i cannot believe that in 2018, the year of our Lord, we not only receive the Masterpiece that is black panther (2018) dir. ryan coolger but we will also be receiving pacific rim 2, starring the man who singlehandedly saved the sci-fi/action genre, john boyega. what have we done to deserve such Blessings?????
What are other books/series that you'd recommend that are in the same vein as Animorphs?
Honestly, your ask inspired me to get off my butt and finally compile a list of the books that I reference with my character names in Eleutherophobia, because in a lot of ways that’s my list of recommendations right there: I deliberately chose children’s and/or sci-fi stories that deal really well with death, war, dark humor, class divides, and/or social trauma for most of my character names. I also tend to use allusions that either comment on Animorphs or on the source work in the way that the names come up.
That said, here are The Ten Greatest Animorphs-Adjacent Works of Literature According to Sol’s Totally Arbitrary Standards:
1. A Ring of Endless Light, Madeline L’Engle
This is a really good teen story that, in painfully accurate detail, captures exactly what it’s like to be too young to really understand death while forced to confront it anyway. I read it at about the same age as the protagonist, not that long after having suffered the first major loss in my own life (a friend, also 14, killed by cancer). It accomplished exactly what a really good novel should by putting words to the experiences that I couldn’t describe properly either then or now. This isn’t a light read—its main plot is about terminal illness, and the story is bookended by two different unexpected deaths—but it is a powerful one.
2. The One and Only Ivan, K.A. Applegate
This prose novel (think an epic poem, sort of like The Iliad, only better) obviously has everything in it that makes K.A. Applegate one of the greatest children’s authors alive: heartbreaking tragedy, disturbing commentary on the human condition, unforgettably individuated narration, pop culture references, and poop jokes. Although I’m mostly joking when I refer to Marco in my tags as “the one and only” (since this book is narrated by a gorilla), Ivan does remind me of Marco with his sometimes-toxic determination to see the best of every possible situation when grief and anger allow him no other outlet for his feelings and the terrifying lengths to which he will go in order to protect his found family.
3. My Teacher Flunked the Planet, Bruce Coville
Although the entire My Teacher is an Alien series is really well-written and powerful, this book is definitely my favorite because in many ways it’s sort of an anti-Animorphs. Whereas Animorphs (at least in my opinion) is a story about the battle for personal freedom and privacy, with huge emphasis on one’s inner identity remaining the same even as one’s physical shape changes, My Teacher Flunked the Planet is about how maybe the answer to all our problems doesn’t come from violent struggle for personal freedoms, but from peaceful acceptance of common ground among all humans. There’s a lot of intuitive appeal in reading about the protagonists of a war epic all shouting “Free or dead!” before going off to battle (#13) but this series actually deconstructs that message as blind and excessive, especially when options like “all you need is love” or “no man is an island” are still on the table.
4. Moon Called, Patricia Briggs
I think this book is the only piece of adult fiction on this whole list, and that’s no accident: the Mercy Thompson series is all about the process of adulthood and how that happens to interact with the presence of the supernatural in one’s life. The last time I tried to make a list of my favorite fictional characters of all time, it ended up being about 75% Mercy Thompson series, 24% Animorphs, and the other 1% was Eugenides Attolis (who I’ll get back to in my rec for The Theif). These books are about a VW mechanic, her security-administrator next door neighbor, her surgeon roommate, her retail-working best friend and his defense-lawyer boyfriend, and their cybersecurity frenemy. The fact that half those characters are supernatural creatures only serves to inconvenience Mercy as she contemplates how she’s going to pay next month’s rent when a demon destroyed her trailer, whether to get married for the first time at age 38 when doing so would make her co-alpha of a werewolf pack, what to do about the vampires that keep asking for her mechanic services without paying, and how to be a good neighbor to the area ghosts that only she can see.
5. The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner
This book (and its sequel A Conspiracy of Kings) are the ones that I return to every time I struggle with first-person writing and no Animorphs are at hand. Turner does maybe the best of any author I’ve seen of having character-driven plots and plot-driven characters. This book is the story of five individuals (with five slightly different agendas) traveling through an alternate version of ancient Greece and Turkey with a deceptively simple goal: they all want to work together to steal a magical stone from the gods. However, the narrator especially is more complicated than he seems, which everyone else fails to realize at their own detriment.
6. Homecoming, Cynthia Voight
Critics have compared this book to a modern, realistic reimagining of The Boxcar Children, which always made a lot of sense to me. It’s the story of four children who must find their own way from relative to relative in an effort to find a permanent home, struggling every single day with the question of what they will eat and how they will find a safe place to sleep that night. The main character herself is one of those unforgettable heroines that is easy to love even as she makes mistake after mistake as a 13-year-old who is forced to navigate the world of adult decisions, shouldering the burden of finding a home for her family because even though she doesn’t know what she’s doing, it’s not like she can ask an adult for help. Too bad the Animorphs didn’t have Dicey Tillerman on the team, because this girl shepherds her family through an Odysseus-worthy journey on stubbornness alone.
7. High Wizardry, Diane Duane
The Young Wizards series has a lot of good books in it, but this one will forever be my favorite because it shows that weird, awkward, science- and sci-fi-loving girls can save the world just by being themselves. Dairine Callahan was the first geek girl who ever taught me it’s not only okay to be a geek girl, but that there’s power in empiricism when properly applied. In contrast to a lot of scientifically “smart” characters from sci-fi (who often use long words or good grades as a shorthand for conveying their expertise), Dairine applies the scientific method, programming theory, and a love of Star Wars to her problem-solving skills in a way that easily conveys that she—and Diane Duane, for that matter—love science for what it is: an adventurous way of taking apart the universe to find out how it works. This is sci-fi at its best.
8. Dr. Franklin’s Island, Gwyneth Jones
If you love Animorphs’ body horror, personal tragedy, and portrayal of teens struggling to cope with unimaginable circumstances, then this the book for you! I’m only being about 80% facetious, because this story has all that and a huge dose of teen angst besides. It’s a loose retelling of H.G. Wells’s classic The Island of Doctor Moreau, but really goes beyond that story by showing how the identity struggles of adolescence interact with the identity struggles of being kidnapped by a mad scientist and forcibly transformed into a different animal. It’s a survival story with a huge dose of nightmare fuel (seriously: this book is not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach, or anyone who skips the descriptions of skin melting and bones realigning in Animorphs) but it’s also one about how three kids with a ton of personal differences and no particular reason to like each other become fast friends over the process of surviving hell by relying on each other.
9. Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar
Louis Sachar is the only author I’ve ever seen who can match K.A. Applegate for nihilistic humor and absurdist horror layered on top of an awesome story that’s actually fun for kids to read. Where he beats K.A. Applegate out is in terms of his ability to generate dream-like surrealism in these short stories, each one of which starts out hilariously bizarre and gradually devolves into becoming nightmare-inducingly bizarre. Generally, each one ends with an unsettling abruptness that never quite relieves the tension evoked by the horror of the previous pages, leaving the reader wondering what the hell just happened, and whether one just wet one’s pants from laughing too hard or from sheer existential terror. The fact that so much of this effect is achieved through meta-humor and wordplay is, in my opinion, just a testament to Sachar’s huge skill as a writer.
10. Magyk, Angie Sage
As I mentioned, the Septimus Heap series is probably the second most powerful portrayal of the effect of war on children that I’ve ever encountered; the fact that the books are so funny on top of their subtle horror is a huge bonus as well. There are a lot of excellent moments throughout the series where the one protagonist’s history as a child soldier (throughout this novel he’s simply known as “Boy 412″) will interact with his stepsister’s (and co-protagonist’s) comparatively privileged upbringing. Probably my favorite is the moment when the two main characters end up working together to kill a man in self-defense, and the girl raised as a princess makes the horrified comment that she never thought she’d actually have to kill someone, to which her stepbrother calmly responds that that’s a privilege he never had; the ensuing conversation strongly implies that his psyche has been permanently damaged by the fact that he was raised to kill pretty much from infancy, but all in a way that is both child-friendly and respectful of real trauma.
“Captain by Default” isn’t exactly how 12-year-old Lena Tauri dreamed of earning her first command. But after space pirates capture the grown-up crew of STARGARDEN ECHO, Lena fools the ship’s clunky, outdated DNA access locks into thinking she’s her missing mother, Captain Aisha Tauri.
It’s not just Lena–all the children left behind pitch in to fill their parent’s jobs. It takes a huge amount of trial and error and more than a few white lies programmed into the ship’s stubborn, outdated Artificial Intelligence, but one by one the kids find their best fit.
Lena struggles to lead her group of friends through this unfriendly, strange galaxy. Of course, her rebellious older sister Xia would gladly steal control—that is, if Xia wasn’t locked up in the fertilizer bay for betraying their ship to the pirates in the first place.
Together our greenhorn kids navigate the tricky subtleties of teamwork, puberty, and intergalactic politics–all without adult supervision! As the crew grows more confident, the kids start to wonder: What if instead of just trying to evade the pirates and get home…what if we saved our parents ourselves?
You know what ELSE I just realized about Guardians of the Galaxy?
Earth is Peter’s homeworld. And in a typical sci-fi movie, he’d be fighting to protect the Earth, in the same way that the typical threat in an American-made movie is to New York or L.A., or in a British movie/show it’s usually London. The whole “your country/your world is the most important thing” trope, because the intended audience is presumed to have the biggest investment in their country or their most iconic city or their own planet.
But in GotG, it’s not! It never is. In the first movie, he’s fighting for Xandar, a planet that WE’VE certainly never heard of and even Peter has no emotional investment to protect, other than because it’s a world full of people who deserve to live without being threatened or killed. In the second movie, Earth is just one of many planets that are all equally threatened (and shown as such).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with fighting to protect your homeworld, but Peter is fighting to protect everybody, and I love that about him. ❤ ❤ ❤
For the record, I really don’t think Peter has that much emotional investment in Earth anymore, aside from nostalgia, because he totally could go back now that he has his own ship and he doesn’t. While he might still describe himself as Terran, he obviously is a citizen of the galaxy much more than of Earth. I just love that the movies aren’t framed as “Peter, Earthman of Earth, saves Earth from aliens.”
Incidentally, because sci-fi rarely does this, I also really love that Xandar is explicitly shown as being a planet of many different-looking people who all consider Xandar their home and Xandarian their nationality. The fence with the funky eyebrows describes himself as Xandarian, but the human-looking people are obviously also Xandarian, and the bright pink-skinned people also appear to be. Sci-fi is so often “one planet, one race”, or it has people identify with their ancestral homeworld no matter where they live – e.g. one is always Vulcan even if one is a third-generation Earth resident. But I love that Xandar is shown to be a world of many different races of people who are all united in a common national identity.
I was tagged a few decades ago to answer these questions by the amazingly awesome @acquiresimoleons! (Not going to tag anyone else or make up my own questions this time around, time is not my friend on weekends)
1) What is the most ridiculous get up CAS or bodyshop has ever put your sim in?
I don’t take pictures when CAS desecrates my Sims like this! I usually just shut down my computer and go and lie down for a while.
2) Sim autonomy can be fun or it can be really stupid. What is your favorite thing about autonomy? What bothers you about it?
I love how the open world in Sims 3 encourages Sims to autonomously visit entertainment venues. By the same token, it makes me bang my head on my desk to see children hanging around outside nightclubs at 2 am.
3) Do you play with headline effects (thought bubbles, etc) on?
It depends on my mood. If I’m just playing I will usually leave them on.
4) Pick two sims at random (RANDOM I say xD) Put them on a deserted island together. What happens? (theoretically LOL unless you really want to actually do it)
If it was Joël and Sonia they would probably die from hunger because they would be having so much sex they would forget to eat.
5) What is the first thing you do when you open your game?
Enter testingcheatsenabled true in the cheat bar.
6) What is your favorite lifestate? Vampire, witch, werewolf, etc etc. Why do you like them best? If you don’t play with them, what do you like about them when other people play with them?
I have only ever liked playing with *human* Sims, although I do have a half-baked story written about a mermaid. But I love seeing screenies of them in other peoples’ games, particularly fairies. Fairies are so pretty.
7) How do you pick names for your sims? Do they have a meaning or is it just names you like, sound cool, etc?
I like to have a diversity of names, not names I necessarily like myself. I also try to choose names that suit the Sim and the family they come from. For example Roy’s family is quite well-to-do with a Scots background and I chose the names of the family members to reflect this.
8) If you had to start a brand new save that was very different from your current one(s) what would you pick? Medieval, fantasy, sci fi, etc etc.
I’m very boring with my saves, I only like to play real life scenarios because I love exploring relationships and creating Simmified soap operas. :)
9) Do you build yourself or download others’ creations? Nothing to be ashamed of, not everyone has an internal architect and sim building can be tricky!
DOWNLOAD ALL THE THINGS!!!
10) Dig out a super old and embarrassingly bad screenshot, I dare you! :D
Besides the complex sci-fi plot with psychological and philosophical undertones and the masterful handling of a large and varied cast, Please Save My Earth (“Boku no Chikyuu wo Mamotte”, aka “Boku-Tama”) by Saki Hiwatari is often cited by current shoujo manga artists as one of the works that influenced them most or that they were big fans of in the 80’s-90’s. The very basic plot is that seven scientists from an alien solar system make a base on our moon to study the earth, they die, and then are reincarnated in Japan and start to see memories of their past lives in their dreams, and then they deal with those memories and what has been left unfinished or not properly dealt with. (Those who are already familiar with the series are probably chuckling to themselves about how light that description is, and might have chosen to start with the part with a teenage babysitter pushing a brat of a balcony. Don’t worry, he lives. And he’s, erm, fine.)
I have been a big fan of this series for years. It has an atmosphere that drew me in right away and captures a vague sense of homesickness and nostalgia like no other title I know, and every time I reread it I still appreciate the various facets of the characters, the drama, and Hiwatari’s signature sense of weird humor. Years ago, it occurred to me that this series has something for everyone. This includes but is not limited to:
–high school romance –unconventional romance –shounen-ai subplot –betrayal –character redemption –flower language –jokes at the expense of all the flower references –a magical girl (of sorts) –people with psychic powers who battle each other –detailed world-building –overt popular culture references –(so if you like Ronin Warriors, yeah, it’s got them too) –gratuitous use of settings like Tokyo and Kyoto –gratuitous poetic gazing at the moon –yakuza –tax-evading doctor, nuns, and a homeless guy –time-hopping story arcs –cats (really, really big cats)
It’s 21 volumes and has a 6-episode OVA which was like a very, very pretty commercial for the manga. For those of you who get really hooked on it, there are also additional music videos and drama CDs and wonderful soundtracks, a completed spin-off series, and now a spin-off of the spin-off is in the works. It is often cited as an example of a work that shows the maturation of an artist. Both Hiwatari’s art and story-telling (and, you could argue, her ability to keep her joke-cracking in check) undergo very significant development over the course of the series, but the story-telling is strong all the way through.
So anyway… *cough* On that note…
I PROMISE MOKUREN’S FOREHEAD WILL SHRINK, JUST KEEP READING.
‘‘Now, Monsieur Bonnefoy, please don’t scream again because I’m trying to save our asses.’‘
Day 2 : Sci-Fi: Science gone wrong
Hibrit!Francis (Half Snake, Half Human) and Scientist!Arthur.
So, the story is; Arthur’s company did a lot of fucked up ‘’tests’’ and Francis is part of the ‘’Plan 308′’ aka Hibrit!Soldiers. Some shit happened, science gone wrong and now, there’re a lot of dangerous stuff and company can’t hold them anymore so they decided to kill all hibrits. And, yep, Arthur tries to save him because he’s tired of his company’s shit.