Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

This is the satisfying conclusion to the Chaos Walking trilogy. (The books are best enjoyed in sequence, so read The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer before Monsters of Men.) The title comes from something Todd said in an earlier book: "War makes monsters of men."

Our choices and their consequences are often monstrous during war time and two teens, Viola and Todd, are in the thick of it. The indigenous Spackle want to avenge the slavery and genocide of their people. The settlers are split into two factions: one group follows a ruthless tyrant and the other follows an equally ruthless terrorist. Todd and Viola face the most difficult decisions they've ever made. Are the lives of thousands more important than the one person you love? Who do you save when forced to choose?

There are no easy answers. Three voices rotate the narration: Todd, Viola and Spackle 1017 (as he is known to humans)/the Return (as he is known to the Land, the intelligent species that are linked almost as if they are one being). As with the earlier books, the story is suspenseful, thought-provoking and supremely engaging.

With Remembrance Day around the corner, war is a timely topic. To judge by the tags I use on this blog, I read about war fairly often (24 out of 376 posts) - yet I am a pacifist to the core. It is my interest in human nature that draws me to this subject. Stories about overcoming adversity are also a big draw - and the horrors of war certainly fit that category.

Grade 9 - up. Readalikes: Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers (for a teen's first-person account of war); Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (for teens faced with complex choices in a dystopian world, edge-of-your-seat pacing and a boy-girl bond that is central to the story).

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