Monsters of Men
September 28, 2010
This trilogy is SO FRICKIN’ awesome, and Monsters of Men is one of the best final books in a trilogy (is there a word for that? there ought to be) I’ve read. It begins at the moment the previous book, The Ask and the Answer, left off, with the battle for control of the human settlements dwarfed by an impending war with the Spackle, the planet’s native species.
Ness is a master of pacing and of plotting, but his true talent, and the heart of all three books, is his ability to create a character’s voice. Monsters of Men adds, to Todd and Viola’s narration from The Ask and The Answer, the voice of 1017, one of the members of the Spackle. 1017 (or “the Return,” as he is rather more poetically called in the language of the Spackle) is, like Todd and Viola, a very real adolescent who also bears the burden of being a political symbol. Ness crafts all three characters beautifully, and it’s a pleasure to watch all three of them, particularly sweet, stubborn, mistake-making Todd, grow over the course of the book and of the series. Happily, many of the secondary and tertiary characters are given the same nuanced treatment. I particularly loved the development of the creepy, creepy Mayor and Todd’s relationship to him. The Mayor is particularly terrifying because he seems to change, and because we as readers, like Todd, want to believe he’s capable of it. The horses, while they’ll never live up to Manchee, are also charming.
This book, like the other two, is grim, grim, grim. Ness treats war like the horror it is. He manages to avoid glorifying the violence involved but also makes the reader feel, like the characters often do, that there seems to be no other choice. Ness has said the series began from a mediation on the never-ending current of information we’re faced with in modern life, but it ends as much more than that – an action-packed, impossible-to-put-down thriller, a story about war, and a statement about love, trust, and growing up. It is awesome and you should go get The Knife of Never Letting Go RIGHT NOW if you haven’t already read them!