Animorphs #30: “The Reunion”
Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, June 1999
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: Marco is faced with a difficult decision when his mother threatens to seize control over Visser One.
Plot: Didn’t remember much about this one either, other than the obvious fact that the “reunion” that drives the title was between Marco and his mother, Visser One. And then I started reading…and became very concerned. And kept reading…and was a bit less concerned. And then it actually kind of turned into a good book?
Marco decides to skip school and go downtown (for plot reasons cuz we’re literally given no other explanation.) He then just so conveniently happens to literally bump into his mother, Visser One, in the busy streets. What follows is a ridiculous series of events that in any other book would have never happened for so many reasons. At one point Marco morphs to a fly in the MIDDLE OF A FULL ELEVATOR but somehow we’re to believe that this is fine because he….puts a newspaper over his head? And then, after locating the office where his mother goes, fly!Marco gets sucked into an AC vent and ends up having to MORPH A HUMAN (whom he had conveniently acquired earlier to get into the building, somehow using the morphing trance to get through the door with him, claiming it was a “take your kid to work” day or something.) Again, there is zero reason for him to be morphing human when he could easily go back to bug. Not to mention the fact that when this happens, he’s alone in an office hiding behind a desk. A notably MUCH MORE HIDDEN spot than in the damn elevator where he just did this before. Whatever. He ends up back in the barn with the others and tells them that he found Visser One, and we can all pretend that this is the real start of the book since there’s almost a complete turn around in quality of the story after this point.
Jake quickly decides that they need to investigate this further, however he, Rachel, and Cassie are all out for a mission that night. This leaves Tobias, Marco, and Ax. Jake makes it clear that Marco is too close to this, and that because of this, Tobias has last say on what goes down. Later that night, the infiltrate the building in roach morph. After a wild ride down a stair banister, the small group make their way to the office. There, they see the horrifying image of a small Yeerk pool, portable Kandrona ray, and Marco’s mother, locked on her side with her ear in the pool. She’s free for a brief minute and Marco struggles not to go to her. They also notice satellite images of the free Hork Bajir in their valley. Before they can investigate further, the Yeerk reinfests Marco’s mother and the door is knocked down by Visser Three’s goons coming after Visser One.
Marco is not about to let his mother die at the hands of Visser Three, and he is able to spin it to Tobias that saving her could benefit them as well. Gorilla!Marco, Tobias, and Ax rush in and fight off the invading Hork Bajir. They manage to corner Visser One and get her talking. She reveals that she planned to find the free Hork Bajir and use that information as leverage to discredit Visser Three and regain her place on the Council of Thirteen. Visser One wants to strike a bargain: she will help them kill Visser Three, and the Animorphs will lead her to the free Hork Bajir. They agree, but Marco has a plan that will take out both Vissers and leave the Hork Bajir safe. They arrange to meet Visser One the next day.
As they fly away, Marco reflects on what it means to be ruthless and the fact that others have thought that of him in the past. Instead, he says that he is simply practical and sees a bright line between point A and point B. Through all the mess of worries & fears, the line is what drives his decisions. And that right now he sees a clear line, but one that will result in the death of his mother.
But for his plan to work, they need a specific morph. They fly to Cassie’s house and wake her up, asking where they can acquire goats morphs. She says there is a new mountain goat section at the Gardens, so the three make their way there and acquire the goats (not with out some knocks, of course).
The next day he begins to explain his plan and how it will result in them taking out both Visser Three and Visser one, while also convincing the Yeerks that they have destroyed the Hork Bajir colony. They will also need the help of Erek.
Using their best arrogant Andalite voice (Tobias is the best, having spent so much time with Ax), they instruct Visser One to go to the mall and buy mountain climbing gear. Various Animorphs keep an eye on her the entire time. They also assume that Visser Three will eventually spot her and send Controllers to follower her as well. Plus, they’re sure she has her own reinforcements.
As they head out, in the midst of a parlay between Visser One and Cassie, Visser One notes that there are significantly more Hork Bajir and Taxxon deaths in the casualty lists in the Yeerks’ fights with the “Andalites.” It is clear that she stumbles upon the truth, which only increases the stakes. No one can live who knows the truth.
In bug morphs, Marco, Jake, Cassie and Rachel stash themselves in her car, Tobias and Ax are waiting at the destination. Once they reach the mountain, they tell Visser One to start climbing. Jake tells everyone to go to bird morph. Rachel and Marco make it out of the car, but Jake and Cassie are still in the car morphing when Visser Three shows up in his limo and casually blows it up with a Dracon beam. Marco is the only one who sees it, and when he frantically calls for them, they don’t answer.
Sure that his friends are dead, Marco has no choice but to continue the mission, flying up the hill where he spots Tobias and Rachel in Hork Bajir morph meeting up with Visser One to “lead her to their valley.” As Marco continues to fly, he notes empty camp sites that look recently vacated. Ax has been successful at scaring away other innocents. When asked, he has to reveal to Tobias and Rachel the likely fate of Jake and Cassie.
The climb takes hours, with Tobias and Rachel having to slip away to re-morph every once in awhile. Far behind, osprey!Marco sees Visser Three and his Controllers making their way up after her, willing to let her live until she reveals where the free Hork Bajir have been hiding. On the way up, Visser Three morphs a new alien, one that is quite capable of climbing, and worse, has the ability to camouflage itself with its surroundings.
Marco demorphs and remorphs as a goat, and Ax meets back up with him in bird morph. Ax notes that the numbers are now not in their favor, with Visser Three having many more Controllers than they had anticipated. Marco snaps at him about not seeing any reinforcements anywhere. Ax then takes off. Goat!Marco zips up the mountain, quickly passing Visser One and arriving at the top near a cliff side with a sheer drop on three sides. When Visser one arrives, Marco “shows” her the Hork Bajir colony: Erek puts up a hologram of the Hork Bajir valley that has been “concealed” using another hologram in the mountainside. In a slip of tongue, Marco cracks a joke, even further confirming to Visser One that they are not Andalite warriors. What’s worse, Visser One is suspicious that she recognizes his voice and type of joke.
Visser Three is next to arrive. They both order their cloaked ships to attack. Visser Three with his Bug fighters and Blade ship and Visser One with a massive ship that Visser Three looks at with awe, calling it a Nova class Empire ship. He and Visser One go at it as well, each striking a hit on the other. Goat!Marco can’t stand it, and attacks Visser Three who shoots him in the leg. Visser One orders her ships to destroy the Hork Bajir colony and Erek displays the valley’s destruction. However, the guns are still hitting a mountainside that in reality is much closer than a valley floor. A fissure cracks the ground, leaving Visser Three, his troops, and Hork Bajir!Rachel & Tobias on one side, and Visser One and Marco on the other.
Marco whispers that he loves her and Visser One instantly recognizes him as “the boy.” Goat!Marco charges her, but at the last minute a tiger!Jake knocks him aside and osprey!Cassie scrapes Visser One upside the head, preventing her from shooting Marco with the Dracon beam. Visser One overbalances and falls backwards off the cliff. The free Hork Bajir show up, lead by Ax, and the battle between the ships rages above. Marco is only dimly aware of any of it.
He stays in bed for the next week, watching TV and trying not to think. Jake shows up and explains that once Visser Three saw the free Hork Bajir arrive, he and his Controllers skedaddled, but five free Hork Bajir were lost in the battle. He also explains that when he and Cassie saw the limo arrive, they went straight to roach morph, assuming that nothing can kill a roach. Cassie made it all the way, but Jake was midmorph when the car blew up and was knocked unconscious. Cassie stayed by his side and was only able to wake him up a few minutes before the two hour time limit was up.
A few days later, Rachel visits. She says she didn’t see Visser One’s body. Marco says the Yeerks would have cleaned up after themselves. She says that there were scorch marks where they burned other dead Controllers, but there was nothing where Visser One fell. Marco remembers a Bug fighter roaring past. Maybe it was able to catch her? Marco snaps that he doesn’t want her pity, but Rachel notes that telling him she may still be alive is worse. If Visser One was dead, Marco’s already being going through the stages of hate and sadness. If she’s alive, he’ll have to confront the same decision all over again. With some hope, they sit in silence and watch TV.
The Comic Relief: Like I said earlier, this book is very weird in the way it is written. The first 25% of the book is frankly awful, probably the worst I’ve read so far. There are no explanations for Marco’s choices and the plot convenience factor is out of control. He makes stupid decision after stupid decision, two that are against the most cardinal rules that Animorphs have: don’t reveal yourself by morphing public & don’t morph human. And his reasons for doing each are incredibly poor.
But when the story actually gets into it, there’s some really good stuff here. Whenever teh story focuses on Marco’s situation with his mother as Visser One we’re going to see some pretty heart wrenching stuff. What makes it worse and different than Jake’s situation with Tom is both down to who is Controlling Marco’s mother and who Marco is himself. Obviously, Visser One is a much more dangerous and well-protected Yeerk than whomever is currently infesting Tom. This makes the equation of saving her vs taking her out very different. Tom’s loss would have zero impact on the Yeerk war at this point. However, taking out Visser One is worth almost any cost, including the life of Marco’s mother.
And Marco himself knows this. Jake, though we’ve seen him hardening himself more and more through each book, is still hopeful for Tom (again partially due to his unimportance all told). But one of Marco’s defining characteristics is his all-consuming practicality of thought. He himself identifies it as ruthlessness. His metaphor of the bright line and how it drives everything he does, is spot on not only for how we see him in this book, but for the decisions and reactions to situations that we’ve seen from him in the past. Rachel is ruthless in a reckless, sometimes mindless, way. Marco is ruthless in a cold, conniving way. He knows what he is doing and he chooses to do it over and over again. At one point in this book, he thinks about what the history books will say if the Animorphs manage to win this war. That this Marco guy was cold. So cold that he took out his own mother. And while Marco hates this idea, he never wavers from following his plan. Of course, he hesitates at the last minute on the mountain, even intervening when Visser Three attacks her. But at the last, when he’s in goat morph, he chooses to go through with it. Had tiger!Jake not hit him, he would have succeeded in knocking her off that cliff. Everyone questioned his ability to make the tough calls throughout this book, but this one act really proves that the cold, calculating Marco will follow that line no matter what.
Our Fearless Leader: Jake has a few really good moments in this. They’re small, but notable. One, when he first sends them to check out Visser One in the office building. He can sense Marco’s reckless energy and wisely puts Tobias in charge (yet more evidence for my “Tobias should be second in charge” theory.) Then, when Marco is explaining his plan to take out both Visser One and Visser Three, Jake doesn’t question him. When Cassie explodes, saying that they can’t let this happen, that this is Marco’s mother, Jake silences her. Not only does he recognize that this is Marco’s decision, but the leader in him knows that this is the right call, and that the sacrifice of his best friend’s psyche or ability not to self-loathe himself is a price that needs to be paid. But again, in the end, Jake takes it out of Marco’s hands, knocking her out of the way. Had Visser One not fallen herself, one wonders if Jake would have been the one to actually push her.
Xena, Warrior Princess: Rachel comes down hard on Marco a few times in this book, about whether or not he’ll be able to take out his own mother. Most especially after she’s heard that Jake and Cassie are dead. Marco almost suspects that she will take out Visser One right then and there and is relieved when she doesn’t.
But, like in the last book with Visser One, it’s Rachel that takes the time to follow up on Visser One and give Marco hope. She checked out the mountain side in detail and tells Marco his mother might still be alive. There’s no mention that any of the others thought to do this. She also notes that she doesn’t fell that telling him this is a kindness, but that it’s just a fact. As she and Marco are often the two most prone to relying on facts over kindness, this makes a lot of sense. She also stays with him, not hugging but sitting with him. It’s a very sweet moment and speaks to a unique connection that the two of them have, for all of their bickering in other stories.
A Hawk’s Life: Tobias also has a lot of action in this book. Not only does he end up as the leader in the late-night office raid, but he also does much of the talking to Visser One since he talks to Ax the most and is most capable of mimicking his patterns of speech. His dialogue for all of this is pretty spot on. When he feels that Marco’s plans are going sideways, we get another fun look at sarcastic Tobias which is, of course, the best Tobias. Then, of course, he’s with Rachel as one of the Hork Bajir that leads Visser One up the mountain.
Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie comes up with the mountain goat morph idea, and the fact that she is able to morph all the way to cockroach, unlike Jake, before the car is blown up is another example of her proficiency at morphing. It does seem like since she was in roach morph, she should have been able to let osprey!Marco know what happened instead of leaving him to think they were dead, so that’s strange.
When Marco first explains his plan to take out Visser One and Visser Three, she has this to say:
“She’s your mother!” Cassie exploded. “She’s not ‘Visser One.’ She’s your mother! Is everyone just going to let this happen?”
Jake sent her a cold look. “This is not the time, Cassie.”
It seems pretty inline with what we know of Cassie that she would be the one protesting this. After this bit, she goes on to say that they should be concerned about what state Marco will be in if they let this happen. And, as I mentioned in Jake’s section, he ignores her. It is a sign of her strong sense of friendship and concern for others, but on the other hand, she does make an already almost unbearable situation for Marco worse by having this outburst.
E.T./Ax Phone Home: Ax has some funny moments being offended by the others’ versions of how arrogant Andalites talk, but it does seem pretty spot on. Throughout the book, it’s made clear that he’s on board for Marco’s plan mostly because of his ongoing mission to take out Visser Three, the killer of his brother, at any cost. While he feels bad for Marco, he’s also pretty cold about his priorities, regularly suggesting that they just take her out now.
He’s also the one to think to get the free Hork Bajir as backup when it becomes clear that they are outnumbered.
Best (?) Body Horror Moment: Marco mentions that Tobias’s morph from bird to cockroach is particularly horrifying, noting that roach wings begin to form out of the top of his bird head.
Mother Nature didn’t come up with a birdbug on her own for good reason.
Couples Watch!: Not a lot of couple action in this one, as per typical for Marco or Ax books. But there is a pretty interesting moment between Rachel and Tobias. After Marco has told them about Jake and Cassie, Rachel is pretty hard on Marco. She continues to pick at him throughout the trip up the mountain, until at one point Tobias quietly interrupts her and says “That’s enough” and she immediately stops. Marco notes that he is surprised that Tobias stood up to her as he doesn’t do it very often. I think it’s another nice example of how Rachel and Tobias work well together. He mostly respects and values Rachel for the bad-ass she is, but he is also not intimidated or scared of her, and feels comfortable enough to speak up when he thinks she’s crossed a line. And Rachel respects him enough to listen when he does.
Also, when the three wake up Cassie to get the goat morph, her first words are “Jake?” Marco has some fun teasing her about this.
I’ve already briefly noted my feelings on the secondary Marco/Rachel thing that seems to go on. And like I said in her section, it’s important I think that she was the only one to follow up on the fate of Visser One and the one to sit with Marco and provide hope and comfort in the end.
If Only Visser Three had Mustache to Twirl: Man, Visser One is so much smarter than Visser Three. It takes her all of what, maybe a few hours total, talking to and interacting with the Animorphs to figure out their secret. And it wasn’t even first down to any slip up on their part. She’s done her research and noted the oddness of the casualty lists, information that is equally available to Visser Three. And then when Marco slips up, she’s quick to zero in on a familiar pattern to his voice, meaning she’s spent the time to learn and distinguish between individual humans. All told, the Animorphs are super lucky they ended up with a fool like Visser Three instead of her.
We also got another example of Visser Three losing his shit at one of his own Controllers.
Evidently encouraged by Visser Three’s seemingly tolerant mood, another human-Controller made the mistake of offering an opinion.
The end result is a missing arm. Probably should count himself lucky for that.
Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: Um, the entire last half? As I discussed in Marco’s section, his books that deal with his mother are always going to be rough. And here, unlike the last time, from the very beginning the plan is for her not to make it out of this, and it’s Marco’s plan on top of that. Throughout the entire story he struggles with what this says about him and about whether he’ll be able to pull it off in the end. And while he is able to, he is not able to stop himself from trying to give his Controlled mother one last bit of peace. He’s been reflecting this entire time on what he would say to his father when/if he found out, and what his mother would think if she knew what he planned. So, before charges, he tells her that he loves her. Not only does this confirm that the Animorphs are humans, but now Visser One knows WHO one of them is as well. And as we’ve heard about ad nauseum, once one is outed, it’s a quick step to the rest. But with all of the inner torment we’ve read for the entire book, it’s hard to fault Marco for this small moment of weakness right when he is making the worst decision anyone could be forced to make.
What a Terrible Plan, Guys!: With all that goes wrong, it’s hard to actually see what the original plan was. Just let Visser Three and Visser One duke it out? But this seems like a pretty bad plan, knowing they’ll both be bringing reinforcements, including massive space ships. It seems like a given that the Animrophs would get caught in the middle and be overwhelmed. Maybe they were just going to take off in bug morph and avoid the whole thing. Who knows.
The one part I really don’t get is the goat morph. It seems like a pretty blatant shoe-in for some editor being like “But they don’t get any new morphs in this! Add one!!” Not only is the goat morph not really necessary (Marco could have just flew to the top of the mountain and morphed something with power there), but it’s completely bizarre that they decided to go acquire these morphs in the middle of the night after returning from the city. There’s no real reason for the urgency, and it’s even stranger that then that leaves only the three of them with this morph. I mean, as I’ve said, it doesn’t seem like any of them really needed it. Ax and Tobias don’t even use it and there’s no clear point in the plan where it seems like they would have. And why wouldn’t they all get it and not just those three if there even was a purpose in having more than one goat. It’s pretty dumb.
Oh, delusional Ax:
<It will certainly require good acting skills to imbue the fundamentally humble and dispassionate Andalite character with a taint of arrogance,> he said.
“Yeah. Humble is the very first word that comes to mind when I think ‘Andalite,'” Rachel said with a drawl.
Also, when Marco first realizes that his joke may have alerted Visser One to his identity and he starts panicking:
<It’s okay, Marco,> a gentle voice said. But not my mom. Rachel. <It’s okay, man. It’s okay.>
Scorecard: Yeerks 7, Animorphs 12
I’m giving this one to the Yeerks, specifically Visser One. By exposing themselves for longer periods and through talking to her, the Animorphs gave up their biggest secret to the most wily Yeerk they’ve run across. And what did they get for it? Nothing! Not a good day for our team.
Rating: If I was actually rating these books, I’d have a really hard time with this one. The Marco and Visser One stuff is excellent, just top notch. And the whole last half was action- packed and dramatic. But that first bit. It was so awful that I actually caught myself wondering if I had really forgotten this book and that this was another Ellimist/Crayak weird thing. Like, the Ellimist was somehow triggering Marco to do these things, because in any regular world, his actions were not only completely out of character but just stupid to read about. He successfully morphed a fly in an elevator full of people…really? REALLY?! We’ve been told it takes 2-3 minutes to morph and no one noticed a kid weirdly ducking down behind them and turning into a bug. Sure. Suuuurre. And then the blatant abuse of human morphing, again for no reason. I really can’t express how terrible I thought these opening chapters were. But, like I said, the book turned a huge corner and by the end I was really enjoying it. I just have to not think about the beginning or the rage takes over again.
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!