Monsters of Men

Monsters of MenMonsters of Men by Patrick Ness
Chaos Walking # 3
Publisher: Walker & Company
Number of pages: 603
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

In the riveting conclusion to the acclaimed dystopian series, a boy and girl caught in the chaos of war face devastating choices that will decide the fate of a world.

As a world-ending war surges around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions. The indigenous Spackle, thinking and acting as one, have mobilized to avenge their murdered people. Ruthless human leaders prepare to defend their factions at all costs, even as a convoy of new settlers approaches. And as the ceaseless Noise lays all thoughts bare, the projected will of the few threatens to overwhelm the desperate desire of the many. The consequences of each action, each word, are unspeakably vast: To follow a tyrant or a terrorist? To save the life of the one you love most, or thousands of strangers? To believe in redemption, or assume it is lost? Becoming adults amid the turmoil, Todd and Viola question all they have known, racing through horror and outrage toward a shocking finale.

* * *

So it took me a while to write a review of this book, for several reasons. First is the usual excuse that I am just busy (I still have a huge review backlog), second is that I don’t know how to start the review, and third is because I’m just not sure how to really rate this book.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness is the final installment to the Chaos Walking trilogy, and it is all about war. And it’s not just the kind of war that we’ve read in The Hunger Games trilogy, but a bigger, badder and more intense kind of war that kind of exhausted me when I was reading it. Wait, scratch that — it did not just kind of exhausted me but I really got exhausted.

I’m not sure how to write about the plot of the book because I’m afraid my words won’t suffice. Even the summary I posted above doesn’t say much about the everything that’s happened in the book. It was intense, but I loved the intensity it carried – it starts out with a bang and pauses and then brings it back all over again. The stakes are higher, and there isn’t just two sides in this war. You’d find yourself wondering just who really is the bad guy in this, and if the actions of the “good” people would be justified because of their intentions. I felt torn over the motivations of the people, and somehow, reading about them as they were revealed made me sympathize even with the most unlikely characters. Yes, even the Mayor — I think he had some of the best moments in this book and I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him. He’s such a complex villain that it’s not easy to simply just  hate him for all his supposed evilness.

It’s exhausting. But it’s also gripping. And as with every Patrick Ness book, I shed tears, because he can do that with how he deals with his characters. The writing is simple and definitely way easier to read compared to the first book, and it’s in this simplicity that makes the message shine. War makes monsters of men. Is there ever any way for us to avoid this kind of war that ruins people? Perhaps.

I honestly had a hard time rating this at first because while I thought it was very good, I also felt that maybe I was giving it that rating because of the hype and the good reviews of all the people who has read this before and has read this with me. But now that it’s been more than a month since I finished it, I realized that this book deserves no less than my current rating. After all the tears and time I have invested in this series (I read this in the span of 3 years because I had to rest in-between the books!), I must say it is truly one of the best series for young adults out right now. Monsters of Men is an excellent ending to an excellent series and I am so, so glad that I was able to read this. :)

Rating: [rating=5]

Other reviews:
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac

Reviews of other Chaos Walking books:
# 0.5 The New World
# 1 The Knife Of Never Letting Go
# 2 The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick NessThe Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Chaos Walking # 2
Publisher: Walker Books
Number of pages: 517
My copy: US paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.

Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order.

But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even alive? And who are the mysterious Answer?

And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

* * *

So it’s been a little over a year since I read The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in the Chaos Walking series. Having loved that book, it would have made sense if I immediately dived into the second one, especially since I had a copy. But here’s the thing I realized with the Patrick Ness books I’ve read so far: they’re all pretty emotional, the kind that makes you need some time and space in between his books to prepare yourself for another ride. Especially if you’re one who gets a bit attached to the characters, like me.

Spoilers for the first book inevitable at this point forward. And so now that a year has passed, I pick up The Ask and the Answer. The book picks up almost immediately where Knife left off: Todd wakes up and finds himself tied to a chair facing Mayor Prentiss, now President Prentiss, questioning him. Todd had only one concern in mind — where Viola was, and if she’s still alive, especially since he remembered carrying her almost-lifeless body towards what they thought was Haven. The “haven” that they expected is now New Prentisstown, with the Mayor as the new leader. But it seemed like the Mayor doesn’t want Todd dead. He spares his life, teams him up with his son Davy to do some work in New Prentisstown, promising Todd that Viola will live if he follows the rules. The Mayor suddenly doesn’t seem to be the person Todd believed he was…but can he be trusted?

In the other side of town, Viola wakes up, far from dead. She meets Mistress Coyle, one the best healers in Haven, and Viola finds out that the Mayor has locked all women in for reasons yet unknown. As Viola recovers, she becomes an apprentice healer, constantly worried about Todd and if he has survived whatever the Mayor had in store for them. But soon, Viola finds out that there’s more to Mistress Coyle than being a normal and best healer in New Prentisstown — and she needs Viola on her side.

Then the bombs start exploding.

The Ask and the Answer picks up the pace from the first book, dropping us straight into the conflict. Todd and Viola’s separation tears at them both, and while they don’t really know what to do or who to trust, they know they have to be with each other, no matter what. They both grow up lots in this installment, with all the politics and manipulation and desperation going on around them. This is also far darker than its predecessor, tackling themes such as torture, genocide and terrorism to name a few. This book had the same vibe I got from Mockingjay, with the violence unleashed in the pages…and this isn’t even war yet! It makes me wonder if the second book is as intense as I found the third Hunger Games book was, what more of Monsters of Men? I can’t imagine how dark that would be now.

This book blurs lines between the good and the bad guys, and truly, it’s hard to pick a side in the entire story. Should the end justify the means? Is terrorism the only way to achieve “peace”? Gray areas abound and the moral issues were tackled with the same detail as in Knife, but not too deep that it’s not so hard to understand. As if that’s not enough, Ness brings in another player into the field by the end of the novel, which I should have expected but took me by surprise.

My favorite character in this installment isn’t Todd or Viola, though, but Davy Prentiss. Davy, who only wanted to make his dad proud. Davy, who acts like a tough man but who’s really a boy. I loved how the relationship between Todd and Davy was developed, especially since I hardly saw it coming. It was easy to dismiss Davy as a villain especially after he shot Viola in the first book, but his evolution was a definite surprise. I am impressed at how Ness made him into a character that would earn the sympathy of the readers in the end.

Lately, I found myself balking whenever I see that a book I was about to start reading is more than 350 pages. With all the books in my TBR pile, I feel like I can’t invest that much time in a too thick book — you get what I mean? This book defied that though — it had 500+ pages but I hardly felt it. My friends, I think that is a good measure for a great book. :) While not as heart-wrenching as Knife (I admit that I’m still quite attached to that), The Ask and the Answer is a very good follow up in the trilogy. I am really looking forward to reading Monsters of Men now. Yes, I still need a breather before jumping into that, but I think I can promise that it won’t take another year before I crack my copy open. :)

Rating: [rating=4]

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – September

Other reviews:
Persnickety Snark
The Book Smugglers
Book Harbinger

Hope in the New World

The New World by Patrick Ness
Chaos Walking # 0
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Number of pages: 24
My copy: ebook

In this dramatic prequel to the award-winning Chaos Walking Trilogy, author Patrick Ness gives us the story of Viola’s journey to the New World. Whether you’re new to Chaos Walking or an established fan, this prequel serves as a fascinating introduction to the series that Publishers Weekly called “one of the most important works of young adult science fiction in recent years.”

* * *

When Aaron tweeted about this book novella, I squealed inside the office. No joke. I immediately called my friend Jana from her workstation, who squealed too, and once again with me, when we found out it was free. This book was one of the reasons we disrupted the peace and quiet at the office that Friday afternoon.

It’s no secret that I loved Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, and I was really looking forward to reading the next two books in the trilogy, especially since Monsters of Men came out in paperback last week. Although I haven’t read the second and third books yet, my friends have told me so much about it that I know I would probably like it as well. When you like a book/series this much and you haven’t even read it all yet, any companion novel is bound to make you excited. At least, that’s how I see it.

The New World is a 23-page novella that tells us how Viola landed in the New World (aka Todd’s world) and glimpses of her life before she reached the planet. Here, we meet her parents, as well as some of her friends and we get to know about her, most especially her survival skills. The prose is sharp and the action flows smoothly through flashbacks and the present time. It’s not as raw or awkward as Todd’s point of view was, but I think Viola’s voice was very accurate to how I knew her from the first book.

This was a very quick read, and I was kind of hoping to read a bit of a crossover with the story in Knife in Viola’s POV, but there was none. However, I agree that this novella can be read even if you have read the three books already or if you are new to the trilogy — it really doesn’t matter. It may seem to be a bit spoilery for some events in Knife, but it’s not really a big deal, IMHO. If you’re kind of daunted by the title or the thickness or the story in the first book of the Chaos Walking series, then The New World is definitely a good place to start in this awesome series. :)

Rating: [rating=4]

Cover & Blurb: Goodreads

When one falls, everybody falls

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Chaos Walking # 1
Publisher: Walker Books
Number of pages: 479
My copy: US paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he’s going to have to run…

* * *

I’ve heard a lot of good reviews for this book from various book blogs and book friends, but I never picked it up because I wasn’t into dystopia back then. In fact, I saw a copy of this book a couple of times in Fully Booked but I always ignored it. No time to read it, I always think.

After some really strong recommendations, I finally got a sample from Amazon and read the first few pages, thinking that if I really want it, I can always get the Kindle edition. But as I read on, I knew only one thing: I MUST HAVE THIS BOOK. Not the ebook, but the actual print book, because there are parts of the book that just looks better in print. Unfortunately, on the day I decided I wanted the book, the only copy in the Fully Booked branch nearest my office was gone. :( My friend Jana, who also wanted the book, got to the last copy first, so I would have to wait. *grumble* Thanks to the wonderful people of Fully Booked, though, for transferring a copy to Eastwood a week after I inquired to them about it. Of course, I wasn’t able to read this immediately, and it wasn’t until about a month from when I got this that I got to read it.

You can never go wrong with a book that starts with a talking dog, especially one that says, “Poo, poo.” The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness starts this way:

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

“Need a poo, Todd.”

I must do a Russell from Up impression here: “BUT IT’S A TALKING DOG!” :) From that moment on, I knew that even if I didn’t like the book in the end, I’d still be fond of the talking dog.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect as I read this book because I stayed away from as many spoilers as possible, so I plunged into the book knowing only the basic stuff: Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown, where only men live and everyone can hear the other person’s thoughts. Then he discovers a “hole” in the noise, complete silence that is impossible in the world he grew up in. Todd is then made to run far, far away from Prentisstown for reasons he couldn’t understand, which leads to a chase to a world outside he thought never existed.

It took me a while to really get into the book, despite the talking dog, because of the way Todd talks. The Knife of Never Letting Go is written in Todd’s point of view, and growing up in the New World has given Todd a different way of talking, which may be because of the deterioration of education in Prentisstown since the boys don’t go to school nor read. Most of narration becomes Todd’s actual thoughts, most of which spill over each other and sometimes goes on and on without periods that I ran out of breath while reading it even if I was doing so silently. The language is reminiscent of The Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, but more rough and raw as I wasn’t just seeing things happen, but feeling them since I had access to Todd’s thoughts (and whoever’s Noise he can hear).  It took me a while to get the hang of it, but when I did, the book gripped me and refused to let go.

Patrick Ness is one heck of a writer, and I admire him for never being afraid of hurting his characters. As a (wannabe) novelist, I always have problems with hurting my characters because they’ve grown close to my heart as I write them, and hurting them feels like I’m hurting myself. If you’re that type of reader who grows attached to characters they read and hate it when they get hurt…well, be prepared because Ness can be pretty ruthless. I always get a sense of dread whenever Todd would end up content and somewhat happy in one place because I know the author is just preparing to bring out another big gun that would send Todd and his companions running. It’s not bad, of course, but rather very effective because it kept me reading, rooting for Todd and wanting him to win it in the very end. The action scenes were satisfying, the running and the panic felt very real, and Ness kept the mystery of Todd’s history kept very well up until the revelation point, and he didn’t reveal everything so much that all questions were answered.

It’s not just senseless action or violence, either. Every action and everything that Todd does has a bearing in the end, one that helped him grow as needed at the climax of the novel. Todd’s realizations is not only applicable in his world, but also in our world and in how we strive to get something we want or to be someone we want to be. I find this quote from the book very true (emphasis mine, and don’t worry, no spoilers):

“Here’s what I think,” I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my noise like whispers of truth.

I think maybe everybody falls,” I say. “I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking…I think the asking is whether we get back up again.

The Knife of Never Letting Go truly lives up to its hype. I’m lucky that I read this now because I don’t think I could have waited so long to read the next book because the ending is just…well, I’d leave it to you to find out. And I must warn you as well: there may be a part when you’d want to stop reading the book and mull over what happened a bit, and maybe even shed a few tears. I did that. :P

I can’t wait to start reading the next book, The Ask and the Answer, which I am reserving for the YA-D2 reading challenge. The Knife of Never Letting Go is a dark, fast-paced and action-packed dystopian novel that will surely have you at the edge of your seat. If you see this in the bookstore, don’t think twice: just get it and read. I promise you won’t regret it.

Rating: [rating=5]