"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness suffers a bit my middle-book-syndrome.  Don't get me wrong.  It is a tremendously exciting and unique storyline but throughout the book I was left with the thought that I knew there was a third book which meant that the heroes wouldn't prevail or the villain wouldn't get his due.  I was right on both accounts. My daughter tells me that middle books in trilogies are always a version of The Empire Strikes Back, where the hero is left clinging to life and we start to wonder if this is the series where the villain will finally win.  Who am I to argue with that logic? That said, the book retains much of the charm of its predecessor, The Knife of Never Letting Go. Our heroes, Todd and Viola, tell the story in alternating chapters written in first person which would usually throw me for a loop until I adjusted to the new narrator. Todd, who is illiterate, writes in pigeon-English, often spelling words how they sound. The first chapter opens days or minutes after the last book ended with both children in Haven but it is not the town that they had hoped and striven for. The new ruler of the town is Mayor Prentiss and he is a tyrant capable of mind-control and under him things seem to go from bad to worse quickly. Resistance to the new order springs up and the leader of this group is the new hero, or is she?

I was never quite sure who the true heroes and villains were.  Nor was I ever quite sure which side was the right side. And I think that was the point of the story. Ness is quoted as saying: "Even in a society where we are constantly told to 'be ourselves,' the pressure to conform is terrible, especially for the young. If the Chaos Walking trilogy is about anything, it's about identity, finding out who you are. How do you stay an individual when the pressure to conform, to change who you are, is life-threatening?" (Back Cover Flap)

Like any good middle book of a trilogy, The Ask and Answer leaves the reader hanging, ready for the sequel.  That is where I am now. Fortunately for me I won't have to wait long.  Monsters of Men, book three of the Chaos Walking trilogy, is due out on September 28.  I'll be the first person in line at my library to read it.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished reading The Knife of Never Letting Go. I loved it! I loved the way they played with the font type to give you insight into the various characters thoughts. And it was true science-fiction -- I feel like you don't see as much of that these days.

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