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Review: Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness

This review contains spoilers for the entire Chaos Walking seriesDon’t read this, read them!

War makes monsters of men, and Todd and Viola are discovering just how true that saying is.  Separated once again, Todd has remained with the mayor to keep him calm while Viola has gone with the Answer and her new shipmates to broker a compromise.  Into the mix we’re thrown a third character with his own perspective on events, set to radically change both the way Todd and Viola think about their new world and their strategy for the forthcoming war.

Everything about this book is basically awesome.  Patrick Ness has taken on enormous issues in this series and executed them perfectly, without a hitch, sending out clear anti-war themes but at the same time showing just how humans are so susceptible to dictatorships and strong personalities.

First of all, what struck me as so eerily true to life is the way that Mayor Prentiss can simply take charge, how he can twist reality to suit himself without ever suffering any flack for it.  It reminded me most of the way that the media can twist things as they wish, but most people don’t bother to research (or watch more than one TV channel) so they’ll never know the truth of the way the world works.  Even Todd and Viola know vastly more than they’re told, but they still find it easier to settle into the same grooves they’ve known their whole lives.  Todd himself finds it easiest to dehumanize the Spackle because they aren’t exactly the same as him even though they are thinking, speaking beings like he is, just because he’s committed atrocities against them and needs a reason to do so.  The introduction of the third character throws a wrench into those plans, both for readers and for Todd.

Throughout the book my heart ached most for Todd and I simultaneously feared for him.  He gets far too close to the Mayor and is convinced he’s acting for good, but I knew he couldn’t be, that the mayor was a force for dissent and fear.  But as we learn by the end, even that’s not entirely true.  The worst character in the series is himself multi-faceted with surprising reasons for how he works, which don’t excuse him but help us understand him.  Each and every character with page time in this book is a complex human being with believable motives and actions.  It’s a genuine work of art.

The entire book is sobering in its depiction of war, especially as Todd is growing up in the midst of it.  It’s evident from both his actions and even from the text itself as the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors slow down drastically in this third installment.  He’s becoming a man, but how I feared he wasn’t going to live to get all the way there.  The constant battles and struggles speedily mature him, so much so that it was easy to forget his true age.  Not all that much time has passed since he first discovered Viola, that pocket of silence amidst the Noise.  And I keep talking about Todd, but it was Viola who became my favorite character, for her strength and reason and love.

I wish I was talented enough to articulate clearly the many ways Monsters of Men – and the rest of the series – made me think and feel.  I borrowed this book from the library but I know it’s one that I’ll need to own and reread in its entirety.  It’s incredibly powerful in so many ways and I truly think is literature at its finest; it’s a series with a lot to say about the world, not only Todd’s but our own, and with a fantastic story to go along with it.  What more could any reader ask for?

I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from my local library.

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