apparently the Yeerks just can’t contain their hatred! I mean, it wasn’t even a minor slip. The Yeerk outright called Ax “Andalite filth.” There’s really no coming back from that. Jake being “stressed” is a ridiculous attempt at an out, and one that the Animorphs weren’t buying for a minute. But I feel like we were all greatly denied the three days that Ax had to impersonate Jake at home. The few references we got to it were Jake’s parents’ confusion about his suddenly increased appetite and weird vocabulary issues during this time (and their barely disguised relief that he was back to normal when he returns). But given the last time we saw Ax as a morphed human he was busily eating cigarette butts in a mall, one has to think we missed out on real comedy gold never getting these scenes.
Best (?) Body Horror Moment: I mean, the cockroaches are pretty bad. They’re made a bit better by the comedic introduction the morph gets in the beginning of the book with Jake’s roach motel escapade, but there’s no avoiding the simple fact that they all end up morphing roaches. And then they morph flies. It’s just a book full of bugs. And, like all the bug morphs that have come before and I’m sure will come later, there’s the rather gruesome descriptions of their skeleton and organs all essentially turning to goo…
Couples Watch!: Not a lot of couple action in this one, really. Yes, Cassie is one of the early ones to become suspicious of Jake, a testament to her knowledge of him. And the Yeerk does make a few comments about Jake caring for her, but other than that, this book is largely focused on other relationships in Jake’s life, primarily that between him and his brother Tom.
If Only Visser Three had Mustache to Twirl: Visser Three shows up in a human morph for the first time in this book. And it speaks to his truly evil nature that somehow all of the Animorphs sense that something is wrong about this particular human right from the get go. Visser Three is so evil that it leaks through his morph! Also, after the cockroach infestation is discovered at the super secret Controller meeting, there’s a pretty funny visual image of a bunch of human Controllers all frantically stomping around the room trying to crush bugs. This is what the mighty Yeerk empire has been reduced to…
Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: All of the Tom drama. Through the Yeerk’s inner monologues to Jake, we get a real look into Tom’s deteriorating mindset through this prolonged time as a Controller (the Yeerk just happens to be the one who had controlled Tom). We saw him rebelling in the first book, but since then, things have gone down hill and Tom has pretty much given up. At the end of the story, Jake disguises his voice and calls Tom and tells him not to give up, knowing that his brother will hear him even through the Controller’s ears. It’s all very sad, especially knowing how long the journey ahead still is.
What a Terrible Plan, Guys!: Most of their plans are pretty good in this book, actually, especially given their success rate at both their original mission and the fallout that comes from it with Yeark!Jake. It doesn’t take them long to figure out how to deal with what has to have been a completely unexpected situation, and they pull off the whole thing fairly smoothly. The one part I really didn’t understand was why they felt the need to set up the Yeerk to try to escape in the first place. Rachel pretends to fall asleep, and Yeerk!Jake sneaks out, and then they capture him again. But why?? There’s no real benefit to be gained from this. First, just try to discourage him to begin with by highlighting all the fail safes you’ve put in place. And then, worst case scenario, if he still tries it, you can capture him anyways. But there’s no benefit to risking anything going wrong with a fake out attempt. What if the Yeerk had tried to kill fake-sleeping-Rachel? She was pretty exposed as her human self just “sleeping” there. (The reader in me knows that this was just for dramatic effect, but that really just proves how bad of a plan it would have been in actual life).
This is what I’ve been saying!!
“I can’t believe we are actually going to practice a morph,” Marco said. “We never practice. We just do it, and when it’s a huge disaster we try and deal with it then.”
Scorecard: Yeerks 1, Animorphs 3
Not only do the Yeerks miss out on the best opportunity to completely wipe out the Animorphs that they’ve had yet (if the Yeerk in Jake’s head had had a bit more self-control and successfully pulled the wool over the others’ eyes long enough to sneak back to base and report on them all, the Animorphs would have been completely done for), but the Animorphs were also successful in their mission to sabotage the hospital Yeerk pool plan. They prevented the governor from being taken over and they boiled a bunch of Yeerks in the process. So a pretty solid win!
Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all! But I’ll give a one sentence conclusion and you can take from that what you will!