Posts Tagged With: sci-fi

Chaos Walking: Monsters of Men

by Patrick Ness

In the final book of the Chaos Walking trilogy, a third narrator adds to the story. 1017 has compelled a Spackle army to attack New Prentisstown, and we get to see some of the events unfold from his perspective. Todd has released the Mayor in the hope that he will save humanity from the Spackle attack. He believes he can keep the Mayor in line with his newfound Noise talents. In return, the Mayor helps him make a few improvements on himself. Viola and Mistress Coyle both set up camp with the newly landed scout ship, but the people from the ship are unsure whether or not they should become involved in either of the wars they’ve stepped into. 1017 waits impatiently for the Spackle (or, the Land, as they call themselves) to help him enact vengeance on the Clearing (humans). He himself wants to kill the Knife (Todd), whom he despises not for his evil acts but for his wishy-washy attitude about committing atrocities he knows are wrong. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking as Viola’s home ship prepares to land on New World in a matter of months. Every faction on New World has their own hopes about what kind of situation will greet the new settlers upon their arrival.

Again, a great depiction of egomaniacal politicians, this time with the complicated process of war and peace with an external enemy thrown in the mix. It was very frustrating to see Todd and the rest of New Prentisstown start to buy into the Mayor’s rhetoric yet again, but it wasn’t unrealistic. It felt like watching a politician known for his horrible past still win over the popular vote. I loved this series for capturing the short term memory of the general public. I was disappointed with some of the reveals at the end, which made the Mayor out to be more of a lone crazy evil guy, absolving everyone who was complicit with his crimes. It diminished what I thought was the whole meaning of the series, so it’s a pretty sizeable disappointment. Still, not everything was over-explained at the end, leaving readers to make their own conclusions about some of the events in New World’s history.

I think this book gives readers a lot to talk about in terms of politics, morality, etc. Questions about freedom fighting vs terrorism are still huge in this volume, although I felt like the main characters respond unfairly to Mistress Coyle throughout. I’m not sure if it was Ness’s intention to discredit her with some of her actions, but I still think she is the most reasonable character and I wish she had been given more attention or a better storyline. I would definitely read a prequel starring her. Overall, it was not everything I wanted it to be on the morals front–for a series that deals so much with people trying to do what’s right and feeling regret over their mistakes, the main character never takes any steps to make reparations for his actions.

On the action front, however, it was rockin’. So much happens! Characters are killed off or maimed, and not for meaningful literary or emotional purposes. The stupid love triangle set up in the second book comes to what I can only hope is a temporary conclusion. Not overly romantic for us romance-averse readers, and in my mind a ship full of new settlers will increase everyone’s options because nobody ends up with the person they liked when they were 14.

Despite the shortcomings of this volume, I would still recommend the whole series to teens and adults who are interested in dystopian settings, planetary colonization, gender wars, and books with complex conflicts. Must read the first and second books before this one.

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Chaos Walking: The Ask and the Answer

by Patrick Ness

Book two in the Chaos Walking series continues where The Knife of Never Letting Go left off. Todd and Viola have made it to Haven only to find it completely empty save for Mayor Prentiss, who has taken over the town and become president. Viola and Todd are separated and both need to play by the Mayor’s rules in order to see each other again. Instead of being narrated completely by Todd as in the first book, this volume is narrated in turns by Viola and Todd. They are separated for most of the book, only able to contact each other a handful of times. As their time apart lengthens, they begin to wonder if they are on the same side anymore. Todd spends so much energy just getting by under the Mayor’s orders that he becomes complicit in his crimes. Viola finds herself working with a group of mostly female dissidents within Haven called the Answer, run by a morally questionable leader. How far will they both stray from their moral core to be together, and what will happen to New World when the war comes to a head?

Usually sequels lose momentum in the second book, but Patrick Ness keeps the story going at an even faster pace than the first book. The setting, the challenges, and even the characters we got to know in the first book have all changed. More questions about morality come up in this book, and I think it’s a really accurate depiction of how dictatorships start out. People just want to get by, and they compromise their morals to do it. Those who challenge malevolent rulers lose sympathy from regular citizens by making it harder to just get by. While I thought a lot of the tactics the Mayor and the Answer used were true to life, I had a hard time believing Todd’s character development in this book. I liked it as a plot point, but I think it would have taken a bit more to make him go as far as he did. I also thought that some of the crimes he ends up committing would drive more of a wedge between him and Viola, but maybe there will be more consequences in the next book. I do like that they are loyal to each other, and I really hope that they do not end up getting romantic in the next chapter of the story. Despite the somewhat unbelievable jumps in moral boundaries, I loved this book hard. I think it’s really important to show how human rights can be chipped away so easily in a fear-based culture, especially considering the current political war against women’s rights in the western world. That being said, this book isn’t didactic at all and leaves it up to the reader to draw comparisons between their own society and New World.

This book should be read after The Knife of Never Letting Go. See my review here.

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Chaos Walking: The Knife of Never Letting Go

by Patrick Ness

Todd is about to become a man. He will be the last of the citizens of Prentisstown to cross over into adulthood, since he was the last to be born before all the women died. In the war before he was born, the native Spackle of New World attacked the settlers with a germ that killed all the women and made everyone’s thoughts heard and seen out loud. Even the animals talk, though Todd’s unwanted dog Manchee usually only has poo on his mind. Todd hates all the Noise men and animals make, but a quiet spot he senses in the swamp one day disturbs him even more. When he tells his guardians Ben and Cillian about the quiet spot, they start to panic and tell Todd that he has to leave Prentisstown. In fact, they have been planning for this day his whole life and already have a bag packed for him. Bewildered, Todd escapes with Manchee back into the swamp as Mayor Prentiss’s police force storms his house looking for him. Todd is unsure of what he’s supposed to do when he finds the quiet spot again, a confusion that is only made worse when he tracks it down and discovers that it is a girl. With the whole town on their tracks, Todd, Manchee, and this mysterious girl with no Noise must trek into the unknown world beyond Prentisstown.

First, I have to say that I loved Manchee from the moment he said “poo.” Second, I loved almost everything else about this book. The world is described well enough to start, and its backstory is continuously revealed in a natural way. The characters are all individuals–even the ones you only meet once–and their relationships are realistic. The dialogue is natural–even the thought dialogue, which the first person narration is cleverly a part of. I get frustrated at reveals that should come earlier, like Todd not reading the note or the journal Ben packed for him, but this one was a little bit understandable and there are at least consequences (outside of reader frustration) for Todd waiting so long to get Viola to read them. I also get irritated when characters who are being hunted won’t kill to protect themselves, but this book dealt with the brutal reality of killing someone really well, and has some good morality twists. If Patrick Ness isn’t a fan of Joss Whedon’s work I would be very surprised. He absolutely refuses to give his readers more than a fleeting moment of triumph before plunging his characters into an even more desperate situation. Plus, Aaron the preacher is basically Caleb from season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, indestructibility and all. I loved the ending of this book. Definitely a cliff-hanger, but one I actually respect. All I really love in this world is a story that promises me happiness then yanks it away in the cruelest manner possible. Can’t wait to read the rest of this series!

Definitely dark stuff. Recommended for older teens and adults who like dystopian settings and/or the work of Joss Whedon.

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The Boy at the End of the World

by Greg van Eekhout

Fisher becomes born by accident. His body was in a pod, already aged to about 12 or so, equipped with basic information about the world and a full vocabulary. His first word is a profanity and is used when the Ark where he became born starts to crash down around him as he hurriedly tries to sever his plastic umbilical cord. He is the only survivor. Along with Click, a humanity-helping robot, and a woolly mammoth Fisher names Protein (just in case he gets hungry), he journeys across a post-apocalyptic America in search of other surviving humans. When he finds another ark with its own helper robot, it seems almost too good to be true….

Like post-apocalyptic Hatchet, but with darker implications about humanity as a species. It’s also really funny. I love that Fisher names the mammoth “Protein”, and Click’s bossiness allows for a lot of comedy. The way things are phrased is quirky, like how Fisher “became born” and wants to avoid “failing to survive”.

This is a really thoughtful, funny, action-packed book for fans of survival books, dystopian settings, and sci-fi robot stuff. The thickness and font size of this book made me think it was for much younger kids, but it’s actually pretty dark and disturbing, so I’d reserve it for older kids who like thin books with lots of action.

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Prime Baby

by Gene Luen Yang

Thaddeus hates his new baby sister. He comes up with a conspiracy theory that she is an alien because she says “ga” in prime numbers (she’ll say it once, twice, three times, five times, etc). He starts monitoring her closely, interpreting everything she does as evidence that she is an alien. His sister loves the time they spend together and babbles to him even more. Then one day, she starts puking up these rather large capsules, which are actually space ships for an alien race hellbent on bringing peace and happiness to Earth! Thaddeus is vindicated. He was right! He tells his parents, he tells the FBI, he tells everyone! Then his sister is taken away to be studied….

I loved this comic. It’s pretty short and seems more like a picture book and could be used as a nice bridge from picture books to comics. It’s a very cool take on sibling rivalry. Very different from the author’s other work and I liked it the best, maybe because it’s more for kids.

Older elementary could tackle this one on their own, but I think it’s a good read-along for parents to read with younger kids.

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