Review: The Ask and The Answer

This is the second book in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series and I love the title, even though it all gets a bit ooeer when you find out what the Ask is, and what the Answer is and… yeah good title! I picked it up in a charity shop because preloved books are the best. Or pre-hated, who knows.

The last novel ends when Prentisstown boy Todd Hewitt and girl from a spaceship Viola Eade arrive in Haven, having ran from the Men of Prentisstown and their homicidal tendencies. However, things aren’t going to be as easy for them in Haven as they had dreamed on the road. Instead, Haven is now New Prentisstown, and the President has a plan. A plan that involved Viola’s colonists and something to do with Todd. But the Answer have a few issues with that plan, and a few plans of their own. Todd and Viola are separated, with blind faith in each other tested again, and again, and again.

I can’t work out if this book wasn’t as good as the first, or if I have overtaxed my brain recently in the process of editing my dissertation, because my reading has slowed right down and it took me a good week or so to read this in drips and drabs. Todd and Viola share the narrative in this text as they spend the majority of the book separated, arguing with adults who treat them like stupid children and then just getting on with it. The split narrative is interesting, because they have different fonts, and while Todd’s section reads as he talks, like you’re listening to his Noise, Viola’s is more like a secret diary entry using a more traditional narrative. The contrast between the two highlights one of the differences of Viola and Todd, not just in the way they were bought up, but how they construct the world. Of course, that may just be my linguistic dissertation talking, but I thought it was good.

The overbearing “thing” I have taken from this book is not to trust any of the adults, especially the ones running factions. Basically everyone is a liar and Todd and Viola are just naïve little untrusting creatures being used as pawns in some big plot they don’t want to be a part of. I enjoyed this book, yes, but I feel that it was very different to the first one. At it’s most basic, in the first one, Viola and Todd were together and co-dependant for survival and now they’ve been separated and are trying to survive individually thinking the other has betrayed them. And whereas in the first one there are lots of tiny characters who flit in and out, the second one stays in the same place, with similar people and it’s less about movement and more about control. Just little differences.

As a sequel, it was good, but the cliffhanger for the first one was way more impressive, and I think the first one was more impactful in a way I’m finding difficult to explain. Maybe its because I didn’t have time to read this in one sitting, maybe its because I didn’t want to read this in one sitting. I don’t know, all I know is that after the first book, I was searching for a copy of the Ask and the Answer, and I already have the third book on my shelf (Monsters of Men) but I’m thinking I’ll wait a wee while before tackling that one.

I am looking for book recs to add to my TBR list – anyone got anything they’d like to see me review? I’ll read pretty much anything so add some in the comments if you want!

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