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on 11 June 2009
The second in this trilogy, Chaos Walking, continues the adventures of Todd, but this isn't only a young persons book by any means. With its dark and unsettling storyline, its all-too-real human conflicts and (we hope) resolutions, The Ask and the Answer certainly asks difficult questions about authority, complaisance and consequences of actions. Sometimes our own answers are not what we would like to think they would be. Set in a bleak, violent and all too plausible future, it doesn't leave the reader with much hope, but certainly with an anxiety to read the third and final part as soon as possible.
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This was one sequel I just had to read after the outstanding 'Knife of Never Letting Go' and it didn't disappoint in any way. It's a fabulous book.
This story is all about Todd and Viola who find themselves on opposing sides of a power struggle between the new mayor, now self proclaimed president and head of the 'Ask', in what was the town of Haven and the 'Answer' a group of female healers and freedom fighters. Todd finds himself part of the 'Ask' alongside his former enemy Davy and Viola is part of the 'Answer'.
This is a superbly atmospheric book which centres on the town of Haven which is now chillingly renamed New Prentisstown after the new mayor siezes power.
This book delves into topics of ethnic cleansing, female emancipation, torture and terrorism in an enthralling alien world where the 'noise' of animal and male thought can be heard which creates compelling situations and storylines. It is a brilliantly written, intelligent, gripping page turner. The new president is a truly terrifying, manipulative villian.
The alien native Spackle are central to this story and lead to an amazing cliff hanger. Very highly recommended and I will be definitely reading the third in the series...

UPDATE

There is now a short prequel story about Viola, by Patrick Ness, available to read online. Please see the comments section of this review for the link (the Amazon filters aren't allowing the link to be posted in the main body of my review).
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'The Ask and the Answer' is the second book of the 'Chaos Walking' Trilogy, following on from the excellent The Knife of Never Letting Go, a book which rightly won awards and plaudits across the board. If anything Part 2 is even better.

'TAATA' picks up the story, from where the first book finishes, and the reader is immediately plunged into a murky world of ambiguous morals, as Viola and Todd are forced to face the deliciously evil Mayor Prentiss.

I think it's hard to overstate just how good this novel is. Once again, using sparse readable prose, Patrick Ness strips bare the human psyche. He blurs the lines between Good and Evil further than in part 1, creating a simplified but dreadfully realistic micro-society. Here the reader is asked to analyse the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter, and question where the line lies between the two. Ness uses the plight of his characters to question at what point appeasement becomes abetting, and skilfully highlights how, with little motivation, good people can find themselves doing terrible things.

In the manipulative Mayor Prentiss, the man who would be President, Ness has created one of literature's more charismatic villains; you can't help but believe some of what he says. The book would be considerably less without him. If that wasn't enough, Ness has woven in threads of treachery, compassion and redemption, to create a rich and powerful novel. Though nominally a children's book, 'TAATA' is a mature read, in which readers have to question their assumptions about the nature of power, and the reasons why men go to war.

Assuming that volume three is a strong as the first two novels, Ness will have created a very important series of books. For me Patrick Ness should rated at least on a par with Philip Pullman and the 'Chaos Walking' trilogy deserves to be as widely read as 'His Dark Materials'. Invigorating stuff!
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on 29 June 2009
This second book in the Chaos Trilogy and it continues where the Knife of Never Letting Go ended.

The story is now basically split between to the two main characters of the first book and you follow Todd and Viola as they find themselves on opposite sides. Todd falls ever deeper under the influence of Mayor Prentiss and his new world order now calling themselves the (ASK). Viola sides with the women healers fronted by Mistress Coyle calling themselves (Answer).

This book is wonderfully written and contains all the elements of the first book, the story switches at each chapter between Todd and Viola and this enhances the story, you get to see both characters points of view.

The book does have a very dark side especially when it covers such subjects such as ethnic cleansing, and torture, so its not a happy book, but it does make you think.

The plot is driven by characters and situations and when characters are manipulated before your eyes and they can't see it, but you can, it just creates more tension.

The plot-lines do converge and you get some answers and revelations, but you also get a whole host of other questions that need answering, and some very, very teasing new opening plot - lines for the third book.

In my opinion, this is by far the best series I have read in the last ten years and I for one can't wait for the next book. For fan's check out Patrick Ness's website, for a short story that explains how Viola crashed on the planet- it's not to be missed.
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on 19 May 2009
An excellent sequel to The Knife of never letting go does not disappoint. As soon as I picked it up I was hooked. A great storyline with many unexpected twists. Like the previous book another brilliant ending with lots happening and a cliffhanger with Todd having to make a big decision.
Definelty worth the wait and a must have book, thoughly enjoyed it.
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on 1 July 2009
I had to wait a year for this after reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, but Oh boy was it worth it. It carried on exactly where it left off and the twists and turns kept me in constant suspense. Nothing is predictable and the ending left me shouting out loud, 'Oh my God.' I now have to wait another year for the next instalment. I'm an OAP and I read and write teenage fantasy: I wish I'd written this.
Julie
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on 9 July 2009
Having read "The Knife of Never Letting Go", I was intigued to find out what happened after the cliffhanger ending. In this book the relationship between Todd and Viola develops as they grow and learn the difference between resisting under extreme pressure. An excellent book to read, with yet another cliffhanger ending. Can't wait to read the next instalment of the trilogy!
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Barely pausing for breath, part two of the trilogy begins where the other ended - young Todd and Viola at the mercy of the man they most despise. As though they have not suffered enough, ahead lie five hundred pages of ever-increasing challenges, dazzling twists and turns, another cliffhanger that stuns.

Mayor Prentiss is out of control. He, now self-appointed president of captured Haven (renamed New Prentisstown), tolerates no opposition. On the planet where male thoughts represent "noise" other males can hear, he has perfected his skills - able to manipulate the minds of others. Should all else fail, there is always torture - waterboarding especially effective.

Women? They are considered fit solely for menial tasks. Many have fled, they to become freedom fighters (or terrorists, according to which side one is on). They represent "The Answer" to Prentiss' "The Ask".

Todd and Viola take turns to narrate, they apart for most of the time, caught up in opposing camps and under much pressure. Can they resist the attempted brainwashing and remain true to themselves or will each become a threat to the other? All the way through one is never sure whom to trust.

Young love to conquer all? It will have quite a job.

Patrick Ness is again firmly in control, seemingly with ease interweaving complicated issues where nothing is quite as it seems and loyalties are tested to the full.

Amongst many strengths are the characterization and dialogue. Example? (SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT!) Consider the mayor's son Davy, hitherto a loathsome youth, only too ready to taunt and inflict pain, Todd his bitter enemy. Always Davy has tried to impress his father, but grows uneasy about the excesses and the violence that sickens. Gradually he realizes Todd is not so bad after all. Note his plaintive "Yer the only friend I got, pigpiss. Ain't that the biggest tragedy you ever heard?" This comes from the heart and proves unexpectedly moving.

In so many ways, here is a read that grips and surprises, right the way to its final shocks. Truly stunning.

For young adults? Not only them, I assure you. Several generations may become so engrossed, that bedtime be placed on hold.
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on 11 January 2014
Let me tell you about how I had my life ruined by aliens. The Knife of Never Letting Go was a great book. I loved it, and I've been recommending it like crazy. But The Ask and the Answer completely blows its predecessor out of the water. So much happens in such a (relatively) short book, it's a wonder people's heads don't explode while they're reading it. I loved it, and before writing this review I was going to just give it a 4 stars/Essential rating, but now I've decided to go with All Time Favourite. Because my life is ruined and I am crying.

So yes, the aliens. The Spackle absolutely broke my heart. I hate Tatum for not warning me, because she knows how I feel about these things (Spartacus has broken me). The Spackle have been oppressed since the war ended, first by the citizens of Haven who treated them as little more than slaves, and then under the rule of Mayor Prentiss, who went the whole hog and started tagging them like cattle and making them poo in a hole in the ground. These intelligent life forms were completely degraded, and it totally broke my heart. Not gonna lie, I'm crying while I write this. Their parts in The Ask and the Answer are the most prominent to me, and it's absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. Team Spackle FTW, everyone else can leave.

""We can fight," Davy says. "We proved that. And instead you got us babysitting animals that are already beat."
The Mayor considers us for a moment, tho I don't know how or when Davy turned him and me into an us. "If you think they're already beaten, David," he finally says, "then you know very little about the Spackle.""

Todd drove me a little crazy in this book. I love him, I really do, but his decisions in The Ask and the Answer broke me. When his hope is taken away, he completely shuts off and forgets about fighting back. He becomes a drone for Mayor Prentiss, and it's awful to see. He does some sickening things, that would have made me hate him if I hadn't already read about him in The Knife of Never Letting Go. I'm looking forward to seeing more development from him in Monsters of Men (if I live through that book, which I doubt I will), because I have a feeling that he's going to rise up and become a great leader.

Viola, on the other hand, was pretty much flawless the entire way through. We get to see things from her point of view in this book, since she and Todd are separated for most of it. I spent most of the book fangirling over her, because she is so forking strong and she faced so much, but she didn't give up. She also held onto her beliefs, and didn't let anyone or anything change that. Here, have some quotes.

""You haven't even seen me fight yet," I say, standing my ground. "I knocked down a bridge to stop an army. I put a knife through the neck of a crazy murderer. I saved the lives of others while you just ran around at night blowing them up.""

As for the romance between Viola and Todd... Well, I can't say that I love it. It totally makes sense that they are clinging to each other and all that, but their relationship is just unhealthy. And also quite cheesy, but let's focus on the unhealthy part. They made some awful decisions because of one another, and I was sitting there wanting to shake them because it was so frustrating. But in a great way, because it provoked emotion from me. I mean, I get that they're very young, and they have no one else on this bloody planet, but STILL. I want them to just end up being best friends, if they both survive to the end of the series, because I think a strong platonic relationship usually works better. For me, anyway.

""Everyone here is someone's daughter," she says quietly. "Every soldier out there is someone's son. The only crime, the only crime is to take a life. There is nothing else."
"And that's why you don't fight," I say.
She turns to me sharply. "To live is to fight," she snaps. "To preserve life is to fight everything that man stands for.""

""I won't tell you anything."
"But she betrayed you." The Mayor comes round the front again. "She tried to kill you."
And at that, Viola lifts her head.
She looks him right in the eye.
And says, "No, she tried to kill you.""

"He smiles. "You may have no choice."
"There's always a choice," Viola says by my side."

There are themes of anti-feminism and terrorism prevalent throughout this book, and Patrick Ness handles it all so well. He's so bleeding talented. Of course, the bits that stuck out to me the most were the slavery, oppression, and genocide, but Ness packs so much into this book that it's bursting at the seams.

The ending completely destroyed me. WHAAAAT?!?!? I was hoping that something like that would happen, but I didn't think it actually would. As soon as I got to THE PART, I wanted to scream and cry and jump around my bedroom.

I cannot wait to read Monsters of Men, and I'm going to try desperately hard to read it this month. I don't know if it's going to happen, because I have so many review copies to read, but if not that I WILL be reading it in December. I adore this series, and I am almost ready to have my life ruined some more by Patrick Ness.
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on 2 December 2009
As an ESL English teacher in charge of purchases for our English teen library, I am always on the lookout for new exciting books for our teenagers (aged 13 to 16). English is not their native language, so sometimes the story of a book might get lost on them if they are not fluent enough in English to understand the entire book. This was not the case with The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book of this trilogy. The first book as the required reading for their Literature Circle class and they absolutely all loved it, and couldn't wait for the sequel when they finished the book... Since the 2nd part is not part of the Lit Circle class, a lot of them put the book on their "Christmas list", which I thought was a great idea. It flattered my vanity a bit, to be honest, that I had found a "required" book for them that was so more-ish that they just couldn't wait for the sequel.

After reading the sequel, I can honestly say that I am now even more impressed with the world Patrick Ness has created than I was after finishing the first part. I do not want to give away anything of the plot of the book, but I don't think I am giving anything away when I say that the sequel is darker and even more thought-provoking than the first book. If you could still classify the first book as a straightforward adventure story, then this second part has evolved into a disturbing tale of truth, deception and manipulation. The way authority is established, questioned and transgressed time and again is thought-provoking and should appeal to any teenager.
Of course, the themes were already hinted at in the first part, but it makes me wonder what Patrick Ness will come up with to top all this in the third book.

This book is probably the best YA-fiction book I've read. Excellent excellent stuff!
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