An unnumbered "Chronicles" book in the series Animorphs
by K.A. Applegate.
Disclaimer: If you've heard of Animorphs and you're thinking "Aww, how
cute," maybe you should read my introduction to the first book
to see how wrong you are.
THE ELLIMIST CHRONICLES
by K.A. Applegate
The Ellimist tells his life story to an unidentified dying Animorph, justifying his actions for playing God in their lives.
It all started when the Ellimist was a child; he was of the race of Ketrans, a winged people who keep their home crystals afloat above their planet by docking onto them and flapping to keep them aloft. "Ellimist" is his game name; his regular name is Toomin, and he's just a shiftless gamer who hopes to be chosen as nonessential crew on an upcoming space mission.
He regularly plays an "Alien Civilizations" game with his friends, in which they make small changes to fictional alien races and win or lose based on which horse they back. Toomin isn't very good at the game because he's so idealistic, but he's pretty smart--a fact that does not go unnoticed by Lackofa, a Ketran whose station is closest to his.
Turns out Toomin gets recommended to go on the space mission, but before it can start, an alien race called the Capasins storms onto the scene and blows up all their crystals--their whole civilization. It's because they've recently discovered how to broadcast their communications--including their games--and the Capasins thought they were really playing with the lives of species instead of just playing games.
Very few Ketrans escape in the ship, and Toomin is among them, becoming captain of the ship as they search the galaxy for a new home for their almost-extinct race. Hope leads them to check out a strange watery moon, which turns out to be the home of a gigantic tentacled creature called Father. It absorbs the minds of creatures it's killed, but even though it kills what's left of the Ketrans, it keeps Toomin alive to play games with him. He eventually figures out a way--through music--to beat Father at his own game and absorb all the minds himself, after which he uses their knowledge and skills to build himself a body/mind that is technological and biological. He leaves the moon, tries to figure out what to do with himself, and ends up appointing himself a peacemaker of the galaxy, stopping wars and violence where he finds it.
But then he encounters Crayak, who wants the opposite--he wants to destroy life. Idealism flaring, the Ellimist continues to lose as a game develops between them, but then he figures out how to encourage and "plant" civilizations instead of just trying to stop Crayak from killing them. Eventually while battling Crayak the two of them almost destroy the galaxy, and he ends up getting sucked into a black hole and intersecting with space-time. It's only then that they set up rules for their game and begin to play in earnest. It's in this game that the dying Animorph hearing this story has been important, and the Ellimist confirms this before letting that particular life end.
About this book:
- This book actually came out after The Resistance and before The Return, but because of its foreshadowing and the mostly irrelevant details of its main story, it makes more sense when read after completing a reading of the series.
- Interesting that female gamers are rare on Ket. Seems the stereotypical gender roles are still in effect, even in the ancient past in deep space.
- The Speaker says that the home crystal and another crystal passing this close to each other is an event that happens only once every nineteen years. Question is, how long is a year for Ketrans? It's unclear whether he's literally saying it's the length of time it takes for their planet to orbit their sun--which could be anything--or whether this is supposed to be basically a translation to humans' understanding of time.
- It's not supposed to be revealed exactly who the Ellimist is talking to in the beginning and end of the book, but the Ellimist refers to the dying Animorph as "a strong, turbulent spirit," who also wasn't fated to be "one of the six." It'd be clear to most people reading the series that he is talking to Rachel, which is confirmed in the last book.
Ellimist: There's a natural affinity between gamers and planetary explorers. Or so we told ourselves.
Ellimist: We would no longer be a planet of thirty-two independent crystals; we'd have all thirty-two hooked up to a planetary uninet. I'd be able to play against gamers from entirely different crystals! I'd be able to lose to people I might never actually see.
Ellimist: I was Ellimist: the brilliant loser. But now I knew so much more. My wisdom was deep. My powers were vast. Surely . . . and then there was the core fact that I was not playing against anyone. No opponent, just the game itself.
Ellimist: I would intrude with exquisite sensitivity and the purest motivations. I would create harmonies. Boldness allied with restraint and a minimalist aesthetic, all in the service of moral certainties: that peace was better than war, that freedom was better than slavery, that knowledge was better than ignorance.
Ellimist: How could I care so much about this one small, unsteady creature? How could her death cut me so deeply? The pain was awful. Unbearable. And yet I was glad to learn that I could still feel.
Ellimist: I had gone there making sanctimonious noises about learning, never really expecting to learn anything new. And yet from these primitive, precivilized creatures I had learned how to defeat, or at least resist, Crayak. More children, some live. For every race Crayak exterminated, I would plant two new ones.