“That was an effing brilliant read. Only I don’t say ‘effing’ do I?”
…Not that I could sum up the plot anyway!
The book starts right from the cliff-hanger ending of the previous novel, with Todd and Viola in the clutches of the former Mayor of Prentisstown (now calling himself the President of New World)
The pace is less frantic than in The Knife of Never Letting Go, but that does not mean less happens. If anything the plot is even more frantic in this one with even more twists and turns. If reading TKONLG was akin to riding a rollercoaster. Then, The Ask and the Answer is like riding the same rollercoaster, at a slower speed, backwards, blindfolded with all the harnesses removed. All you can do is cling on and hope.
It grabs hold, screws with every emotion you have, chews you up, guts out your insides, and spits you out the other end. Leaving you an empty gibbering husk of a reader. And you know what? You eagerly go back for more!
Reading this book is a harrowing experience, you don’t want to put the thing down, but when you do (and there are many times you have to, just so you don’t sling it against the wall!) there is a fear about picking it back up again, and what you might find.
It is far more frightening a book than any horror book you’ll ever read. There is true evil at work here, evil that is not simple black and white, nor even just a singular evil. Characters you love are forced to do horrible, horrible things. Things that are both easy and impossible to see yourself doing if you were ever forced into a similar position. Characters you hate with a passion, you are forced to reassess and identify (if not agree) with their motives.
The wars you’ve seen happen, the more you are aware of what goes on “on the ground” in war time, the war crimes, the things people will do and suffer through just to survive, the more you can hear phrases, such as, “If not us, then who? At least we will do it with some level of humanity…” and only be shocked at what is being done, not that someone had to say it, then the more harrowing this book gets.
And I’m telling you this not because I want to scare you off from reading it, which is what it might look like, but because you really need to read it. This is one of those books (inc the first one) you can shove at people that demean books as something lesser than TV, film or computer games.
This does everything that a book should do, grip you, burn itself into your imagination and effect you for days after reading it.
I really thought that, Terry Pratchett’s Nation, could not be topped as my favourite read this year, it’s held on for nigh on ten months, despite challenges from addictiveness of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and the shear joy of My Most Excellent Year, to name but a few, but now, I’m really not sure, it’s going to be a bloody close thing.
Other Reviews to Consider
The final book in the Chao Walking trilogy, Monsters of Men is due out in 2010 (and I can’t wait!)
Patrick Ness has also written a short prequel to the series, following Viola as she and her family head to the New World, you can find it on line at the booktrust website.