The Hork-Bajir Chronicles
Publishing Date: November 1998
Narrator: Aldrea, Dak, and Esplin
This is the story of what happened before the Andalite Chronicles. Before Elfangor became the great hero he was, there was another Andalite whose name was famous among his own people. Seerow, who gave the Yeerks space flight, and unleashed them on an unsuspecting galaxy. This is the story of his daughter, Aldrea, the young Hork-Bajir ‘seer’ Dak Hamee, and the Yeerk Esplin 9466, known to the Animorphs as Visser Three. This is the story of the beginning of the war, and the fall of the gentle, sweet Hork-Bajir. This is the story of the Andalites failing to stop the Yeerks.
We know right away this book is not going to have a happy ending. For a start, it’s about characters who are dead in our normal Animorphs timeline. It’s about the invasion of the Hork-Bajir, whom we know to be an completely enslaved race. This took place in the late 60s, on a nearly-destroyed planet far away from Earth, where the dominant species looks fierce but are really gentle herbivores.
It’s also a love story between Aldrea, the feisty wannabe-warrior Andalite girl and Dak Hamee, the genetic anomaly of the Hork-Bajir, as intelligent as an Andalite. Their bittersweet romance is tempered by Dak’s growing anger at his helplessness to save his simple people, and Aldrea’s drive to eliminate the Yeerks at any cost, including her friendship with Dak. Not only did the Yeerks destroy Seerow as a prince, but they murdered him and Aldrea’s family.
Aldrea is rightfully very lonely as the only Andalite on the planet (hmmmm where have we seen that before?) and even confesses that if there had been an interesting male Andalite her own age around, she wouldn’t have looked twice at Dak. He is, after all, a seven foot tall bladed walking nightmare, with intelligence to boot. Dak’s feelings for Aldrea are softer – I think he loves her for being the only relatable one around as well. The other Hork-Bajir as simply too simple for him. It’d be like entering a romance with a four year old child. But at the same time I think he’s more earnest and more honest than Aldrea, who doesn’t hesitate to manipulate and lie to him, but falls in love all the same.
This is probably the best non-romance romance I’ve ever read. Even though Aldrea has nothing left and nothing to lose, she still chooses to become a Hork-Bajir nothlit, to spend the rest of her shorter life with Dak and have his child. It’s terribly romantic, the development of their relationship through the ordeal of the open Yeerk invasion, the Andalite retaliation, and their eventual retreat.
At the beginning of some chapters we have a year given, one that corresponds with the humans, Andalites, Yeerks and Hork-Bajir. It’s cool to see that the Yeerks were unleashed in 1968, and at that time the Andalites were in the 8000s. So that’s how long they’ve been recording time, that’s how long they’ve been civilised enough to record their time passing. The Yeerks literally only became a big deal in 1968 when they discovered hosts better than the barely sentient, physically undesirable Gedds. The Hork bajir do not record time, but we learn during the book they were created 12,000 years ago by another race to harvest the giant trees of the world. Humans have been using the Greco-Roman calendar for 2000 years and we have many thousands of years of history before that. What I find interesting is that these species are all so recent. What happened to the cultures millions of years old? When you think about it, humans are quite recent because the dinosaurs had the planet for so long. Where would humans be now if mammals had evolved first instead of reptiles, if we’d never had dinosaurs? Where would be we be if we’d had hundreds of millions of years of evolution instead of a mere handful? And where are the aliens with older cultures as well?
Anyway, that’s what I think of when I read this book. It may make you question other things as well. As for how relevant is this book to the overall series – I would say a fuck ton. It goes into Esplin’s obsession with Andalites, and introduces a character that is important to the rest of the series – Dak and Aldrea’s great-grand daughter, Toby. Aldrea also shows up in the main series later, so if you want to make sense of her tragedy, you really should read this. Besides the fact that it is just a totally awesome book. Did I mention that?
Join me for a review of #23: the Pretender soon!