This past weekend I finished rereading The Ellimist Chronicles from the Animorphs series. I remember this book being a stand out when I read the series before, but I wasn’t sure if that was due to the content of the story or just because it was the last of the supplemental books to come out. At this point in the series, the Animorphs main storyline is revving up into the grand finale, with the conflict between the Yeerks and the Animorphs becoming more of a public war, instead of a secretive, private one. The Ellimist Chronicles, in a weird way, gives us an origin to that battle.
The Ellimist Chronicles goes back eons into history and tells the story of how the super powerful, maybe omniscient, maybe omnipotent being known as the Ellimist (first introduced in book #7 of the main series) came into power. He starts out as a flying creature named Toomin who lives in a society that is super community driven, because literally everyone has to spend 90% of their time attached to and supporting the floating crystal they call home, flapping their wings to keep it in the air. Toomin spends much of his docked time as “Ellimist” in a sort of virtual-reality video game he plays where he manipulates the development of alien cultures in order to see how he can control their advancement, and he is already looking towards a future that would allow for less of this community-driven time. A lot of this part of the story looks at how dependent his people are on each other, and at his and others’ ideas about how to break that dependence using technological advancements.
Then, his home planet gets totally wrecked. An alien species who misunderstood the games, thinking that the Ellimist and his friends actually had the power to manipulate other societies evolution (can you imagine?) shows up, and literally blasts the crystals out of the sky. Toomin and a few others from his society are the only ones to survive, and set out in search of a new world to call home, starting what the book refers to as his second life.
A few decades on, Toomin is now in command of the search for a new home. Some members of his crew argue that they should adapt to a land-based life, but Toomin and the others still hope to find a new world where they can fly free, as they were used to before. While investigating an aberration under the surface of a waterlogged planet, all of the survivors end up captured by a tentacled behemoth that spans the entire world. The creature, called “Father”, taps into the mind of everyone it captures (and kills), which includes all of Toomin’s companions along with representatives from countless other races. The only thing it keeps truly alive is Toomin himself, who is forced to play games against Father in exchange for being allowed to live in a fantasty version of his life back on the Crystal, instead of seeing through his own eyes the watery graveyard that is his prison. This goes on for millenia, with Toomin always losing, until they discover the game of music, which The Ellimist is able to master thanks to his inginuity, creativity, and sadness. Emboldened, The Ellimist starts to push back against Father, and uses the creature’s own tentacle web to also tap into the minds of the preserved bodies under the sea, absorbing their knowledge and life experiences, until ultimately he absorbs Father himself.
Now that he has the knowledge, experiences, and creativity of multitudes inside his mind, The Ellimist works on “improving” his body, by building a construct out of all the crashed ships on the planet, and affixing his consciousness to it, literally becoming part of a machine. With that, he sets back out into space, taking on a new mission of forcing peace on a warring galaxy. He boldly intereferes, manipulating the development of individual cultures as well as the relationships between existing ones, to try to ensure peace and long life across the universe. As he goes, he expands his body, until his consciousness exists across thousands of ships. Unfortunately, it turns out that an even more powerful being has been following in his wake, and undoing his progress. A being called Crayak (introduced in book #6) acts as the mirror universe version of The Ellimist, creating war and destruction and death everywhere he goes. He challenges The Ellimist to a series of games, with entire solar systems as the stakes.
After many defeats, The Ellimist goes into hiding with primitive versions of the Andalites we know from the main series. He sacrifices most of his great intellect while in Andalite form, and lives a simple, peaceful life in a community again. He has a family, he has children, he relearns the meaning of loss and the power of hope. Eventually, reinvigorated, he heads back to the stars, this time with a goal simply of spreading life, instead of trying to stop death.
Utilizing this new strategy, he is able to push back against Crayak, and looks like he has a chance of winning this ultimate battle, until he is tricked into a trap, and all the great multitude of his body is devoured by a black hole. Expecting death, not for the first time in his long existence, The Ellimist instead finds a new perspective on life. From inside his confinement, he realizes he can see all of space and the winding timelines of every creature in existence. From here he plots a new strategy against Crayak, and works again to save and create life. Crayak catches on, and ultimately joins the Ellimist in non-corporeal, near-ominiscent existence. Realizing that now there is no way for them to battle without destroying everything, including themselves, the two settle down to a game. A long game. A game with strict rules. A game for everything.
And this is where this story of the Ellimist’s journey ends. It seems that the conflict currently raging on Earth between the Animorphs and the Yeerks was seeded eons ago, back before the Andalites had even evolved to have tails that could point forward. And it all came from two sad, lonely gamers, who were so mad that the universe didn’t turn out the way that they wanted that they learned to force it to develop in their images.
This book is bonkers, and that’s coming from someone who has spent the better part of the past year rereading The Animorphs, but I absolutely loved it! I had very little memory of the details of this story, and I couldn’t put the dang thing down. For the most part, it’s messages are really convoluted (I can’t tell, for example, if it’s pro- or anti-technology), but the one thing that it really makes clear is the importance of community, and the danger of isolation. In the end, even Crayak and The Ellimist seem to realize this, as they settle into their last game like Professor Xavier and Magneto; bitter enemies, but also, maybe someday, just maybe… friends?