Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Previously: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Good golly Miss Molly, I’m not sure where to start with this one. The first book blew me out of the water. The second one made me wonder what in the heck more can happen to these poor people (ie. Todd and Viola). The third is surely gonna make my head explode.

It was good. Really, really, excellently good.

Ness writes with an honesty few others do. He’s created a world and instead of getting all scifi-crazy-name on it he’s gone the exact opposite route. Settlers left their world and set out to start a life on a new one, appropriately named New World. He’s taken a town, named after the Mayor, Prentisstown, and when the mayor takes over Haven (a supposed haven from the likes of the Mayor ironically enough) he renames it New Prentisstown. I respect this like nothing else. I mean, it is so exactly what people would do isn’t it (yes, yes it is). The lack of originality humans show when naming their new homes is almost mind boggling in its…lack of originality…Anyhow, big thumbs up for this Mr. Ness. Obviously the first book in the series covered our introduction to this, but I don’t think it struck me until the second book how integral I found this to be to my buy in of the story.

If you thought the first book was gritty, and violent, well, never you worry, this one is more of all of that. The story is told from both Viola’s and Todd’s perspectives. I was a bit hesitant at first, but man I ended up really liking that. Viola is a force of nature. She is fierce in a way few female characters are (even my beloved Katniss, Katsa, and Alanna). She’s got no special talents, no extraordinary strengths. Just shear bloody determination. And it is something special to behold.

Text is used again to indicate the noise virus, but less so than in the first book. It was also used to indicate explosions with giant BOOMs and the like. I thought that really worked well. It was pared down, still effective, maybe even more so now that we understand the noise and the toll it takes on men.

I also liked how the theme of responsibility runs through the story. This is not a story of destiny (although it wouldn’t take much to convince me that there is some destiny at work for Todd) it is solidly a story of decisions. We are what we choose, our decisions define us. They make us who we are. And yet, if we fall we can pick ourselves back up. Let me tell you, I can’t hardly wait to see what the choices are in book three.

I love the confusion in this book. I love the title and how it fits into the story. I love that Mayor Prentiss, over-the-top evil mastermind that he is can so clearly manipulate everyone and that includes the reader. I even fell a little in love with Davy, he who shot Viola in book one. And the Spackle. Oh dear the Spackle. You are in for a ride with them.

If you haven’t read the first book you should. This series is my number one pick for teen boys – it is the first thing I check to see if it is on the shelf and available. It usually isn’t.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear that this lives up to expectations. I can't wait to get my hands on it! And I'm very intrigued by the narration from Viola - it'll be interesting to get inside her head a little bit.

Steph said...

How bad is it that I haven't read the first one yet, considering I've had it for many many months? Le sigh. Good review. It's moving up on Mountain of Doom (the book pile).


Patti said...

I didn't mention it, but I also love how he handles gender. You'd almost expect him to put women on a pedestal to counteract the misogynist Mayor. But he doesn't. Women are just as capable of being tyrannical and power-hungry.

This series gives me chills, it is so excellent.

Renay said...

I am so ready for this book. This review didn't help at all. CONGRATS, you have me giving my wallet the eye now, considering an import so I can end my suffering. *woes*

Bibliovore said...

Oh my gosh, I can't wait to read this. Also sososo glad that my biggest fear from the end of Knife didn't come to pass.

fashionable librarian said...

I cannot wait to read this one! I loved the first book and the second one sounds like it's going to be great!

Kelly said...

I haven't read the first one, but I know I need to! Good to know the 2nd one was up to par.