The Beginning is the fifty-fourth and final book in the Animorphs series.
No one ever thought it would come to this. Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, Marco, and Ax know that even if they could have warned people in the beginning, no one would have believed their story. A story about an invasion of parasitic aliens. So, for all this time, Jake, the other Animorphs, and Ax have secretly fought a desperate battle. Secretly held the Yeerks at bay.
But those days are over.
It's come down to the final battle between the Yeerks and Animorphs. And no one knows who will win, lose, or live...
Continuing on immediately from #53: The Answer, Rachel attacks the Yeerks in control of the Blade ship, and kills Tom, before dying at the hands of his Yeerk allies shortly after; the Ellimist briefly stops time to memorialize her death, tells his own story to her, and she dies. Tom's morph-capable Yeerks escape in the Blade Ship, abandoning the disabled Pool Ship to the Animorphs. Visser One, realizing that he was defeated, leaves Alloran-Semitur-Corrass's body after being knocked unconscious by Ax. The remaining Animorphs, as well as Alloran (freed after nearly two decades under Visser Three/One's control over his body), contact the Andalite fleet, and after hours of negotiations, the Andalite fleet promotes Ax to rank of Prince, and declares the war over. The Animorphs attend Rachel's funeral, and Tobias flies away with Rachel's ashes.
The remainder of the book plays out over the course of three years after the war. Jake, Marco, and Cassie become instantly rich and famous, while Ax returns to the Andalite homeworld a hero. Surrendered Yeerks are allowed to choose an animal form in which to become a nothlit, and similarly Arbron's Taxxons are granted their wish and become nothlit anacondas or other big snakes, relocated to the Amazon Rainforest. Unable to morph out of his Taxxon form, Arbron is soon killed by poachers. The free Hork-Bajir colony is moved to Yellowstone National Park, and are protected by Toby Hamee and Cassie; while humans and Andalites develop an alliance, based mostly around Andalite access to human junk food. Marco embraces his new fame, and winds up becoming the self-proclaimed "spokesman" for the Animorphs, as well as a TV star; Cassie rises as an activist for the environment and the Hork-Bajir; however Jake adjusts less easily than they do to the new conditions and becomes depressed.
A year after the conclusion of the war, Esplin 9466 is put on trial in The Hague, Netherlands for war crimes and is found guilty. Jake has slumped into depression in the year since the war ended, having minimal contact with his friends and not morphing at all. During Jake's testimony at the trial, Esplin's defense lawyers attempt to discredit Jake by claiming that he is a war criminal for his actions, such as his emptying of the Pool ship that killed 17,000 Yeerks. Though this objection is overruled, Jake is deeply shaken by it, as he feels that it, along with many of his actions during the war, was immoral or mistaken. In a desperate bid to cheer Jake up, his friends capture him and dump him into the ocean, thinking that by forcing him into a dolphin morph (dolphins being naturally happy) they can cheer him up. Jake remains aloof however.
Two years after Esplin 9466's sentencing, Ax is charged with finding the Blade Ship. He notes that the military is being shrunk back, and that he easily has the most interesting assignment. The ship crew finds a mysterious DNA sample, a polar bear. Ax leads the investigation team. As First Officer Menderash-Postill-Fastill later recalls, the ship came alive and attacked. Menderash broke off from the ship, but they were then attacked by pirates. He is the sole survivor.
Meanwhile, Jake finally concedes and agrees to train some special ops teams to use the morphing power. After a few months of meetings, two Andalite officials approach him. Menderash relays Ax's story. Jake agrees to help. He approaches Cassie and Marco. Cassie is now a government official. With her boyfriend, Ronnie, she scouts out new areas for the Hork-Bajir to inhabit. Cassie offers to come, but Jake declines, saying that her role is over, and that she is doing what she wanted to do the most. He gets her to find Tobias, who has since shut himself away from the world, and has remained angry at Jake for Rachel's death. Marco agrees to come, but only after yelling at Jake, and telling him that he cannot undo his past mistakes, and that, just as during the war, they will only succeed if they follow his instincts, no matter how "crazy, reckless and ruthless." Jake selects two of his students (Santorelli and Jeanne Gerard} to come as well. They were picked because they have no close friends or relatives.
As the mission is top-secret and unauthorized, Jake and the others conduct a very elaborate plan. Marco knocks out two Andalites who are guarding a shuttle. They use the shuttle to take off and board a former Yeerk cruiser. Then they crash the shuttle into the ground. The official story would be that terrorists overpowered the Andalite guards but could not pilot the ship and crashed.
The ship is an elegant cruiser. Menderash, following an Andalite tradition, believes it bad luck to board the ship before it is named; after Tobias notes that it is "beautiful and dangerous and exciting," the group gives it the only fitting name, the Rachel. After several months in space, the Animorphs find the Blade Ship, only to discover that Ax has been assimilated into an entity only known as The One. The One threatens to consume the Animorphs, as it had done to Ax. Jake comments on Marco's earlier call to be "crazy, reckless and ruthless," and, with a smile that Marco notes makes him look like Rachel, orders them to ram the Blade ship.
- Rebel Taxxons
- Greta Van Susteren
- Sergeant Santorelli
- Prince Caysath-Winwall-Esgarrouth
- Ronnie Chambers
- Efflit 1318
- The One
- The outside cover quote is "It began with six. It will end with five...".
- The inside cover quote is "It's the beginning of the end...".
- This is the only book to have the 'Watch Animorphs on TV' logo on the back cover, instead of the front.
- Anibase: For all of you Lord of the Rings fans, here's an interesting comment from Katherine Applegate about what inspired her when creating the ending for her long-running series:
- "I'd always known that Animorphs would end the way it did. I knew I wanted it to end with victory, but I also knew I didn't want a clean victory. I wanted more Lord of the Rings, less Star Wars in the ending. I always admired the way Tolkien gave his characters victory, but left them with a sadder, less exciting, less enchanting world in the end."
- All of the models for the Animorphs featured on the front and inside cover had been changed since the series began, mostly because the original kids had grown up and moved away to college. Only Cassie's model (Biko) remained close enough to still model for Animorphs. And of course Ax, who is actually just a cardboard cutout.
- This is the only numerical book in the series that doesn't have the usual morph steps, going from their natural form to a kind of animal. Instead, the steps in this case go through all of the characters as a homage to the cover of the Rolling Stones' Greatest Hits "Hot Rocks 1964-1971" album.
- Likewise, the page-flipping morphing animations featured at the bottom right-hand corner of every Animorphs book is also different in this one, as it goes through all the Animorphs one by one, fading away down to only Jake at the end.
- The letter at the end of the book confused many fans, as it mentioned that there were 5 Megamorphs made for Animorphs, whereas there were only 4 released at the time. Turns out that there really was a Megamorph #5 planned alongside with the release as #54, but it was scrapped near the end and the change had not been reflected onto K.A's letter. Jeff, from Morphz, passed on this explanation from K.A to the fans:
- This is what K.A. told me about the cutting of Megamorphs #5 on October 17, 2000:
- "Anyway, on to the saga of the missing MEGA. It's all about contracts, actually. I had signed a contract for 6 ANI long-form books, meaning Megas or Chrons. And I had, at a different point, signed a contract for the last bunch of regular-length ANI's. But the two contracts weren't synchronized, so the due dates of the long forms extended well out beyond the due dates of the regular-length books. Then I decided to pull the plug on the series, leaving Scholastic in something of a quandary as to 3 long-form books.
- "One of the long books we agreed to make a series bible. Another one was going to be a 'whatever happened to . . .' kind of book to be published a year out in the future. And the third one would be a final Mega to be published (according to the regular schedule) at the same time as 53. Fine, but then I realized 53, 54 and the Mega were all going inevitably to be one, continuing storyline. So how do we get kids to realize Mega and 53 were in sequence when they were published at the same time? We then agreed to move Mega to run at the same time as 54, hoping that would clarify things. But Scholastic sales and marketing guys had different plans already in the works. And let me say that I love Scholastic sales and marketing, they have done very, very well for me.
- "Anyway, I think (though I do not know) that sales was concerned that two ANI books in June would step on the release of REMNANTS at the same time. These plans are all made long, long in advance and involve all sorts of details and arrangements, and my messing with the sequence wasn't helping their lives any. So we all jointly decided to take BOTH the final Mega and the 'Whatever happened to . . .' books and add them to the REMNANTS contract.
- "I am not personally at all upset. I think the finale is fine the way it's going, though I understand that some readers may have wanted one big, final MEGA. Still, I think they'll get some of that in 54."
- The reaction behind the ending of Animorphs, specifically Jake's last line, was not met well with the fans. K.A. was surprised by this, and then responded to this criticism directly through Jeff Sampson, the co-creator of Morphz, who often kept in touch with her throughout the series.
Contributions to the Series' Story ArcEdit
- Rachel, Jara Hamee, Tom, Tom's Yeerk, and Arbron are killed.
- Visser One/Three surrenders and the war ends.
- The Taxxons and surrendering Yeerks are given the ability to choose one permanent morph and be set free in a natural habitat.
- Visser One is found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to several consecutive life sentences.
- The Andalite morphing ability is released to the US government in exchange for Andalite 'vacations' to Earth, in which the Andalites are allowed to morph into humans.
- The series finally closes with somewhat of a cliffhanger ending, introducing a new enemy called 'The One ,' which has been proven not to be related to Crayak or The Five .