Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"The Ask and the Answer" by Patrick Ness

I had to force myself through the first half of this book. I was already strongly invested in the trilogy due to The Knife of Never Letting Go, and I never thought of giving up, but it wasn't until I reached the second half that this book regained some of the breathless momentum of its predecessor.

Spoiler avoidance hampers me from saying much about the plot; not only do I have to worry about spoiling this book, but the first one ended with such a cliffhanger that anything I say could spoil it too. However, I can't imagine anyone coming to this book without having read Knife first, and all you really need to know is that it's a continuation of Todd Hewitt's story.

One thing I really appreciated at the beginning of the book was the way that Patrick Ness managed to remind his reader of all the pertinent details from the first book without seeming like he was doing so. Reintroducing the characters and their situations was not merely a repetition of a list of attributes; Ness managed to seamlessly work this information into the story.

Another little bit of magic that Ness impressed me with was his villain. I can't explain to you why I did not find him completely hateful. I wouldn't say I ever really sympathized with him, but oddly enough, throughout most of this book I almost liked President Prentiss. I'm not usually one to root for the evil oppressor, but there was something fascinating about this one. As the book wore on he sort of lost his sheen, and by the end--as they say in Texas--he "needed shootin'," but for most of the book he was quite intriguing.

While reading, I marked several brief passages that interested me. I'll let you in on a few of them for your own personal edification. Be grateful that I'm sparing you my thoughts on each, though I will say I found more truth in them than in Paulo Coelho's steaming piles of crap. Here you are: We are the choices we make; nothing more, nothing less. How do you know you're alive if you don't hurt. A man is capable of thought; a crowd is not. To see the ocean once is to learn how to miss it. An idea lives on after the death of the person. AND, women don't really fart in their sleep . . . do we?

It's a good thing I was already prepared for the lack of resolution at the end of the story. Whoever warned me that this book was just as ending-less as Knife was definitely right, but since I was ready for it, I was much less frustrated by the fact. Even so, I'm going to take another break from Chaos Walking and read something else. But it won't be long before I wrap things up with Monsters of Men.


Trisha said...

This is my favorite YAL series of the year. Ness created such a unique story, and while the cliffhanger endings are frustrating, they are also quite the tool to get you to pick up the next book aren't they? :)

Kristi said...

I'll have to see if I can find this series. Are all of the books already completed? I'm too impatient to wait so I try not to start a series until they're all published.

I love the steaming piles of crap line. I read The Alchemist last year and thought it was kind of boring. It tried to be deep, but it just didn't work for me.

Kathy said...

Trisha--it really is a unique story! At first it kind of reminded me of Children of the Corn without the children. But as I got further in, I stopped comparing it to other stories.

Kristi--yes! All three books have already been published, so it's safe to jump in. ;) And I totally agree about The Alchemist trying (and failing) to be deep.