Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chaos Walking

Sure, go ahead, you say. Blog whenever you want. Nothing better to do...

Ah, blog readers. I certainly haven't treated you well. But the intent is always to do better. And intent is what makes my next book recommendation amazing. In the afterglow (or aftermath) of the Hunger Games trilogy, John Granger of recommended Monsters of Men for the first installation in the Hogwarts Professor Book Club. However MoM (eek Harry Potter clash!), like Mockingjay, is also the third in a trilogy called Chaos Walking so in order to appreciate it, one must first start with The Knife of Never Letting Go and move through The Ask and the Answer.

Never one to refuse a book challenge, I dug in.

However, to be honest, it was hard. The Chaos Walking trilogy (I think I know why Patrick Ness names it that, but it doesn't really come from any of the books) is a dystopic sci-fi fantasy novel, set in a world that mimics but is so different from America. The Hunger Games aura abounds. And the aura nearly got me. There is not a lot of happiness in these books. And that wears on a reader. (Looking for fluffy prose next...)

But, if you stick with it the books are seriously amazing. It starts with a planet that's been colonized for just over 20 years. Chaos has reigned (evidently there was an intelligent indigenous population that didn't like settlers taking over there land--and look war!), but things have kind of settled. Oh and there's this germ that makes all the men's (and boy's) thoughts be heard--the Noise--and kills the women. Or so we hear. Todd, the last boy in Prentisstown, is our narrator. He's the last, because there are no more women to give birth to children and he's a month away from turning 13 and becoming a man. However, he finds something, more importantly someone, Viola, a new settler from a convoy that will be landing with the next year. And this throws the tenuous peace into ruin. Viola and Todd are on a race to beat Mayor Prentiss to the other settlements. And that's the outline of the first book.

To summarize the other two would give away too many spoilers, but the themes are all introduced. Throughout the series, we wonder if Noise is good or bad, if managing or using the Noise is good or bad. We wonder about the indigenous population, called the Spackle, and draw tentative parallels to America's own native people. There's a slight, though obvious, religious theme since as Viola AND Todd AND the Mayor all comment in Book 3 that bad things seem to happen to Viola and Todd in church. There's the gender question as we see different parts of the settlers try to resolve the problem of Noise in their own way. And there's the constant struggle between good and evil and even recognizing evil when it looks good and good when it looks evil. These are all good things to muse about, and so I recommend the trilogy, but maybe inter-spliced with much lighter reads (PS Sue Grafton does not count, from my experience).

Also if you'd like to read some thought-provoking, though spoiler filled discussion of Chaos Walking check out this thread of posts from