Monsters of Men is the third book in Patrick Ness‘ Chaos Walking trilogy. Read reviews for Book 1 and Book 2. The premise of the series is that settlers have landed on a new planet and come to discover that some sort of disease makes the thoughts of all the men available to be heard, called Noise. Todd was born on the planet, and all he has ever known is that Noise exists and women are dead. **Slight Spoilers ahead, especially if you haven’t read the first two books.**
Todd soon finds out that every thing he has known to be true, is false perpetuated by a deranged Preacher Man Aaron and Mayor Prentiss. Running from the people that want bad things for him, Todd comes across a spot of silence. He discovers a girl. He learns that the women of Prentisstown didn’t just up and die of the disease but were killed by Mayor Prentiss and his cronies when a war between Women and Men broke out over the Noise. As Todd and Viola flee Prentiss town they come across other colonies where women rule instead of the men. The first book was an awesome commentary on gender inequality and relationships. In the second book come the rise of the Spackle, an indigenous species who were fought and brought under the control of the new settlers and whom the people now use as cattle. The second book was an awesome commentary on species genocide, doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and the wrong thing for the right reason, and how to be true to yourself in the process.
The third book picks up where the Men and the Women (The Ask and the Answer) are fighting each other, with bombs and blasts but must pull together to fight the uprising of the Spackle. Todd discovers that war makes Monsters of Men (and Women). This book starts out of the gate running and it never lets up even as the horse falls to the track, is trampled to death by the other horses, and the jockey dies in the interim. It is a grueling book, both in content and to read. While the series started out dark, and I have no problem with dark young adult series, this book was relentless. Literally the last six pages of a 602 paged book are the only pages full of any kind of relief or sunshine. That is a lot of chaos, bitterness, and evilness to read.
I liked that this book had a bigger focus on the Spackle. I thought the voice of 1017 was unique and different and added excitement. I was also intrigued by the reference to homosexuality in the Spackle. I think discussions of this book could be on many and varied on the social ills of the planet in The Chaos Trilogy versus here on planet earth. On the other hand, the use of Todd, Viola, and Spackle as voices came across as a gimmick by the third book. I think it could have been cleaner if Viola’s first person narrative had been left out. I would also have liked to avoid the “Shakespeare Effect” where authors kill off characters because they don’t know how to bring them through the bad into what will hopefully be a clean and bright new world. By the end of the book, so many people have died that it becomes a disgust at the use of death as an emotional wank off then any real sadness over beloved characters biting the dust.
All in all a great trilogy, but a bit of a let down with the book. I thought the pacing could have had a few more relaxed moments so that the reader could catch their breath. I thought that hope could have filled more than just six pages. I would have liked to see how the war actually ended, how hope survived, and how the new settlers were welcomed. I love Todd Hewitt as a character, and think he has so much to offer that it was unnecessary to continue to follow in Viola’s narrative. We see Viola just as clearly through Todd’s love for her, as we do through her thought process. Read this trilogy, it is awesome, just be warned that the third book, is a big downer. I maybe would have put off reading it for a week or two since I just finished some other heavy fiction. While this book does not end on a cliff hanger, there really isn’t much of any type of closure so some of the major plot lines pitched by Ness and kept throughout the three books. I actually liked Ness’ use of font changes to pull the story along, but some of the nail biting angst could have been toned down and it still would have been an awesome book.