Jake is just a normal kid. Well, as normal as possible considering he can morph animals, and he's in a war against parasitic aliens. But as unbelievable as it sounds, something even stranger has happened. One morning Jake wakes up, and he's twenty-five years old.
Okay. Maybe it's a nightmare. Or maybe Jake's just lost it for a while and misplaced a few years. And there's another problem. The world Jake-the-kid went to sleep in has changed. It's ruled by the Yeerks. Jake has to find out if the other Animorphs and Ax are still around. Still somehow fighting. Or if he's really on his own...
The story opens in the middle of a particularly violent battle. As the battle becomes more and more hopeless Jake orders a desperate retreat leaving Marco and Rachel to fend for themselves. The Animorphs all escape, but barely. Tensions are high and Cassie begins to break down, again questioning the violence and killing that come with battle. Jake responds to her without much sympathy.
Exhausted, Jake returns home and Tom seems at last suspicious of him. He falls asleep. When he awakes he realizes that he is a ten years older version of himself living in New York City on an earth that has already been completely taken over by the Yeerks. Everyone assumes him to be a Controller with a Yeerk named Essak in his head. Jake follows the crowd to his work, but skips his stop in order to investigate this strange new world. He doesn't know how he has come to be in this time and place and suspects that it is some kind of alternate or parallel timeline created by the Ellimist or Crayak.
He discovers that there is a terrorist organization called the Evolutionist Front (EF) which is composed of Yeerks and their hosts who believe that forms of biological evolution and mutation should be explored instead of the enslavement of sentient species. He encounters Cassie, who is a Controller and one of the leaders of the organization. She is a brutal and calculating terrorist who will use any tactics to sabotage the Yeerk Empire. She persuades Jake to help her foil a Yeerk plot to turn Earth's Moon into a Kandrona sun, and tells him a contact will approach him with details later.
It seems that time and space do not always follow logically in this futuristic world. Jake travels to his place of work, and there he is haunted by the image of the many creatures he has killed in battle. He is then taken in to be interrogated about EF activities. His questioner is a Controller Marco who is Visser Two, and the leader of Earth. Marco has also captured Cassie and threatens to kill her if Jake does not work with him against the EF.
Jake's EF contact turns out to be an unrecognizable crippled Rachel, scarred from years of battle. She gives him instructions where to meet the head of the resistance, saying that he will recognize him when he sees him. Jake follows her instructions and encounters a fully grown Andalite whom he believes to be Elfangor. It is in fact a cold and indifferent Tobias. Tobias explains that he stayed in morph as Ax, and explains to Jake that his brother Tom killed Jake while he slept ten years ago. He seeks Jake's help in foiling the Yeerk plan for Kandrona on the Moon. Jake protests that this will mean certain death for Cassie and Tobias responds that sacrifices must be made in war.
In a race against time Jake is faced with a choice to either save Cassie or the world. Jake chooses to save "what must be valued above all else". Jake is then instantly back in his bed the next morning. He hears a voice in his head which he has "never heard", saying it is not the Ellimist. He describes the voice as both young and old, male and female, like distant thought speak. The voice simply says "Interesting choice. They have strangely segmented minds: conscious, unconscious, and an ability to reconcile both. They will bear more study, these humans…".
Jake then gets out of bed and calls Cassie to ask her if she's alright.
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Jake||--||Tiger, unstated flying morph, Peregrine Falcon|
|Rachel||--||Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle|
- Essak Twenty-Four-Twelve-Seven-Five
- Green Suit
- Silver Eye
- Amber Eye
- The cover quote is "They're out of sight. You're out of mind..."
- This is the second book in which the cover morph is not a morph used in the book (the first one being The Encounter.
- The inside cover quote is "All grown up and no place to go..."
- This is the third to last book narrated by Jake.
- This is the only book so far in the series to depict any member on the cover morphing from teenager to adult.
- Rachel's ultimate fate is forshadowed in this book.
- Through Jake's window you can see a rather futuristic billboard for cat food featuring cameo cat extraordinaire, Orson, the cover artist David Mattingly's cat!
- Speculation: The mysteriously voiced higher being, who is apparently pulling the strings behind Jake's test in this book, remains unnamed here. However, many have speculated that it's none other than The One, who makes a surprising appearance as the new and final nemesis for the Animorphs in Book 54 The Beginning, in the last chapter of the book.
- This new future seems to have a striking similarity to the same awful future that the Ellimist showed the Animorphs in The Stranger.
- ANIBASE: This book marks the start of a brand new order in the way the books are narrated. The new order gives Ax and Tobias their own places rather than alternating books as they have been since the beginning of the series -- so, the order used to be Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, Marco, Jake, Rachel, Ax, Cassie, Marco (whew!) and is now the simpler Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, Marco, Ax. No one's quite sure why Tobias and Ax were short shifted earlier in the series, though we've heard that the editors weren't sure that Tobias and Ax would be as popular as the other characters. Boy, were they ever mistaken!
- The Orff are the "police" in the future Jake has been brought to. They are vaguely humanoid in shape, with three legs and an exceedingly long neck. They have perfectly clear skin that reveals all of their internal organs, and one huge, internally lit eye -- an eye whose pupil doesn't stay fixed in the center, like ours, but circles around the perimeter of the iris.
- The Evolutionist Front - This group is made of insurrectionist rebel Yeerks who hate the way their people have enslaved species and would rather create artificial symbiotic hosts.