Newest Review: ... - there are plenty of issues with Mistress Coyle's band of women (terrorism and a desire for one-upmanship included), along with a powerful... more
A must-read for fans of Todd and Viola
Monsters of Men - Patrick Ness
Member Name: deedee610
Monsters of Men - Patrick Ness
Advantages: deep; touching; the denouement!
Disadvantages: a bit same-y in places; very war focused
LENGTH: 624 pages
BACKGROUND: This is the third and final installment of The Chaos Walking Trilogy. In order, the books are: The Knife of Never Letting Go; The Ask and the Answer; Monsters of Men.
IS IT A READ-ALONE BOOK? Most definitely not. If you're coming to this final part of Chaos Walking cold, then it probably won't make sense to you. As such, I'm writing this review on the basis that you'll already be up to speed with the first two books. If you haven't read them and intend to, then stop reading now - as any discussion of this final book is, necessarily, a spoiler in respect of what's gone before. Naturally, I won't give away any spoilers in respect of this particular installment.
SYNOPSIS: The Ask and the Answer concluded with the New World being on the brink of war. Faced with an approaching Spackle army, Todd realises, with some dread, that the Mayor whom he's finally bested must now be released if he and Viola are to stand any chance of creating the world they want before the scout ship (and, finally, the rest of the convoy) arrive. Todd and Viola are forced to separate once more - with Viola attempting to reach the scout ship ahead of Mistress Coyle - and they soon come to realise that it is indeed true that war makes monsters of men. But it's not just men they have to worry about - there are plenty of issues with Mistress Coyle's band of women (terrorism and a desire for one-upmanship included), along with a powerful new enemy (the Spackle). And, among this, we are introduced to one new voice (which now shares a first-person narrative, along with Todd and Viola's) - that of 1017 - or The Return as he is now known.
MY VIEW: I loved the first two books in this series and, personally, engaged most with the second book (The Ask and the Answer). I must admit to struggling initially with the final novel. Personally, I began to feel that there was a repetitive element that jarred - Todd's inclination to make an admission he felt uncomfortable with, then say 'Don't, just don't' or 'Stop it' to the reader as though they might be sitting in judgement, laughing at him. I also felt the very narrow voice of the horses began to jar after a while - the repetitive 'Boy Colt' thing. Also, towards the start of the book, there were a few continuity errors regarding Viola and her horse - one minute she was on him, the next she wasn't; it almost felt as though Ness had finished one book and rushed onto the other without drawing breath.
Whilst I felt the first book involved a lot of running away and pursuit, it held my interest because it was the first in the series and the concept of 'noise' was incredibly original - as was the newfound friendship between Todd and Viola. Book two was, for me, the most engaging because Todd and Viola spent most of the time apart, having very different experiences. This time, in Monsters of Men, the narrative began to seem overwhelmingly one-tracked - with a war that was on, then off, then on etc. I wondered, at times, whether Ness had film rights in his head as he wrote this particular instalment. I began to feel that there was only so much running, gun-firing, flaming-spear-throwing I could take. I'm giving nothing away when I say that much of the book is taken over by battle scenes and counsels of war - I had hoped that, maybe, this book would jump forward further in time as, for me, it would have made a more interesting and rounded tale. Finally, I also found the narrative by 1017 somewhat slow. We are forced to grapple with odd terms for the Spackle (who call themselves The Land) and men (who are the Clearing) - then there's The Sky (Spackle leader) and Pathways. It's not the introduction of new terminology which slows reading up, more the fact that these are terms that mean entirely different things in English, so you find yourself tripping up over them at the start. However, I can see the analogy Ness was trying to make by using this language and, after a while, it becomes more familiar.
Despite my gripes with this book, Ness also did some fantastic things with it. He didn't rest on his laurels re the 'noise' - he moved this forward, creating even more depth and meaning to it. In Viola and Todd he has created two complex, exemplary, and all-too-human characters - fine examples for any young adult reading the book. There are some beautiful concepts and ideas in this book - for example, when The Sky (the Spackle leader) comments, "And do you not think that conflict is what makes the Sky? To seek a third choice when the two offered seem impossible?" Above and beyond anything, this is a story of courage, love, honour, loyalty, acceptance, redemption and hope.
Whilst the focus of this book may not have entirely been what I'd hoped for, it nevertheless touched me. When I finally closed the book, I felt as though I were saying goodbye to friends. Even a couple of days later, Todd and Viola remain in my thoughts. It is perhaps the greatest accomplishment an author can hope for - to bring into existence characters that, for a reader, become tangible and real. To have created people with such depth that, even though they're fictional, a reader is capable of missing them.
CONCLUSION: If you've read the first two books, you simply must finish the trilogy and find out what happens! As ever, when an author writes a series, readers will find their own favourite. This wasn't the best book for me but it nevertheless provided the closure that any fan of Chaos Walking will want.
Summary: If you've enjoyed the first two books, you won't want to miss this one.