Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness

**Contains spoilers for books one and two**

Monsters of Men
is the final book in the thrilling Chaos Walking trilogy. "War at last" the Mayor says at the closure of book two--and war he will have. A mighty Spackle army is marching on the city on one side; the Answer is blowing things up on the other; the first ships of the settler convoy are landing; and in the middle are Todd and Viola, two teenagers of New World who want nothing but peace, and each other. Todd had no choice but to free the Mayor just moments after capturing him--a man who killed his own son and perhaps every woman in New Elizabeth. A man who is truly a monster among men. Will he manage to make a monster out of Todd too?

First of all I am distraught that such an excellent series has come to an end. It's been less than a year since I picked up The Knife of Never Letting Go and I have eagerly anticipated and devoured the subsequent two books. And now it's all over! Unfair!

There was never any doubt in my mind that Monsters of Men was going to be a brilliant book. After producing two heart-pounding, emotionally wrenching novels, Patrick Ness couldn't do anything but provide us with a conclusion that was stunning. This isn't my bias. This is a statement of fact! (If you've read books one and two you'll be nodding vigorously at this. Except if you're my dad. Dad, I'm still in shock that you couldn't finish TKONLG. Paternity test, please. We surely can't be related.)

Oh, the Mayor, the Mayor, the Mayor. Was there ever such a villain? One so evil, so twisty and clever? One with such a vile and destructive vision? Surely such a man is beyond redemption. But if war makes monsters of men, then perhaps Todd's struggle for peace can rub off on the Mayor. The main theme of Monsters of Men is redemption. A new beginning. New World has suffered several setbacks, but it's not too late to straighten things out before the new settlers arrive. But what if it's the other way round? What if the Mayor rubs off on dear, sweet Todd? It'll be a bloody effing disaster!

Monsters of Men gets a new narrator alongside Todd and Viola. A Spackle. Can you guess who it is? Yep. 1017. To his own kind he's the Return, the only survivor of the Mayor's genocide of the Spackle slaves. And the Return wants revenge on the Knife. No prizes for guessing who that is. I wasn't completely enamored of 1017 at first because he retold a lot of what we already knew, which I hate to see happen, but then Ness puts his foot down and we're back to




soon enough. Really, the pacing of Monsters of Men is absolutely breakneck. TKONLG and TAATA were both, I felt, paced like a roller-coaster: long slow build, terrifyingly fast finales and a whiplash ending. But in Monsters of Men it just doesn't stop! But back to the Spackle. To their own kind they are the Land, a species with a single voice. They are led by the Sky, who desires only the best for his people. It's their complete otherness which makes peace between humans and the Land seem impossible. The men of New World despise their Noise, but it is the very thing that unites the Land.

Often when reading a book the outcome is obvious: the characters only need to do x and y, hug, and it's all over. Ness, on the other hand, creates such complex scenarios it's difficult to second guess him--and then sends the plot shooting off in another direction with a dramatic event like a character's death and second guessing becomes impossible. An author who isn't afraid to kill off central characters could do anything. And that's what makes these books so thrilling. Ness can, and does, do the most outrageous things. It's simply terrifying.

Ness has shunned genre labels for his award-winning series. He doesn't classify it as dystopian, and he doesn't see the usefulness of such categorisation. However, many of us readers have labeled the Chaos Walking series "dystopian". But is it? After reading TKONLG I said yes, it most definitely was. Todd and Viola were two heroes escaping one man's utopia that had gone horribly wrong. It's the very definition of a dystopian novel. After reading TAATA I was so blown away that I didn't give a damn whether it was dystopian or not, I just wanted book three and I wanted it YESTERDAY. Now that I'm done with the series I can sit back and analyse at leisure. And as a series, are the Chaos Walking books dystopian? Um, probably not. Todd and Viola go so far beyond escaping or overthrowing or succumbing (the three options for heroes in this sort of fiction) to the dystopia that they find themselves in. And the world Ness has created goes so far beyond just the Mayor's dystopia, especially in book three when the Spackle are given a voice and proper characterisation.

Plus they're really long books and dystopian novels are usually kinda short. (Shut up, it's true.) But what do you think? Dystopian or not? Don't really care, just want Monsters of Men right now, you'd sell your own mother for a copy thankyouverymuch?

If you're not totally sure of the verdict, here it is in plain, Todd-like English:

Monsters of Men is EFFING AWESOME.


  1. I'd say it's dystopian. But it feels very evolved --- like the dystopian gold standard.

  2. Hmmm

    I did actually finish the TKONLG, but as you know I didn't like it. I found Todd's inability to do violence unbelievable - and then when he does do so, it doesn't ring true to me, either. Perhaps I'll borrow your copy of TAATA and have another try.

  3. i skimmed this review because i didn't want any spoiler sat all, but OMG I CANT WAIT TO READ THIS!! AAHH I just LOVE this series =D

  4. Okay, I am so dang excited to read this last book - but I totally skimmed your review because I want a very unfiltered read the first time through. But I do have some extremely high hopes for this one. SO EXCITED for this one!

  5. OMG i luv these book i skimmed the reivew but im mad because it doesnt't come out here until september I AM SO MADM=