Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness

Thirty seconds after I finished the first installment of The Chaos Walking Trilogy "The Knife of Never Letting Go", I zoomed over to my mobile Overdrive to download the audio version of "The Ask and Answer" (my library didn't have the disc version).  This was serious business now.  The first installment left you hanging in mid-breathe, and I was a crazed, addicted fiend that needed my next fix. 

But wait.  The library SAID they had it on Overdrive, but it wasn't there.  I made a call to the library.  Oops, they say, looks like they don't have it anymore.  Voice trembling, I ask if they can get the audio on loan from another library.  No, they say, after budget cuts, they no longer support inter-library loans.  OMG.  OMG.  OMG.  So in desperation I broke my rule of sticking with all audio for a series, and I downloaded the Overdrive e-book on my phone.  I read the whole thing on my phone.  In three days.  All 536 pages.

I will try to be as non-spoilery as possible here, but just the nature of talking about a sequel is a spoiler in itself.   

Synopsis:  Todd and Viola believe they are escaping to a safe town called Haven, only to find it overrun by none other than Mayor Prentiss.  He has appointed himself President, has imprisoned the townsfolk that make trouble for him, banished the women to the outskirts of town, and is holding the aboriginal alien species in work camps.  Todd and Viola are separated as a result, but determined to reunite.

Mayor Prentiss grows in power with the building of an army (called "the Ask") and development of his mind controls, and is all narrated by Todd.  A group of revolutionaries, mostly women (called "the Answer"), decide to rebel by committing terrorist acts.  The actions of this group are narrated by Viola, who has joined them out of necessity to survive.  Jumping into the fray as a third combative force are the Spackle, who can no longer stand back and watch their people die at the hands of humans.  Will there be anybody left when Viola's settlers arrive in the New World months from now?

My thoughts: There was much to love in this second installment.  As much as I enjoyed "The Knife of Never Letting Go", and as much as I believe that most series blow their wad in the first book, this one just got better. 

I loved the addition of Viola as a first person narrator (in the first book we only heard from Todd).  She has a compelling voice, one that is passionate, earnest and determined despite her terror.  The separation of her and Todd was palpable.  I could feel their frustration and angst and need to be near each other, and their belief that they would do anything to protect each other.  It was very sweet in a fierce kind of way.

I also got wrapped up in a number of emotional issues that were addressed in this novel.  Big Issues.  The struggle of the enslaved Spackle.  The desperate longing for Mayor Prentiss's son to live up to his father's expectations.  And the precious talking horse Angharrad.  These animals, I swear.

But the biggest smack in the face was the morality of war.  It is obvious from the beginning that Mayor Prentiss is evil - that is a no-brainer.  So initially, the reader will applaud the efforts of The Ask to resist him, and blow up a few of his soldiers.  But soon, you see that both sides are vicious and blood-thirsty.  The Spackle have been used and abused in their native land, so they have a right to be mad.  But then they come blasting with their fire sticks that burn everything in sight.  So who is the good guy here?  Who is right?  Are any of them good, or just variations of the same brand of greed and anger?  This is a book that makes you go "hmmm". 

I will admit that I came out of the last book with some baggage.  Ness left us with a cliff-hanger and he murders kind people - important people!  I did not trust him, and was scared to death of who was going to get the ax.  I have to admit that I'm in the camp that applauds an author that throws important characters under the bus, but with Ness it is extreme.  I did not cry in this book, but felt the shock waves when characters were being picked off.  (Truthfully, I was terrified for the end of the third book.  But I'll talk about that tomorrow.)

And yes, this book ends (again) with the story hanging off the edge of a chasm, perfectly constructed for maximum anguish for those who had to wait for the third book to be published.  You'll want to have the third and final novel "Monsters of Men" nearby.  Luckily, I already had it loaded on my iPod.  Stay tuned for that review tomorrow...

4.5 out of 5 stars         

       

12 comments:

Beth F said...

I have the first one here -- within eyesight and a bookmark sitting in ti at about halfway. I'm not quite sure why I stopped reading it.

bermudaonion said...

I can see you shaking, trying to get that next fix. I love your enthusiasm for this series!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm so envious really that you got to read this for the first time! And what could be better than starting a good trilogy for which all 3 books are already published?!!!

Zibilee said...

Ok, the library is just stinky for dangling that over your head and then snatching it away like that! I am so caught up in your opinions of this book that I am going to try to read the series before the year is out, even if I have to postpone my Christmas read, which is a short story, so no biggie. I can't wait to fall in love with these books! This was such a wonderful and exciting review as well! Kudos to you for getting so many people excited about this book!

Alyce said...

I completely understand - I drove to a nearby town to get the second book from their library rather than wait a day or two to get it via library loan. And for the third book I did have to wait for it to publish (except that it came out a few months earlier in the UK so I ordered that version via the book depository so that my wait wasn't as long). This has got to be one of the most intense series I've ever read!

Ti said...

I cannot believe that you read over 500+ pages on your phone. You must be crazed.

Jenners said...

It is one of those series where you have to keep going immediately … not matter what format you can get it in. I read them all back to back too. You almost have to in the way he writes them. I really do think this was the rare series that kept getting better … and I love how he kept things so gray instead of black and white … just like life.

Darlene said...

After you had reviewed the first one I found both on my libraries system. The first one is next on my list of downloads.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

How funny, I ended up reading this one too and listening to the first and third. That's the only way I could get it from the library. This one ended up being my favorite. Like you, I loved Viola's voice and I felt like I really loved the characters in this one. I really need to get my reviews up!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I'm thrilled to hear that your love with this series continued with the second book. :) Looking back, I think The Ask and the Answer was my favorite of the three, for many of the reasons you mentioned - the moral issues Ness weaved into the story, the tension between the two factions, and the budding love story between Todd and Viola. I also LOVED the addition of Viola as narrator. Excellent review, Sandy.

Melissa said...

I kind of skimmed because I hate anything even remotely spoilerish, but I must have missed you talking about the first book. Either way, I'm going to find these. While I don't really want to start a new series, I can do a trilogy!

irisonbooks said...

This series is truly addictive. I loved this book even more than book 1 too, though I am sure I needed that first book to get to that point. Wow, this is such a good series.