The Host vs Animorphs

Posted on October 9, 2013 by

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We haven’t had a guest post in a while (since, uh, Obama was re-elected), so it is with a great sense of relief that we finally tricked someone into doing our job for us that we get a day off, and get to post our first guest post from one of our readers! Our regular reader Bellomy was kind enough to help us celebrate our last week of reading The Host (fucking finally) by comparing it to another well-known series about bodysnatching aliens that invade earth: K. A. Applegate’s Animorphs.

AKA those children's' books from the 90s with horrifying covers

AKA those children’s books from the 90s with the horrifying covers

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So when I originally volunteered to do this post I was like, “All right! Animorphs! I love Animorphs! And The Host clearly sucks, right? I can totally nail this!” Then I sat down to write it, and realized I had absolutely no idea what to actually write.

Compare chapter by chapter? Way too long, of course. Pick a random chapter from from each? More interesting, but leaves out a lot of what Animorphs has that’s more awesome than The Host, and I really don’t want to miss that. Not to mention there are like a billion Animorphs books out there of wildly varying quality (depending on whether or not they were written by Applegate or one of her ghostwriters, and how good the ghostwriter was). The Invasion, book one, is the most obvious choice but frankly it’s not my favorite one (I absolutely love The Conspiracy, which is a completely innocuous book in the middle of the series that has no other significance to the overarching plot other than it being awesome).  Oh, and I don’t own The Host, nor have I read it. So yeah. There’s that. Also, holy shit, I just checked the Wikipedia article for it again and at the bottom it says “See Also: Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, and that is just too funny. Eventually I realized that I was pussyfooting (a word that can never be used too often) around the best solution, which is just to compare Animorphs and The Host directly. Which I probably should have just done from the start, and saved myself several weeks of mingled guilt and shame. But yeah, anyway, here we go.

Series Premise

Animorphs: Earth has been invaded by a species of technologically advanced, mind-controlling aliens known as the yeerks. Five young teenagers witness the crash landing of an alien spaceship, and because they are the only people present at the time, they are given the power to morph into animals by an alien named Elfangor. Their new powers are meant to be used to fight the yeerks, who are infiltrating the human race through a front organization known as the Sharing which they use to take over the bodies of humans, who then become known as Controllers. Throughout the series the Animorphs gain new members, learn how to fight, and grapple with moral issues.

The Host: A yeerk Soul is fighting a Controller Host for control. A species that had no concept of committing violence somehow comprehensively beat the human race in its first war ever. No explanation is given for how this is even remotely possible, except, as Matthew once aptly put it, “Ants and shit”.  And cow-sized spiders. Come on Meyer, really? What the Hell?

Although to be fair...

Although to be fair…

Worldbuilding

Animorphs: Worldbuilding is one of the biggest strengths of the Animorphs series. Applegate’s alien species have well thought out and interesting back stories. The way they look and interact with the world around them is not random, but is the by-product of the planet they live on, the circumstances of their evolution or creation, and their own physiology.

The Hork-bajir homeworld is a good example of this. Hork-bajir have long blades all over their bodies, ostensibly used to cut down trees and skin tree bark, which they eat. Thus, the hork-bajir homeworld is covered in large trees. The hork-bajir fit their environment so well because they were genetically engineered by another, more intelligent race known as the Arn. All of this is established in meticulous detail throughout the series and in the superb companion book, The Hork-Bajir Chronicles.

The Host: There are planets called the flower planet and the fire planet. Why intelligent life would evolve from flowers or on a planet THAT IS ON FIRE is never explained, mostly because it doesn’t make sense. Some of the planets have FUCKING JELLY DRAGONS. That pretty much says it all, actually.

Basically all we're saying is that we're not supposed to believe that either of these are made of or live in jelly.

Basically all we’re saying is that we’re not supposed to believe that either of these are made out of or live in jelly.

Romance

Animorphs: Several of the Animorphs start out or become romantically attracted to each other, most notably Jake and Cassie and Tobias and Rachel. The romances, given their circumstances, are suitably complex. Tobias is stuck in the morph of a red-tailed hawk, and he and Rachel need to figure out a way to balance the times he can morph into a human with the necessity of him staying in red-tailed hawk morph so he can aid in the fight against the yeerks. This creates a suitably complex relationship that is handled extremely well throughout the series.

Jake and Cassie are a more typical romance. Their main barrier is that Cassie is the moral compass of the group and a borderline pacifist. She objects to many of the things the Animorphs are forced to do, such as kidnapping, torture, lying, manipulation, and eventually even murder. Jake, as the leader of the group, is the person responsible for making these decisions, and this causes extreme tension in their relationship. When the war is over Jake’s extreme PTSD makes a romantic relationship impossible, as Cassie’s view of the events throughout the series allows her to be the only Animorph to survive the war with a completely clean conscience, something Jake cannot understand.

The Host: There are two boys, each one liked by a different chick sharing the same body. One boy is really creepy and has shown several times that he has no real moral concerns about consent as long as he can find a way to get into Wanderer’s pants. The other boy’s main character trait is being an asshole, and Melanie only shows up when he’s around. Apparently, by the way, Melanie is a “tough” character, because nothing else in this series makes sense.

This still from the movie is actually very representative of how believable the romance in The Host is.

This still from the movie is actually very representative of how believable the romance in The Host is.

Moral Issues

Animorphs: While the series occasionally became a little bit too involved in “save the animals” stuff, for the most part Animorphs handled its moral issues superbly. Some recurring themes include Jakes’s intense loyalty to his family conflicting with his duty to save the world (exasperated by his brother being a controller), Tobias’ ever-present choice about turning back into a human and leaving the Animorphs or staying to help with the fight, Rachel being forced to confront a frightening side of herself that she hates to admit exists, Marco…having pretty much the same conflict as Jake, actually, but still handled pretty well, Ax having to decide whether or not his loyalties lie with the Animorphs or with the Andalite Empire, and Cassie’s pacifist nature conflicting with her need to fight or even kill to win.

And these are just the moral conflicts going on with the Animorphs themselves. Outside of them there were some great moral dilemmas surrounding the nature of the conflict. In my opinion one of the most interesting was “Seerow’s Kindness”, the story of the Andalite who created portable Kandronas (basically life force) for the yeerks, allowing them to leave their home planet and explore (and take over) the rest of the universe. This raises interesting ethical questions about how much and what type of charity is actually a good thing, and whether or not “the ends don’t justify the means” is useful as a philosophy.

The Host: It’s morally ambiguous and a serious ethical question whether or not mind-controlling aliens who have either killed off or enslaved the human race are actually evil or not. Apparently the reason they killed or enslaved all the humans are because humans were treating each other like shit..? Or it’s not actually the reason, but it’s a reason why they don’t feel bad about it?  I’m not really sure, but whatever is going on it either doesn’t make sense or is stupid. Interesting issues like euthanasia and the nature of “consent” in Melerer’s odd relationship are flirted with briefly before being dropped because Meyer’s not a good enough writer to tackle them successfully (well, that’s my theory at least).

Meyer felt her duties as a writer were more pressingly needed putting lots of mirrors in a cave.

Meyer felt her duties as a writer were needed for the tackling the more pressing issue of how many mirrors she should put in a cave.

Plot

Animorphs: The series follows the five children, eventually joined by an alien, as they engage in guerilla warfare against the powerful Yeerk Empire in an attempt to stop the yeerks from taking over the world and enslaving the human race. Along the way they grapple with intense moral issues and must confront the changes to their psyche that the war is forcing them to undergo as it takes its mental toll. Eventually they join up with the Andalite Empire for a final showdown against the Yeerks as they engage in all-out warfare.

It is also one of the few children's shows from the 90s where everybody isn't dressed like the 90s.

It is also one of the few children’s shows from the 90s where everybody isn’t dressed like the 90s.

The Host: Two people live in one body. One of them feels guilty because mind control is a pretty horrible thing and her species is too stupid/evil/hypocritical/something else that’s mysteriously unclear/ to realize it. She’s also a bitch who, despite her supposed objections, treats the person whose body she’s controlling like shit and doesn’t particularly care about her consent. Also, there are boys. TENSION.

I think my point is made. Pussyfooting complete. Thank you for reading.

BONUS SECTION: Why Animorphs is better than the Crossfire series.

·         Crossfire: Grope and cause each other to orgasm publicly, because they’re creepy little fuckers.

·         Animorphs: Actually take context into account before making out/fucking.

·         Crossfire: Has no plot.

·         Animorphs: Has plot.

·         Crossfire: Has Cary.

·         Animorphs: No Cary! Nice!

·         Crossfires: Nobody can turn into animals.

·         Animorphs: The main characters can turn into animals! So cool!



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