Ax is my least favorite Animorph. He doesn’t even see himself as an Animorph in this book, but I digress. I found him hard to identify with as a kid, which is interesting to me looking back today, because I grew up in a children’s home and I felt alone in a strange place, like Ax feels in this book. I should have loved Ax, but I never looked forward to his books.
I think, for me, the humor surrounding his character got old and annoying. The way he constantly plays with sounds and his extreme reaction to food are both overdone, not so much in this book, but in the series as a whole. But, let’s look at this book individually. I have a greater understanding and appreciation for Ax reading The Alien as an adult. It’s the first book in which he fully narrates, although I should mention he first narrated chapters in Megamorphs #1.
Plot Synopsis (Spoiler-Free)
The Animorphs are finally beginning to notice the effects of destroying the Yeerks’ Earth-based Kandrona. Yeerks are dying of starvation, and the Animorphs are beginning to have hope. Ax knows the truth, however: humans that are freed from Yeerks are killed to cover up the invasion.
How much does Ax know about the war that he isn’t sharing with the Animorphs? Where do Ax’s true loyalties lie?
The Alien is not one of my favorites, but it is a very solid entry in the series. It is an important book because it introduces Seerow’s Kindness, and it is where Ax truly becomes an Animorph. I had a hard time finding something wrong with it.
1. Isolation – When I wrote about Megamorphs #1, I wrote about a theme of isolation where the Animorphs were split up and on their own, and I mentioned how scary that is. The theme continues over to this book where we get to see truly how disconnected Ax is from the rest of the team, and from his world. He is alone on a strange planet lightyears away from his family and species.
In this book, we get to see Cassie’s loving family and even Marco’s interaction with his father. I believe these scenes with family are used as a foil to highlight what the other Animorphs have that Ax does not. Even without his mom, Marco has something of a family. Ax has nothing.
We get to see a bond begin to form between Ax and Tobias in this book; Ax goes from saying Tobias could be his shorm (a close friend) at the beginning of the book to actually calling Tobias his shorm at the end. The parallels between the two are hard to ignore; it is easy to see why they might bond. Their relationship grows deeper as the series continues. I enjoyed reliving its beginning in this book.
The Animorphs grow frustrated with Ax, and understandably so, when they learn information he knew and did not warn them about. As several of them put it, he wants to learn about humans, but does not want them to learn about Andalites. The other Animorphs have given Ax so much and has treated him like one of them, but he, for some reason, has reservations about them. This ostracizes and isolates Ax from the group. We learn the reason behind this is Seerow’s Kindness.
The ending is actually really nice. Despite his transgressions, the Animorphs are there to support Ax when he needs them even though he left them. He realizes that he feels more connected to the Animorphs than he does to his people and vows to tell them everything. I love this message. Even though Ax feels alone, he does not have to be alone.
2. Seerow’s Kindness – Seerow’s Kindness is the series’ big revelation in this book. The high and mighty Andalites, who hate and fight hard against the Yeerks, are the ones who gave the Yeerks the means to travel the galaxy. The Andalites are the species responsible for the enslavement of so many species. I found this incredibly interesting; it knocks Andalites down a tier, revealing they are not the high and mighty heroes they appear.
Ax is able to contact his home planet and talk with other Andalites in this book. They are actually a pretty disgusting species, so hung up on honor and perception that they sometimes refuse to do what’s right. They are even eager to accept and live lies if it makes them look better. It is kind of heartbreaking reading Ax accept responsibility for his brother’s dishonorable decision to give humans the ability to morph. His people keep emphasizing his lowly title, Aristh, when talking to him in disrespect, reminding him of his place in their society. This sucks because Ax just wants acceptance from his people. He misses home and feels alone, and he is off fighting a war and doing what he feels is right. It really makes the reader see Andalites in a new light.
3. Eslin 359 – The Yeerks are a really interesting species. As a kid reading the series, I saw them as inherently evil (with a few exceptions, which we will see in later books), but reading the series today, I am noticing that they are multifaceted. Many are individuals just trying to live their best lives in circumstances they are put in. Eslin 359 is one of the more interesting plot elements in this book. He is a Yeerk who lost a loved one and wants to get revenge on Visser Three. He gives Ax information on where the Visser will be to feed, hoping Ax will kill him.
The politics and inner divisions among Yeerks is an interesting layer to the series. Fans talk about Book 19, The Departure, and Book 29, The Sickness a lot, but this is truly where we begin to see that crack in their empire.
Eslin does not appear in the rest of the series. It’s a shame.
1. Inconsistencies – These are things I noticed that many readers probably didn’t, and I realize I am being critical. Early in the book Ax says that humans cannot tell which humans are Controllers, and goes on to say that Andalites can. Later in the book, however, when Jake’s teacher is revealed as a Controller, Ax is surprised. I am pretty sure there are many instances later in the series where Ax cannot tell who is a Controller and who isn’t.
If this was ditched, I’m glad it was. One of the scary and interesting things about the Yeerks is that you can’t tell who is a Controller. If Ax became Controller-dar, it adds an unnecessary element to the story that frankly weakens it.
The other big inconsistency is thought speech in human morph. Ax should be able to use thought speech in his human morph, but can’t in this book. He is able in a later book.
Cover and Tagline
This is the series’ first artistic depiction of an Andalite. You’ll notice that Ax looks different on this cover than on other covers. Mattingly was inspired by the cover art on The Andalite Chronicles and decided to model Ax accordingly after its publication. He started to use a cover model for Ax after that. I, honestly, prefer the newer Ax, but this one isn’t terrible.
The cover morph is to Ax’s human morph. The only other ones it could have been are harrier, which is used on a later cover, Jake, and a rattlesnake. I think the rattlesnake would have been the only other logical choice, but I think the powers that be chose well when they decided to go with Ax’s human morph. This is the first Ax book, and his human morph is importantly, Additionally, this book has themes of isolation and we consider Ax’s place on Earth and in the Animorphs. The human morph is a great symbol for all of that.
Tagline: He’s only human. When he wants to be. . . .
I actually really like this tagline. It is captivating, but it also ties in with what is going on in the book. Ax has to decide if he wants to be with the humans or be with the Andalites because being in the middle isn’t working out for him.
Ax is a literal alien, but if you look at the word as an adjective, it could mean differing in nature or character. Ax is off and his own and does not fit in because he chooses that for himself. He chooses to be an alien to the group, at least before the end of the book. The title works for this book on many levels.
This is not one of my favorite Animorphs books, but I think it is the best Ax book. It is significant because it gives readers an inside view to Andalites, which changes our perception of them. Additionally, this is the book where Ax fully dives in and becomes an Animorph. I think later books still say “The Animorphs and Ax…” but, Ax is definitely one of them after this book, at least in my eyes. I did not like Ax at all as a kid, but I am liking him more now. This book helps, because it shows that Ax isn’t perfect and has natural, human flaws despite being an alien.
Seeing a crack in the Yeerk Empire was a highlight in the book, as was seeing Visser Three’s host, Alloran, without his Yeerk. I like that Ax was able to deliver a message of hope back to Alloran’s family, because as you can imagine, he’s probably disgraced.
Significantly, this book blurs the line between good and evil. The series is going to really play with the idea of the perceived good being evil and vice versa. I think the only good we can count on is the Animorphs, and Ax is one of them.
Next up is The Secret, and then I’m caught back up here on the blog where I left off on my reread!