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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

Finishing up the 2nd and 3rd books of the Chaos Walking series

The Ask and The Answer book cover; Monsters of Men book cover

The Ask and the Answer (#2 Chaos Walking), Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Sci Fi

Published 2009, 520 pages

I finished up the Chaos Walking trilogy in December. This YA sci-fi series is a quick and very enjoyable read. Don't be put off by the page count, these books read VERY quickly - the plotting is straightforward, the characters are familiar, and there's lots of action to keep you zooming through the pages.

The first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, introduced us to Todd and Viola, 13 year olds trying to find a safe place to get away from the army pursuing them. They're running toward Haven, the last community that might help them.

"If you ever see a war, she says, not looking up from her clipboard, 'you'll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors. You accept things that would appall you at any other time because life has temporarily lost all meaning."

In book #2, they reach Haven to find it is no haven at all - the Mayor they were fleeing from has beat them there and has named himself President. Todd and Viola become separated and their trust and belief in each other is tested over and over. The President is an evil man who is a master manipulator and uses Todd for his own ends. Meanwhile, Viola is sheltered by the healer Mistress Coyle, who has her own plan to overthrow the tyrant President. Her plan involves using Viola. Sheesh! Both kids are pawns being used by adults to further their own agendas.

Once again, the action is plentiful; the "noise" or out-loud thoughts by all the men, and the Spackle (the indigenous inhabitants of the planet) provide opportunities to explore the idea of genocide, war, slavery, terrorism, and more.

"It's not that you should never love something so much it can control you. It's that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled."

The connection between Todd and Viola remains the focus of the story. Another excellent cliffhanger sets up ...... BOOK 3: Monsters of Men.

photos by Terrie Purkey, Vermont in the fall

Monsters of Men (#3 Chaos Walking), Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Sci Fi

Award winner: Carnegie + nominations

Published 2010, 643 pages

This final installment of the Chaos Walking series was an excellent conclusion to the series (or is it?). The first two books were so action packed with tragedy after crisis hitting Todd and Viola that I barely had time to breathe. This book is a little more.....maybe, philosophical.

“A monster, I think, remembering what Ben told me once. War makes Monsters of Men.”

After all the build up and tension in book #2, war finally comes to Prentisstown and this book is mostly about war. Unlike the Mistborn series by Brian Sanderson or the Game of Thrones series by R.R. Martin, this war isn't just interminable battles with graphic scenes of violence over and over and over. Certainly battles are described and people are killed, but it feels all a bit removed. The focus is on Todd and the Mayor (president) and who is manipulating whom. As Todd's mental powers grow, he is put in more and more morally questionable situations and his responses seem very appropriate to a young man. Viola and her interaction with the newly arrived settlers from her home planet makes a strong secondary story as each of them try to figure out how to bring peace to the planet. I had to keep reminding myself that Todd and Viola are just kids. Kids trying to do the right thing. Kids trying to navigate their way in an adult world. They often don't know what to do or how to do it or who to believe.

“Choices may be unbelievably hard but they're never impossible. To say you have no choice is to release yourself from responsibility and that's not how a person with integrity acts.”
Gullfoss Falls, Iceland photo by Terrie Purkey

For such a simple seeming plot, the ideas are once again complex and thought-provoking. It takes a great deal of skill to present conflicting ideas of what is right and wrong in dealing with concepts like: are you defending yourself or attacking to be aggressive? When you try to kill someone who has ideas in opposition to yours, are you a terrorist or a loyalist? When your heart is broken and you push the missile launch button are you the aggressor or defender? Ness is a genius at handling these and so many other themes.

“What a sad thing men are. Can’t do nothing good without being so weak we have to mess it up. Can’t build something up without tearing it down."

And that ending! through the pages, tears falling, putting the book aside for a moment to absorb what was happening (and blow my nose), picking it up to finish, and finding myself thoroughly satisfied. What an excellent trilogy! (Go ahead, click the 'Add to Goodreads' button to save it, then actually go pick it up!)

#YA #scifi #relationships #comingofage #dystopian #bookinseries #adventure #lightromance #4halfstars (click hashtag for similar books)

photo by Terrie Purkey, Gullfoss Falls, Iceland

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