Friday, 14 December 2012

The Ask and the Answer

Title: The Ask and the Answer
Series: Chaos Walking #2
Author: Patrick Ness
Pages: 517 (paperback)
Published: 2011
Published by: Walker Books

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. 
Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order. 
But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? 
And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode...
This second thrilling volume in the Chaos Walking trilogy is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel about resistance under the most extreme pressure.

Todd and Viola spent The Knife of Never Letting Go racing to reach Haven, hoping there to find refuge from the men of Prentiss Town, Todd's home, and the army issuing from there. But the end of their journey was just one disaster after another, and nothing turned out the way they were hoping. Now, they're in New Prentiss Town, each trapped by the promise of the other. In the last book we saw their relationship develop, and now we're seeing this being used against them.

This book had a very different feel than the last, and was in fact a lot easier for me to read. The last one was all from Todd's point of view, whereas here we also follow Viola's story as we follow the story of the two predominant groups emerging in New Prentiss town: the Ask, and the Answer. Each is fighting for what they believe in and each believes their is the best way, the only way, the world can work. Attacks are made, people are killed, and lies are told.

Though this is still definitely a kid's book, there are some darker themes than the first in the series with racism (against the Spackle - the native species of the colonised planet) and terrorism both quite heavily prevalent in this book. In fact, it was probably this maturation between the two that made it easier for me to read. Running away from a murderous army looking to take over the world isn't something I can really relate to, but racism and terrorism - unfortunately - are things we see far too much of. On top of this, there isn't as much 'noise' (the people of the planet being infected with a virus which makes them able to hear each others thoughts) featured, just making it easier for me not to get distracted by things go on on the next page or whatever.

Neither Todd nor Viola seemed to particularly change over the course of the book; rather, their presence impacts those around them, be it for better or for worse. Davy Prentiss Jr. is the most notable example of this, Todd's presence significantly impacting his life in a way I did not see coming at all. Because this is the first time we've seen them develop relationships that lasted more than a few hours, given the nature of the last book when they were constantly on the move. It was nice seeing them interact with new people consistently, and there are some relationships I'm intrigued to follow and see where they go.

There were some major events going on at the end of the story, and even more than the last one we're left with a cliff-hanger. I'm looking forward to the resolution of the story, and seeing where Todd and Viola end up.

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