Thursday, 20 December 2012
Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #2)
Title & Author: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking #2
Pages: 517 (Walker Books, 2009)
Challenge: Series Catch-Up
Status: Owned book
Note: If you haven't read The Knife of Never Letting Go I strongly recommend you do so before reading this review. While I don't spoil The Ask and the Answer I do, by necessity, discuss the ending of the first book which is not something you want spoiled. Trust me.
Synopsis: 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 still alive?
And who are the mysterious Answer?
And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode... (from Goodreads)
First line: "'Your Noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.'"
Review: So, the ending of The Knife of Never Letting Go was pretty bad, right? Viola's been gut shot, Todd can't find anyone to help, and Mayor Prentiss has taken over Haven, renamed it Prentisstown and declared himself President. Things can't get much worse, right? Wrong, they get spectacularly worse in epic ways.
The book is told from Todd and Viola's perspectives, which is great and Viola Eade is a total bamf and Todd is just as cool as ever. What's less great is that neither of them know what's happening to the other, so first there's the tension of Todd wondering if Viola survived, then there's all sorts of misunderstandings as they both try to muddle through and figure out just what the other one is up to. And given that they end up on opposite sides of a fight between Mayor "I'm a nice guy really" Prentiss and Mistress "I know best let's blow stuff up" Coyle there are a lot of things to misunderstand. This could become annoying, but Patrick Ness handles it well and there's only one moment when I wanted to smack myself in the forehead then slap them both because, guys, really, think things through for a bit and see that you're being played.
Just as The Knife of Never Letting Go dealt with 'big' issues through a fantastic plot, so The Ask and the Answer addresses the little matters of dictatorship and terrorism while driving relentlessly to an ending with no easy choices. I do like that Patrick Ness didn't make all those in opposition to the Mayor perfect or even likeable; it's more real that way, and opens up two matters for consideration. Because as despicable as the Mayor is, the reaction some of the residents of Haven have to him both make things worse and give him the opportunity to improve his public image.
And I really feel like I can't say more because, again, spoilers. The one thing I will say is: make sure you have Monsters of Men to hand before you finish The Ask and the Answer. Because if you though the cliffhanger to The Knife of Never Letting Go was evil you are wildly unprepared for the end of The Ask and the Answer. Every plotline speeds up, rushes towards a conclusion - and then something wholly unexpected happens, which leads to Todd having to make a terrifying decision. And then the book ends.
Ultimately I don't love this book as much as I love The Knife of Never Letting Go, but it is an exceptionally good read and an excellent middle book of a trilogy.