THE ASK AND THE ANSWER, by Patrick Ness, 519pages, Prices Vary at Amazon
“YOUR NOISE REVEALS YOU TODD HEWITT.” Those are the dreaded words that bring Todd back to consciousness. As usual, Todd doesn’t hear them through his ears, but in his mind as a part of his ‘Noise’, the never ending white rapids of thoughts that plague men’s minds. And it’s old Mayor Prentiss, master of Noise himself whose spoken them. Todd’s tied to a chair and his friend Viola is nowhere to be seen. They’ve been split up and Mayor Prentiss whose now named himself the President of New World has plans for Todd. He resists Prentiss of course, but the old man is using Viola’s safety to make sure Todd understands where his loyalties will lie.
In this second book in the three part Chaos Walking series, Todd and Viola find themselves on different sides of the war to take control of not only New Prentiss but of New World. Along with war comes all of the horrors both witnessed and committed by Todd and Viola as they balance what they know is right against the wrongs they’re asked to commit. And they commit them all for a small hope of seeing each other again. Should love be the excuse to commit torture and murder? Does the age old excuse of “I was just following orders” stand up at the end of it all?
Just as he does in his first book of this series, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness has written a book that creates an almost constant condition of dread, as Todd is forced to commit gut wrenching acts against the indigenous creatures called “Spackles” and eventually against the women of New Prentiss. The reader may find themselves having to take small breaks from the action and occasional horrors only to find that any break from this book is too long.
Mr. Ness has a talent for edging the reader close to a breaking point and then pulling us back, with characters that whisper kindnesses into the ears of the other characters, only to discover that those words are sweet padding for sour cruelties to come. There is never a full sense of trust to be had in these pages, with even a loving reunion between Todd and Viola spoiled by a mutual mistrust that has left its mildew on their hearts. And we feel the torture that Todd feels as he looks into the eyes of his victims knowing that their pain is all that saves him from a bullet in his head.
The Ask and the Answer is masterful storytelling played out for us by a cast of rich characters. Adding to their appeal is Mr. Ness’ talent for silence and small gestures which often speak more eloquently than words.
It’s always wonderful to discover a writer as talented as Patrick Ness. Yaroos gives this book 5 stars out of a possible 5 stars.