Book Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Title: Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3)
Author: Patrick Ness
Audio Read By: Humphrey Bower
Genre: YA/dystopian
Date Read: 01/12/2015 – 07/12/2015
Rating: ★★★★


monsterscoverTo quote Todd Hewitt, one of this series’ protagonists, stupid effing book. I was honestly a bit of an emotional wreck when I got to the end of it, though I had to put on a brave face and go and spend three hours on the reference desk at the library where I work immediately after.

Monsters of Men is the third and final installment in the Chaos Walking trilogy, and it continues to raise questions about freedom, war, love, race, colonisation and a whole host of other issues. Once again, we have Todd and Viola’s alternating viewpoints, along with a third, The Return, one of the indigenous Spackle, who we met as 1017 in Book 2. War between the Spackle and the settlers has once again begun, and Todd and Viola are not just caught between humans and Spackle, but between the two human factions as well. Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle continue to clash, meanwhile Todd never knows exactly where he and the Mayor stand, and Viola struggles with some bad decisions she that she makes. There are no cut-and-dry right and wrong answers in this book (the whole series, really), something Patrick Ness portrays beautifully. Even the Mayor, as the most obvious antagonist, makes good points about the sacrifices that sometimes have to be made in war.

I did sometimes find this book getting even more repetitive than The Ask and the Answer. The characters don’t move around much, so the plot is quite dialogue-driven, and often they have the same conversations over and over again. Todd and Viola’s character development once again was the highlight, though they do spend a lot of time pining after each other. The Mayor and Mistress Coyle are both fascinating characters, both pulling stunts I never expected, even from them, in their determination to be the ones who make peace with the Spackle. I wasn’t as invested in The Return’s POV, because I hadn’t just spent two books getting attached to him, but I understood Ness’ reasons for including him in the narrative. And once again, every side character feels completely fully formed.

Patrick Ness does not wrap the series up in a nice package with a bow, but it does end on a hopeful enough note to be satisfying. Well. I say “satisfying”. I won’t lie, being at work was the only thing that stopped me from becoming a sobbing wreck. Even hours later, I was still a bit teary, and I was still thinking about the book days later. But this is not the sort of series that would work with an entirely happy, everything-is-fixed-and-everything-is-fine-now ending. While Ness provides a bit more closure for those who want it in his short story, Snowscape (one of three short stories that take place at various points in the series’ continuity), the ending will certainly ensure that this book sticks in your head well after you read the final page.

Once again, Humphrey Bower’s narration excelled at bringing these various factions to life. Each character had their own voice, and some clever sound engineering gave the Noise (and the visual “speech” of the Spackle) an echo-y, distant floating feeling. The entire final section from Todd’s POV is delivered in this style, except for the very final line, which is clear and strong against a completely silent background. I’ve no doubt that his delivery is partially to blame for it getting to me so much.


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