The Ask And The Answer
- Walker Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 07 September 2009
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Warning: If you haven't read the first book in this trilogy The Knife of Never Letting Go, (reviewed here) - don't read this, rush out and get a copy Book One, then read the second.Book two starts immediately where the first left off; teenagers Todd and Viola are pitched into a living hell that doesn't let up for 519 thrilling and chilling pages and it is not for the faint-hearted - there are graphic scenes of torture and manipulation. Haven turns out to be the exact opposite of what they'd hoped, as the Prentisstown army led by the evil Mayor got there first, and eventually the women led by Mistress Coyne revolt - The battle between them reminds me strangely of the relationship between Sarastro and the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute. This leads to countless double-crosses and betrayals, yet through it all shines the beacon of Todd and Viola's need for each other. The other key element is the treatment of the native alien, the Spackle. They are literally treated like animals in a concentration camp by the charismatic Fuhrer Prentiss. That's I'm going to say about the plot, to avoid spoiling it for you.... Yet, the overall feel for me is still that of the Wild West frontier, with the Spackle as the native American Indians. It's Fort Apache meets Gunfight at the OK Corral in a nouveau-Puritan version of Deadwood.This is a book you'll devour - but it will leave you gnawing with hunger for the third and final installment. I checked out Ness's website, but there are no clues as yet to the title. It'll be out next year - (bites knuckles) I can't wait!
I effing love this trilogy.I'm not a fan of cliffhanging books. And the first two books have been just that. But somehow, Ness has managed to keep me satiated with open endings that somehow seem tidy. Two things have kept me engrossed with the story. The characters. The Mayor is a top-notch antagonist. He's sinister, cool and calculated; he's deceptive and pure effing evil, but somehow manages to convince you he's not. Every single time. Todd continues to grow into a strong, sympathetic and, most certainly, flawed hero. Viola, as well. And their relationship continues to mature without ever being physical in a way that is deep and meaningful, setting up the never-failing power couple that is stronger together than apart. And, a nice surprise, is seeing Davy's character grow from this whiny brat bully into a broken kid that you almost feel sorry for.The story. Ness kept me intrigued. I was never quite sure where the story was going. There has continually been a turn or twist that I couldn't quite guess. And I think he's put together quite a convoluted plot with many moving parts that seem to be slowly coming together at a very satisfying pace, setting the stage for an interesting conclusion in the third book.I could still do without the phonetic-style of writing for Todd and other uneducated Prentisstownies. I'm afraid it turns off people in the beginning (it almost did for me). But I've enjoyed his often rambling style of writing. I'm eager to get to the third book. And please, Lord, let there be a conclusive ending. That would be cool.
To say that Patrick Ness has set a high bar for himself would be a mammoth understatement. His machine gun, stream-of-consciousness writing wowed readers and critics alike when <i>The Knife of Never Letting Go</i> hit shelves in 2008, partly because it was unlike anything else ever seen in its genre. To readers who have learned to expect the unexpected, <i>The Ask and the Answer</i> may elicit a feeling of 'Here we go again', as Todd's narration, which was so radically original a year ago, returns for round two. Ness wastes no time, however, in reminding us why he writes the way he does. For vividness, impact and readability, this prose is nigh on unbeatable. With its terse phrasing and rapid-fire paragraphs, it captures not only visual images, but pace and rhythmic imagery as well. Never before has there been such an effective way to describe a fistfight, or the aftermath of an explosion. As prose goes, it's sheer genius, and readers will wonder why all thrillers aren't written this way.As if the writing were insufficient to make this book completely engrossing, Ness has packed the plot with the same amount of action and twists and, more importantly, the same thematic depth that captivated readers in the prequel. <i>The Ask and the Answer</i> is a fascinating portrait of society on the brink of chaos, where power is as tenuous as morality, and the greater good is often eclipsed by the means used to achieve it. Ness juggles right and wrong with impressive skill before seeming to throw them out of the window altogether. Ironically, the depth of ethical and political comment produces the novel's only flaw: it seems more than a little incongruous when Ness tries to find that rock of moral constancy in the middle of all the turmoil – because this is a children's book, after all.Don't be fooled by its bulk; like the Noise of New Prentisstown, this is one page-turner you won't so much read as telepathically absorb. Every bit of Ness' storytelling goes straight to the head and stays there, punching out image after image of his gritty dystopia. I look forward to seeing the tension ratcheted up yet again in the trilogy's finale: <i>Monsters of Men</i>.
I love science fiction. And this is GREAT science fiction. Ness does it again with the follow-up to his first book in the Chaos Walking series, "The Knife of Never Letting Go." While the first book in the series was full of non-stop action, this one slows down a bit and allows both the world and the characters to develop a bit more deeply.Viola and Todd are forced to go their separate ways, and each finds a different place for them in the war between "The Ask" (run by the Mayor/President) and "The Answer" (run by women and supported by many). Ethnic cleansing, torture, and terrorism (played on both sides), give an excellent depiction of the complications within the human psyche. Superb and thought-provoking.The only reason this will not get nominated for the Printz is because you must read the first book to full enjoy the second.
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