Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2) by Patrick Ness
If you haven't read The Knife of Never Letting Go and you intend to, you may as well skip this one. It'll be fairly boring anyway, seeing as that I really liked it.
Ask picks up about where Knife left off. Mayor Prentiss has beaten Todd & Viola to Haven, Viola was shot and Todd promised to do whatever the Mayor Satan wants if he'll only help Viola. So a deal is struck.
And you know what they say about deals with the devil . . .
Like many a human, I am often disenchanted with Book Two of trilogies. They usually suffer from a drawn-out story stuffed with fillers and maddening subplots and the like. The Ask wasn't that different, other than it was still well written. The beginning and middle seemed slow, largely because Todd and Viola are separated. There were things going on, but it wasn't the constant On The Run pace that made Knife so gripping. Pretty much the first 3/4 of it had me seething at Todd and Viola's separation. Half the time they aren't sure if the other is alive, and then the few times that they are able to have clandestine meetings they still aren't sure if the other hasn't been brainwashed into joining the other side.
This had two major effects on me.
1) I was going out of my mind with frustration and rage at all the people keeping them apart through lies and manipulation, and
2) I ended up rooting for Todd & Viola harder than ever.
I've always loved Todd. But in Ask I LOVE Todd. I think I had some real anxiety about him and the things he goes through, so it kept the pages turning quickly. He grows up in this one, and not just because he technically "becomes a man" when his long-awaited birthday rolls around. He sacrifices, he suffers more loss, he fights to remain good while forced to participate in evil. And he does it all for Viola.
Viola, in her own right, is a strong, smart and admirable heroine. She drove me crazy at times, partially because I felt she was smart enough to see through some of the lies, so I was glad to see her make some hard choices to get back to Todd. Really, I just love them. In Knife they seemed like kids on the run, but in Ask they have a solid bond built on trust and sacrifice and deep caring for the other. I really like where they, as a team, are headed in the end of Ask, so I can't wait for Monsters of Men to be released.
Oh, and I remembered that Viola's POV is brought into the mix. With a pretty little font all her own. I felt that it was a good call on Ness' part since it's an effective way to get to know more about Viola. The downside is that it slowed down the pace, because HELLO she is working in a hospital for a big chunk of it. Not exactly a hotspot of excitement.
You know what else I really liked about this one? The complexity of the evil characters, namely Mayor Prentiss and Davy Prentiss. You're never quite sure of the motivations of the Mayor, and even though you can bet that every word out of his mouth is a lie, he is a master manipulator. By the end Davy is convincingly shown as an abused, brainwashed loser who might not be as sick and worthless as he originally appeared. That, I think, makes for good storytelling. Complex "bad" guys. Straight-up evil is rather boring.
In short, while it wasn't quite as good as Knife, I still loved it. 4 out 5 word-globs of Noise.
Book source: Local library.