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: ★★★★

Review:

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.

Book Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Title: The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
Author: Patrick Ness
Audio Read By: Humphrey Bower
Genre: YA dystopian
Date Read: 26/11/2015 – 02/12/2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

askanswercover After the enormous cliffhanger that The Knife of Never Letting Go ended on, I was relieved that I was able to dive straight into the second book. Not that Patrick Ness grants his readers any reprieve; he throws us straight back in the deep end. There is a slew of new characters for us to get to know and new conflicts for them to deal with. While it’s quite different to The Knife of Never Letting Go, it was still an intense ride.

Todd and Viola have been separated and neither knows if the other is alive. They both have to trust the word of Mayor Prentiss, who has now declared himself President of New World. While he seems sincere in his intentions to create a new and better society, there are plenty of people who do not want to see him in charge when the new settlers arrive. While Todd is put to work taking care of the remnant Spackle population in Haven/New Prentisstown, Viola begins training as a healer under the formidable Mistress Coyle, who we later learn was a member of a powerful faction of women called The Answer during the first Spackle War. In retaliation to a new iteration of the Answer, Mayor Prentiss sets up the Office of the Ask to interrogate those suspected of terrorist attacks. People continue to get hurt on both sides, and neither Todd nor Viola know who to trust, but this is just the beginning; a bigger war is yet to come to New Prentisstown.

As with the first book, this one is quite long, and seems to repeat itself a lot. Todd and Viola are not running for their lives this time, instead developing daily routines that go on for the several weeks the book spans. Todd and Viola spend the majority of the book separated from one another, and Mayor Prentiss successfully plants seeds of doubt in both their minds about how trustworthy the other is. We get Viola’s point-of-view as well, and get to see both sides of the war for New World as it unfolds. To use a term so beloved by Tumblr users, a lot of the “feels” in this book came from knowing as a reader that their love for and loyalty to each other is still as strong as ever, but watching them struggle with not knowing for certain. Even when they were separated, their relationship is still one of the best I’ve read for a long time.

Because there was less of a chase going on in this book, and more time spent with other human beings, the side characters all felt like real characters, too. Once again, Patrick Ness managed to create characters that I found really annoying at first, and then made me love them (… and then kill them off, in one particular case, damn him). Mayor Prentiss is a much more impressive villain than Preacher Aaron was in the previous book (though I did have the issue of him looking like Governor Ratfcliffe from Disney’s Pocahontas in my head), and Mistress Coyle provides a good foil for him, though you can never be sure whether you trust her anymore than you trust him.

This book also ended on a huge cliffhanger, just when it looked like everything was sort of maybe going okay (even though you knew it wouldn’t, because there was still another 500-page book to read). I’d recommend having all three lined up and ready to go, even if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy them. Better to have them handy and end up not wanting to read them, then devouring the first ones and then flailing while you struggle to get hold of the sequels.

 

 

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Audio Read By: Humphrey Bower
Genre: YA/dystopian
Date Read: 20/11/2015 – 25/11/2015
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

knifecoverI had this book on my GoodReads TBR for ages, then took it off during a clean-up (every now and then I go through it and weed out the books I’m no longer interested in). However, after listening to A Monster Calls (see yesterday’s review), I decided to give the audio version of this a ago as well.

Wow. It was intense. And difficult to describe, but I’ll give it a go.

Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown, one of the settlements on New World, a place where everyone can hear the thoughts of men, thanks to the Noise Germ. As far as Todd knows, the Noise Germ also killed all the female settlers, and Prentisstown is home to just 147 men (my number may be wrong, but it was around there somewhere). But just a month before his 13th birthday, Todd hears a gap in the Noise, which turns out to be a girl named Viola Eade, and this kickstarts a chain of events that lead to him having to run away from Prentisstown, an army hot on his heels.

Todd and Viola are probably up there with my favourite characters ever. They’re both stubborn, and somewhat fixed in their ways, but damn are they loyal to one another. Todd is basically illiterate (he can recognise letters, but putting them together to read words on a page is incredibly difficult), and a simple farm boy; for various reasons that I won’t spoil here, Viola has a much better education, and is also rather tech-savvy (there wasn’t much in the way of technology in Prentisstown), but is in a very unfamiliar place and dealing with a lot of awful things in a short space of time. Due to these circumstances, she and Todd sometimes clash, particularly early on, but they’ve only got each other. They save each other’s lives more than once, developing an incredible bond, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a YA series before.

The pace is very fast, and there is a lot of action. Patrick Ness does not hold back – there is a lot of violence and it is vividly described. Also, if violence towards animals will bother you – you should probably skip this one. I won’t say any more, but you should bear that in mind. The book is quite long, and sometimes repetitive, but for the most part, it held my interest entirely. I did find the villain, Aaron, a little bit comical. He tracks Todd and Viola doggedly, and always seems to be screaming “Toodddd Hewwwwitttt!” and bearing more injuries than any normal person could actually withstand without dying. Many chapters end with “Oh, no, Aaron has appeared again!” to the point where I was calling it beforehand and rolling my eyes when he made another appearance.

While the cover image I’ve got up there is for the Candlewick audio, I actually listened to the Bolinda version read by Australian actor/voice artist Humphrey Bower. He used a working class English accent that was perfect for Todd and the other inhabitants of Prentisstown. I have learned since finishing the book that in the printed version, many of the words are spelled phonetically (which makes sense with Todd’s illiteracy), the Noise is depicted in different fonts, and there are often pages with only a few words per line, or only a few sentences per page (which I guess is probably a good visual representation of the Noise). When I first heard about this, I thought it might have put me off, but I have since decided I’m going to check out the print versions as well. It sounds just as unique as the rest of the book.

Come back next Friday/Saturday for my reviews of The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men, the second and third books in the trilogy.

#WWW Wednesday – 02 December, 2015

No, but really, how is it December already? I feel like this is all I keep saying lately, but I seriously don’t know where the time is going.

I have decided that I’m going to take another break from WIPpet Wednesday, since a) I’m planning at the moment and b) I’m being so completely dismal at visiting other people’s blogs, and I’m just going to stick with WWW Wednesday until the new year probably. WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam over at A World of Words. You can join in over there by leaving a link to your own WWW Wednesday on today’s post. All you need to do is answer the three questions.

  • What are you currently reading?

I’m listening to Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, which is the third in the Chaos Walking trilogy. I’m going to be at a serious loss when I finish this series.

I’ve actually ordered the books for my nephew for Christmas, mainly because I know he liked the Hunger Games, so I’m hoping that means he likes dystopian YA in general? (I’m so out of touch with 17-year-old male video gamers). And also, I’m tired of always just giving him gift vouchers to the local games store. And also, it sounds like that’s what my mum is giving him this year, so I’m glad I thought of something else.

wwwwednesday

I’m also reading the print copy of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, also by Patrick Ness. I actually started the audio of it before The Knife of Never Letter Go, but I wasn’t getting into it as much. I’m liking it much better in print. It’s also a very quick read, and a clever idea. Because of the audio for Chaos Walking, though, I am hearing this narrator in Todd’s voice.

 

  • What did you recently finish reading?

I finished listening to The Ask and the Answer, the second Chaos Walking book, just this afternoon. It was very long and sometimes (often) repetitive, but there was amazing character development. Todd and Viola are two of my favourite characters in any of the books I’ve read this year. As I said in my GoodReads review, I want to take them both and wrap them in warm blankets and put them somewhere safe. And probably get them a therapist each.

I also finished The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth last week. It was all right. I enjoyed it but I was never especially invested. I wish I had known before reading the author’s note at the end that a lot of the characters were real historical figures because I think that would have really added something.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

MOAR PATRICK NESS! Most likely. Though it seems all that’s left is the Chaos Walking short stories, The Crane Wife and More Than This. And the Doctor Who short story he wrote for the 5oth Anniversary. I only read about half of them at the time so I may or may not have already read it. My LiveJournal friends did give me some recommendations for Christmas reading, so I’ll probably track a few of those down as well.