Friday, September 24, 2010

Sci Fi Friday Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Back when I went to ALA, I knew I was going to meet up with Lynn & Cindy at some point, but probably not until Saturday or Sunday. Yet when I got to the convention hall on Friday evening to register, I saw them across the lobby and snuck up on them like the sneaky person I am. And good thing too - while they were off to do important committee stuff, they clued me in that Candlewick had a few ARCs left of Monsters of Men and I should make that my first stop if I wanted to get my hands on this book before September. I then impressed them when we met up again on Sunday to report that I'd already finished the book!

Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking: Book Three
Monsters of Men is the conclusion to the Chaos Walking trilogy, all of which have had slightly unwieldy names (The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer). When we last left Todd and Viola, they were facing the prospect of all out war, with Mayor President Prentiss' army of men and Mistress Coyle's resistance/terrorist cell of women and cast off men ready to kill each other, if the massive army of rebelling Spackle don't kill all of the humans first. Oh, and Viola's people, her fellow colonists, have reached the planet. Monsters of Men drops us right back into the action, with the adults and the Spackle known as 1017 all itching for war. Todd and Viola are once again caught in the middle, and now 1017 is added to the narrative mix, struggling with many of the same issues as the humans - he wants revenge, and is even willing to go against the nominal leader of his people, The Sky, in his quest. Will cooler heads ever prevail?

First of all, I love how Ness writes the animals in these books. There's Manchee, of course, and his lovable enthusiasm, but Angarath was tugging at my heartstrings throughout the entire book. It's great because these animals retain their essential animal-ness, just now it's easier for them to communicate with the humans around them. It's totally a dream come true for someone like me who would love to know what her cat is thinking (I just gave my cats some catnip, so I'm pretty sure their thoughts right now are I'M SO HIGH, but that's just a guess).

I have to say, I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book, but it was written in such a way that I felt a little manipulated. Every few chapters a new emergency arises or someone blows something up, which is pretty much the sole way the plot moves forward for much of the book. Around page 350 I found myself sighing with each new emergency - and at Mistress Coyle and Mayor Prentiss as they constantly bickered, backstabbed, and manipulated their proteges to get Viola and Todd to follow in their footsteps. After reading Mockingjay, I found myself comparing the two books - Ness moves the plot forward by blowing something up, Collins moves Mockingjay forward by having Katniss suffer a traumatic injury. Both are effective in small doses, but repeatedly in one novel is just...repetitive. The pace picked up again in the last 100 pages or so, but part of that may have been me realizing I was so close to the end and desperate to find out what the payoff would be for the series.

Writing the conclusion to a trilogy has to be super stressful for an author. Undoubtedly, it will be impossible to please everybody (as we saw with Mockingjay last month). While I had a few minor problems with Monsters of Men, it is overall a very satisfying conclusion to this story.

Reviewed from ARC picked up at ALA.

BTW: Last night I attended the awesome Zombies Vs. Unicorns debate! Check back here after 1 PM Eastern to see my re-cap of the event!
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