The Great Animorphs Re-Read: “Visser”

343187Animorphs #35.5: “Visser”

Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, December 1999

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: In an hour or so, once I was out of sight of land, I would lower my sails and wait for a Bug fighter to come lift me off the deck. The engine backwash of the Bug fighter would capsize the boat. Or I might put the Taxxon pilot to the test and see if he could ram the low-slung boat. That would puzzle the humans.

Either way, my body would never be found…

My time of lying low was over…

I would spearhead the invasion of Earth. I would take charge of our greatest conquest. I would stand alone atop the Yeerk military hierarchy.

I was to become Visser One.

Narrator: Edriss 562

Plot: It’s pretty well-established that most fans love “Visser.” Not only is it such a unique story, but it’s a great insight into the Yeerk mindset, culture and history. All told from the perspective of one of the few Yeerks that, even while still terrible, it’s hard to not kind of like and root for. Though this might also just be a side effect of rooting against Visser Three.

Oh Edriss, you’re so terrible, but also so cool.

Edriss 563, or Visser One, is on trial for treason. Leading the prosecution is none other than her nemesis, Visser Three. Hosted on earth, the Council of Thirteen, the leading Yeerks of the Empire are holographed in to oversee and rule over the case. Unknown to the Council, Visser Three has beaten and starved Edriss for the last several days and she is already close to Kandrona starvation. However, not one to be cowed by a Yeerk she sees as so beneath her as Visser Three, Edriss begins relating her tale, beginning all the way back to before Earth was discovered and she was a lowly subvisser. While she begins spinning this tale, she neatly implicated Visser Three in some suspicious behavior regarding Elfangor, the Taxxon home world, and two humans. All too soon, she has successfully raised enough suspicion to make it clear that now this trial is not only evaluating her own actions but the amazing lack of progress that Visser Three has made in the effort to conquer Earth.

In her early years as a subvisser, Edriss participated in the ongoing main objective of the Yeerk Empire: locating a Class 5 species. This would be a species that would serve as good Controllers, be easy to conquer, and, most importantly, exist in large numbers. While on duty, she hears a report come in of a new species that was seen on the Taxxon home world. This report was filed by none other than Visser Three (then a subvisser himself). Using these early interactions with Elfangor and Alloran, Visser One neatly ties Visser Three into the trial as a potential traitor himself.

Without the exact location, Edriss searches for an entire year to find the homeworld of this new species. But when she learns she is to be transferred to a new host, this time a Taxxon, she knows she must do more. She and a subordinate Yeerk, Essam, steal a ship and set out for the solar system that Edriss has narrowed her search down to. Visser Three tries to use this example of stealing a ship to end the trial, but the Council is unimpressed, knowing they have all committed some crimes in their quest to rise to power.

Throughout this all, Edriss’s host, Eva, Marco’s mom, fights back against Edriss. She mocks the Yeerk, saying that she will be killed for treason here and that her son Marco will defeat Visser Three. Edriss pushes Eva’s thoughts aside, but reflects that she has to get through this, to protect…them.

At this point in the trial, the Council requests to use a live memory file to relieve Edriss’s experience first hand. Through this medium, they see the next chunk of time. Edriss and Essam finally discover Earth. They make their way to Earth and disembark only to find themselves in the midst of a battle. They are shocked to find the humans attacking each other and worry that the humans have a level of weapons that would put them as a Class Four instead of Five,  being too dangerous to overtake. Edriss, however, is determined. They locate a lost solider and Edriss infests him. Through his mind, she begins to start piecing together what makes up humanity. She discovers that the soldier she is in is on the losing side of this war and that he sees his enemies, the Americans, as the most powerful beings on Earth. Edriss decides that the way to conquer Earth will be to conquer its most powerful first, so she and Essam set off for America.

The Council calls a break in the trial. While alone, Visser Three very unsutbly tries to trick Visser One into ganging together to take out the Council. Visser One sees through this plot quickly and mocks Visser Three for his idiocy.

“The real wonder, Visser, is that you ever rose to your present rank.”

The memory transfer continues. Essam and Edriss make their way to Hollywood. There, they each take on a human host. Edriss ends up in a young woman who has a drug problem and isn’t the brightest bulb. Essam takes on a male host as well, and through these two, the Yeerks continue to expand their knowledge of humans. Edriss is disappointed with her host, finding her silly and ignorant. But after digging further, she discovers what may be a weakness in humanity: people are sad and lonely, looking to belong and needing validation from others. She begins to think that humans can be made to come to the Yeerks willingly.

The memory transfer ends, and Visser One accuses Visser Three of squandering the opportunity she had left him, to conquer Earth. Visser Three claims that she left before the Andalite bandits showed up. Visser One ponders telling Visser Three the truth, that some of the “Andalite bandits” are human children. But Eva mocks her and warns her that by doing so, all Edriss will succeed in doing is handing over an easy victory to Visser Three that he can then claim as his own. Visser One goes on to explain that this understanding of human weakness is what lead to her idea of forming The Sharing. Visser Three calls for all-out war, saying Visser One’s strategy has been failing. Visser One can’t let this happen, she fears for the lives of two humans.

As the debate continues, two Hork Bajir suddenly attack Visser Three. Following them comes a tiger and a bear. As the battle wages, Visser One quickly becomes suspicious. There are only four attacking, not the usual six. What’s more, in all of the past attacks, there was always an Andalite fighting in his true form. He is notably absent. The tiger also seems unaware the its being fired at and the bear looks confused. It all becomes clear when the tiger suddenly turns and swipes at the bear itself: these are not the “Andalite bandits” at all. Visser Three has set the whole thing up. Visser Three takes out the tiger and incinerates the poor, confused bear.

After all four are killed, Visser One acknowledges that this round goes to Visser Three. He can now claim to have dealt with the Andalite bandits, and the flaws that Visser One saw would not be apparent to the Council who witnessed it. Visser One’s claim that Visser Three is incompetent is severely damaged. Eva is pleased, she would gladly die and be free to see Edriss herself defeated. Garouff, one of the Council members and a past mentor of Visser One, does seem skeptical of the convenience of the bandits attacking just now, but calls for the trial to continue.

There is a gap in Edriss’s memory dump of about a year, but Visser Three claims to have a witness for this time period: the host body of the deceased Essam. A human man is brought in raving and clearly mentally unhinged. But when asked, he clearly remembers Essam and Edriss and his time as a Controller. He claims that he, Hildy, and Essam were married to Edriss/Allison, and that Essam was in love with Edriss and was sure she felt the same way. That’s why he agreed to having the twins with her.

Edriss is shocked, as is the Council. She struggles to continue her story in calm, rational voice, all the while thinking that her only possible saving grace would be being able to contact Marco and the other “bandits.” Eva appreciates this irony. As her tale unfolds, she discusses her switch from her original, drug addict host to the much more clever and conniving, Allison Kim. Allison showed her the greater depths of humanity, especially their ability to patiently plan and work against a foe.

Visser Three is not satisfied with Visser One simply recounting this tale and calls for a live memory recall, a process in which others can enter the consciousness of the target and relive their memories. Visser One is horrified at this violation. Eva smugly points out that this is how it feels to be Controlled. After protesting, Edriss has to finally agree to letting Garouff perform the memory recall.

Through Edriss’s memory, Garouff witnesses her grow closer and closer to humanity. Not only does being disconnected from her own people have a great effect, but Allison Kim is a clever host and finds ways to draw Edriss and Essam further into the sway of the pleasures of living life as a human. Garouff is surprised and put off to find Edriss and Allison merging in a way and developing feelings for Essam/his human host. Through a series of flash forwards, Garouff sees what he thought to be impossible: two Yeerks falling in love along with their hosts. He witnesses the announcement that Edriss and Essam are expecting twins and finally concludes that Edriss, too, had become an addict, but to humanity itself. He says that while he believes Edriss may not be a traitor in the present, this is proof that she was in the past.

After the birth of the twins, the situation becomes more dire for Edriss and Essam as they realize that their portable Kandrona is running low and will soon expire. Not knowing what to do, the four of them, Edriss, Essam, Allison and Hildy all agree that if nothing else, the children must survive. Garouff ends the memory recall and calls for the trial to continue.

Edriss is shocked. What was revealed in the memory dump was more than enough to convict her, but Eva realizes what is going on: Visser One was not supposed to be convicted and the Council is still looking for a way to avoid it. They need to discredit Visser Three. To delay, Edriss claims that her host body needs food, and the Council agrees to adjourn for an hour.

Visser Three and One make their way out and we discover that the trial is being held in a room off of the Yeerk Pool. In the cafeteria, Visser One notices that another human Controller has a cell phone on her that seems to be working. After bumping into said Controller, she manages to snag the phone and make her way to the bathroom where she calls Marco.

Marco is wary, but impresses Visser One with his clear thinking and, to her surprise, cold-blooded approach to helping. It’s only after Visser One comes up with a clear plan on how to get the “bandits” into the Yeerk pool through a Taxxon feeding station that he tepidly agrees, speaking directly to his mother and saying that he’s not sure he can save her, but that he’ll do what is right.

Back in the trial, Edriss continues her story, explaining how she finally contacted the Yeerk Empire and delivered the news of a Class 5 species and her idea for The Sharing. Back home, she described Essam as behaving emotionally and becoming upset. Edriss continued work building The Sharing, but one day came home to the announcement that Essam was taking the children and leaving. He had decided that he couldn’t go through with it and would let himself die after the three day period of time, after which Hildy could take the children and care for them. He partially starved Edriss until she was forced to retreat to the pool, though he left her alternative host attached so she could Control him. After she regained a host body, Edriss set off after Essam/Hildy, Allison and the children.

Visser Three is lived at the story being told and the clear bias that Garouff shows towards Visser One. But Visser One scoffs at him and rattles off a long list of foolish plans of his that would have been avoided had he, like her, spent the time to more fully understand the humans. Visser Three continues pushing until Visser One finally bursts, ignoring warnins from Eva, that she doesn’t care for the human children. Visser Three uses this moment to walk in her son, now Controlled and tells her to prove her loyalty and shoot him. Visser One struggles, but it is clear that she still values her own life over love and prepares to fire the gun. Luckily, she is interrupted at the last minute by an attack by the Animorphs.

The Animorphs are fierce in their battle, quickly taking out large numbers of the Hork Bajir. Edriss observes that now the Council will see what fighting this group really looks like, unlike the silly pantomime that Visser Three put on earlier. In the midst of the battle, gorilla!Marco shows up and knocks Visser One out.

When she wakes up, the Animorphs have her retrained within a hologram while still in the Yeerk pool. Visser One tries to threaten them and tell them that their job is done, but Marco notes that if any of them are ever captured now, then her treason will be known to Yeerk who has access to their memories and Visser One’s little plea for help. Marco tells Visser One to leave his mother, that he knows his mother would rather die than continue living like this. Eva tells her to go, that Eva herself is like her son and can see the clear line from point to point. Visser One wonders if this means Eva knows what she must do, but finally gives in and leave Eva’s mind.

After a long period in darkness, she is surprised to find that once again she is being given entrance into Eva’s mind. Accessing her memories, Edriss witnesses the converation between Eva, Marco and the Animorphs. She see Eva convince them that she has to remain with Visser One, that is Visser One dies or is seen as disloyal, than Visser Three will win and will get his way with open warfare. In the memory, Marco address Visser One directly, telling her that if they hear that she has retaken control of attacking Earth they’ll send a recording of this meeting to the Council of Thirteen, whom they very much can contact because not all Yeerks are as loyal as Visser One may think.

The Animorphs then stun Visser One and retreat. As she lays waiting to be discovered, she thinks over some of the parts of her tale that she didn’t share. How Essam had been in on the plan of creating The Sharing originally, how it had always been Edriss’s ambition that drove them still. She reflects on her success of the first human to willing agree to be Controlled. The real break with Essam came weeks later when Edriss decided that she no longer needed Allison’s body, but would instead switch permanently to the body of the leader of The Sharing. Essam is horrified by her plans to kill Allison, the mother of their children. She thinks back on how part of the reason she may have chosen Eva as her next host body is the fact that Eva had a husband and child, something that part of her still missed.

The trial finally starts again, and Edriss concludes her story by explaining how she finally caught up with Essam, Allison and the children in a hospital. Essam is almost dead from starvation, and when he starts coming out of Hildy’s ear he dies and Edriss tries to pull him the rest of the way out. But he was still fairly attached, so part of his body remained in Hildy’s head, leading to his insanity. She kills Allison as well and leaves the children in the hospital, knowing that they will be adopted out from there.

As the Council leaves to discuss things, Eva vents that she regrets helping Edriss, that only a monster would kill Essam, Hildy, and Allison and then leave her children to be adopted away. The Council returns and says that both Vissers have been convicted, but that their sentences have been suspended. Visser Three is excited to start open warfare on Earth, but Garouff says no, that a large Andalite fleet is finally starting to gather and that open warfare would draw them out even more quickly. As for Visser One, she remains their most successful military office, so they are sending her to another system where she is to begin taking over yet another race.

Visser One is thrilled, and as they leave, she taunts Visser Three that she has information on the Andalite bandits. But she’d rather not share it just now.

Edriss 563: Edriss is a fascinating character. It’s clear that she is much more clever that Visser Three, but it is also this same cleverness that likely got her in all of this trouble to begin with. It seems in many ways that she began to understand humans too well and this is what lead to her feelings for her children. Throughout her story, Edriss continuously reflects on the strangeness of her attachment to the children, but we also see throughout the narrative that her ambition always came first, even in her moments of weakness. Not only ambition, but self-interest and survival. Had the Animorphs not attacked when they did, she would have shot her own son. And, towards the end of the story, she reflects on how it may be ok if her kids end up Controlled anyways; that way at least they will be forced to love her. Even her concept of love is corrupted, ultimately.

Eva: Eva is also an excellent character. It’s easy to see the connection between her and Marco. She herself draws comparisons between them with their ability to “see a clear line,” and some of  her sarcastic and biting retorts are right there with what we would expect to hear from Marco. She’s also incredibly strategic, repeatedly anticipating what the Council will need to hear and predicting the fact that Visser Three might have something up his sleeve with regards to the children.

<Hey, what is that sound?> Eva laughed. <Oh, I know. It’s the jaws of a trap snapping shut.>

Our Fearless Leader: At one point when Edriss is reviewing Eva’s memory of the discussion between herself and the Animorphs, the “tiger” make a particularly strong strategic point which leads Edriss to conclude that he, too, must be an Andalite to have that type of logic and clarity. When Jake later leaves it up to Marco to decide what to do with regards to killing Edriss or letting her re-infest Eva, Edriss finally realizes that Jake is also a human and is even more shocked at the capability of the group.

Xena, Warrior Princess: Both Tobias and Rachel are in Hork Bajir morph and are never really identified between them. They only get a line or two of dialogue, and it’s not too distinguishable which one said what.

A Hawk’s Life: [see Rachel section]

Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie strangely chooses to use her polar bear morph in the attack on the pool, so other than Jake, Marco, and Ax, the group isn’t in their usual formation. It’s an interesting choice. I’m guessing that they knew having two Hork Bajir morphs would be useful in adding to the confusion and that Cassie’s wolf morph wouldn’t have enough fire power with out the usual backup of Rachel’s grizzly, so she went polar bear. At one point, Marco turns to Cassie to confirm the truth of what is being said and she also, in bear morph, tries to hug him at one point.

The Comic Relief: Obviously Marco has the most of all the Animorphs in this book. And from the very beginning, Edriss is impressed not only by his quick thinking and ability to strategize, but by his cold-heartedness with regards to his mother. When he’s talking Edriss in the end, threatening to kill her/Eva if she doesn’t come out of his mother’s head, he references a license plate that said “Live Free or Die,” knowing that his mother (and Edriss through her) will recognize this discussion from his childhood and know that Marco knows that Eva will agree with his decision to approach things like this. Marco is really at his best in books like this when he’s dealing with Visser One/Eva. His ruthlessness is at its peak, but is balanced by his unique ability to quickly think through all of the options and anticipate the moves of other ones, like Visser One.

E.T./Ax Phone Home:  Edriss witnesses a bit of Ax’s particular vendetta against Visser Three as Ax goes straight for him in the initial fight at the Council meeting.

Best (?) Body Horror Moment: Poor Hildy! What a horrifying concept, to have half a dead Yeerk still stuck in your head. Not only is the idea disgusting, but the results he has to live with, the insanity, sound pretty terrible as well.

Couples Watch!: Edriss and Essam’s “love affair” is the real “romance” of the story. But throughout it all, while Edriss does develop some sort of feelings for Essam and the children, we see her again and again chooser herself and her own future above others. Essam is the only one to truly understand and succumb to human emotion. In the end, he chooses to die rather than live in the world that Edriss is working towards, and what pushes him to it is a threat to Edriss’s host body, Allison, and his fear for the future of teh children. If he had lived, we can be sure he would have been part of the Yeerk Peace Movement.

If Only Visser Three had  Mustache to Twirl: Some of the best parts of this book are the pieces of dialogue between Visser Three and Visser One. Not only is there no love lost between these two, but Visser One is on point with her put-downs. At one point, she reflects out loud that Visser Three is less likely to be working with the Andalites, but instead sounds as insane as the Helmacrons. We also get to see just how frustrated Visser Three has become with the war effort on Earth. While it is clear that he wants to get rid of Visser One, it seems he’s equally interested in gaining permission to start an all-out war on Earth, having had such little success following Visser One’s initial plan. Visser One also at one point notes how strange it is that Visser Three is this bad at understanding humans, as his claim to fame was the fact that he took such care to truly understand Andilites. You also have to wonder that if he knows Andilites all that well, the he’d start to pick up on some of the stranger behaviors of the Animorphs that aren’t inline with how a group of true Andalite bandits would attack.

“You’ve never understood anything but brute force and crude manipulation, Visser Three. Your plans are grandiose and absurd. You wasted how much time and how many resources inventing a clever potion to destroy human free will? A failure! As anyone who knows humans could have told you. You try and seize control of the head of state of the most powerful nations and end up alarming them, making half of them suspect our presence on Earth! You spend a fortune in pursuit of an Anti-Morphing Ray that doesn’t work! Why? Because you cannot even manage to wipe out a handful of Andalite refugees!”

Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: Obviously, as always Marco and his mom’s situation is one of the most tragic in this story. You have to feel particularly bad for Eva at the end of this book. After essentially coaching Edriss through the last half of her trial and then choosing to return to be Controlled to try to spare Earth, she ends up having to confront the true horror that is Edriss’s mind: no remorse for what’s she done and now simple glee at the fact that she has an entirely new space system to begin conquering.

What  a Terrible Plan, Guys!: We have to give some credit to Visser Three for coming up with the plan to stage an attack by the “Andalite bandits.” It’s a pretty clever ruse and one that really had no immediate downside. There no way he could have suspected that Visser One would not only know where the bandits really were but would have a way of quickly contacting them and convincing them to, essentially, do her a massive, and dangerous, favor.

Favorite Quote: Here’s one of the great Marco moments, when he’s on the phone with Edriss and deciding whether or not he and the others will attempt to attack the Yeerk pool:

My mind was racing. Incredible! The little monster was cold-bloodedly writing off his own mother!
He didn’t answer. Instead he said, “Mom, I know you can hear me. I don’t know if I can save you. You understand that, right? I’ll do what’s right. I’ll do what I have to do.”

And one of the many great moments between Visser One and Three:

<Aaaarrrgghhh!> Visser Three screamed and slammed his tail blade into the wall.

“You really should learn some self-control, Visser.”

Scorecard: Yeerks 8, Animorphs 15

I’m going to give the Animorphs a point here. We don’t see it on page, but any attack on the Yeerk pool is a huge undertaking, and they pull it off seamlessly. What’s more, they did all of the right mental equations in this situation. Yes, it was worth the risk to save Visser One in order to prevent all out war. And they planned ahead using Chee technology to stay in the Yeerk pool longer and recorded the entire thing to use as blackmail against Visser One.

Rating: All of the Chronicles books are so strong, and they’re all so different. The “Andalite Chronicles” is an adventure/romance, essentially. The “Hork Bajir Chronicles” is a tragedy. And this is strange, villain’s perspective type story. I do wish that there hadn’t been the pointless cliffhanger at the end of the last Marco book. Not only did it not improve that book one bit, but it spoiled some of the bigger moments of this book. Reading it this way, we all know that at some point she’s going to contact them, so readers are just waiting for it to happen. But if we didn’t know that was coming, how much more surprising and powerful would it have been when it did?! It would have been a huge moment in the series. But alas. Either way, “Visser” is an excellent book and adds a lot of background on the initial days of Earth’s invasion, especially with how and why The Sharing was created.

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!

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