Review: Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness

Dear heavenly God. This book. Listen, everyone: Monsters of Men is being released in America on the 28th. That gives you just about enough time to go get the first two books in the series, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, and read them before Monsters of Men comes out. I strongly advise this course of action if you have not already read the series. Do it now. You will thank me later.

I started writing this post during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and that feels fitting because if there is any set of books for which I am grateful to book bloggers, it is the Chaos Walking series. I wouldn’t have read this series, or probably even looked twice at it, without the blogosphere’s ardent recommendations, and that would have been terrible because it’s quickly become one of my most favorite series in all the land, surpassing books by authors I have loved for much longer. Like, I asked myself which could I more easily live without, the Chronicles of Chrestomanci or the Chaos Walking books? If one of them were going to be lost forever to human history, and I had to pick which one got to survive, I’d pick Chaos Walking. And y’all know how I love Diana Wynne Jones.

I shall continue to honor spoiler-free September for this book, but I really can’t talk about it at all without spoiling the first two books to some extent (as in: who survives the first two books). If you haven’t read The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, please return to the first paragraph and follow its instructions before continuing reading this post. You will be happier in your life.

Where to begin? There were so many good things about Monsters of Men that naming just one, or even naming a few, feels completely inadequate. When the book opens, Todd has just freed the Mayor to command the human armies against the Spackle; Viola has gone to meet a scouting party from her colonization ship. The war against the Spackle proceeds along predictably horrifying lines, and even though you know the Spackle are justified, and the Mayor is evil sauce, you can’t help aligning yourself with the humans. Given your pick of humans and aliens, you’ll pick humans. Meanwhile, back at the scouting party, there is a different kind of awesome as Viola is reunited with two of the people who raised her on the colonization ship. Ness absolutely nails this: Viola has been through so much since she saw these people last, but in their minds she’s still the girl they’ve known all her life, and they are responsible for taking care of her.

Ness basically nails everything. There is not a false note in this whole damn book. Monsters of Men introduces a third narrator, the Spackle 1017 whom Todd let go in The Ask and the Answer. I was afraid this was going to feel put on, but that fear was, of course, unfounded. The Spackle’s narration gives us the aliens as they see themselves, complicating (of course) the war between humans and Spackle; and it also gives us his side of the events of The Ask and the Answer, which are even sadder than we knew at the time, and more heartbreaking than I would have anticipated. And, y’all, I anticipated a fair amount of heartbreak.

From the utter bleakness that was The Ask and the Answer, I thought Monsters of Men was going to be unmerciful, and it wasn’t that. Terrible things happened to major characters, but there were also moments of pure joy. I am thinking of one specific scene about two-thirds of the way through that filled my heart with happiness. If you’ve read it you probably know what I mean. Something happened that I desperately wanted to happen but did not think Patrick Ness would allow to happen, and I cried like a baby and read that scene over and over again. It is one of the greatest strengths of these books that Patrick Ness never ever fails to get the emotion he’s aiming for. I want to read these books a million times. Monsters of Men is a perfect conclusion to the Chaos Walking series. I have no complains whatsoever and will now go and reread that one scene again because it makes me cry just thinking about it. WITH JOY.

So many thanks to Heather at Candlewick Press for the review copy she sent me of this book. I was going insane waiting for it to come out in America and would have perished if I’d had to wait until September. Also, my family and friends were impressed that I got an advance reader’s copy, and I believe it was as a result of this that my mother, my friend, my sister, and my sister’s boyfriend all agreed to read this trilogy, and they loved it. Of course. How could they not? (Well, Captain Hammer has only read the first book so far, but he liked it and will assuredly like the subsequent books even more.)

Other reviews, probably including some spoilery ones, proliferate. Go ye to the Book Blogs Search Engine. And once again I would like to extend my strong and heartfelt thanks to Ana, who convinced me to read this series in the first place, kindly told me in April whether Todd and Viola were going to survive, and encouraged me to ask Candlewick Press for an ARC when I was shy.