Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Dear Blog,
I just finished Monsters of Men- about ten minutes ago. 

Summary (from Goodreads): Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they're so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge - the electrifying finale to the award-winning "Chaos Walking" trilogy, "Monsters of Men" is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war.

Review: I read The Knife of Never Letting Go last winter and devoured The Ask and The Answer a few weeks later.  How many weeks I have spent looking at the cover of this book on the internet, waiting until I have enough money to buy it after having ordered a stack of yet more books of the 'net.  And then it turned up in my local library like the librarians knew about my fandom and just ordered in a copy.
Anyway.  Monsters of Men has lots to live up to, especially if Chaos Walking has fans like me.   And I would hope that it does.
If somebody asked me to describe this in five words, it would be: Oh. My. God. Freaking fantastic. And now I've said that, then I'll go on to explain why.   The proceeding paragraphs shall just be me almost entirely praising this book, so if you are like me and take pleasure out of reading negative reviews, then you shouldn't bother.

Monsters of Men is six hundred and three pages of heart-stopping, heart-wrenching war and action.  I enjoyed this, because a) I love anything vaguely dystopian, and b) I've read a heap of contemporary novels of late and needed something more distant from real life.  Hence it seemed like a good book to read, so for a couple of days I was complet
Like The Ask and the Answer, the story alternates point of view between point of view, but I jumped up and down when 1017, known as the Return, appeared and started talking from his point of view.  It was confusing at first: the Spackle give everything different names; the Land, the Burden, the Sky, the Return, the Clearing, the Knife, etc.  It makes for slightly confusing reading at first. I love how the Spackle call the people they love "his/her one in particular."  And call me crazy, but the Spackle remind me slightly of the Ood in Doctor Who, in that they're all linked with one conscious mind.  The Sky, their leader of sorts, is just like Ood Sigma communicating with the Doctor and his companions, speaking for them.  Either way, it was awesome to see the Spackle more clearly and really get inside their heads, so to speak. 

The plot was fast-paced the whole way through; the sort of book where you start reading and when you emerge for food/a drink/sleep/whatever you look down at the page number and you're like, "whoah!  I'm on page 200 already?!"  Monsters of Men is full of people, humanity, war, aliens and explosions.  There are LOTS of explosions, most of which either go BOOM! or whoosh.  None of this action seems to get tiring, at least not to me.

There is more than one side to all the characters in this book, where hidden dimensions to all of them are revealed.  I wasn't sure what to make of Todd for a lot of the book, seeing as he seemed to trust the Mayor an awful lot and sort of went along with whatever he said.  Now and again I wanted to hit him with my hardcover edition and shriek, "don't you get it? This guy is pure evil, no matter how many times he says he has been redeemed!  Get away from him now!"  That said, with Mistress Coyle being equally complex and creepy, and the Spackle advancing on all sides, there didn't seem to be many places to run and hide.
So Mayor/President Prentiss and Mistress Coyle are some of my favourite characters in the books in terms of character, even though I don't actually like either of them.  They're both very complex and confusing peopl
Viola was indeed a fantastic character and I wish very, very much that she was a real person. I got all sentimental at the end of the book when I was thinking about when she had first appeared in The Knife of Never Letting Go.  So much do I love these characters, I get slightly emotional at leaving them at the end of the book.

Speaking of the end.  The last 50 pages are, well, made of the purest awesome you could ask for. They're particularly heartbreaking but then Patrick Ness of fixes aforementioned broken heart by putting it together with cellotape. But he only uses cellotape, so it is a very shaky mending that still slightly leaves you in tears, be they of joy or sadness (I did actually start to cry properly somewhere towards the end).  But cellotape sort of holds things together, so everything is (slightly) stable at the end, and while sort of wrapping things up leaves plenty of questions, seeing as it finishes just as more settlers arrive on the planet, which is known only as New World.

As soon as I finished this, I just sort of lay staring at the ceiling going "oh. my. word." As you do when you finish a truly awesome trilogy (i.e Tales of the Otori, the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, and His Dark Materials, which I read when I was eleven and haven't read since, though I really ought to).  It could just be me, but when a trilogy sort of blows me away like that then I just end up feeling empty in a devastated sort of way; these characters whom I've lived and loved alongside are just gone, and it's like a friend dissapearing suddenly until you next re-read the trilogy.  Anyway, I totally got that having read the last few pages, which I both tried to slow down and covered the last line with my hand so I wouldn't dare to peek ahead.

My only criticism is that especially during the exciting parts particularly (although I guess every. single. moment. of this book is white-knuckle ride through dystopian awesomeness), to emphasise the frantic urgency the author cuts off sentences-
just like this-
which means that there are no full stops-
and though it seems urgent and terrifying-
there are no full stops for-
whole pages-
which me being a grammar and punctuation freak got on my nerves slightly.

Summary: Heartwrenching, heartbreaking, heartwarming. Awesome, awesome, awesome.  Rating: 5.

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