The Ask and the Answer. Patrick Ness. 2009. 536 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: Your noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.
Premise/plot: The Ask and the Answer is the sequel to the Knife of Never Letting Go. To refresh your memory, these are the first two books in the science fiction Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness. In the first book, readers met Todd and Viola. Todd is the conflicted hero who can't decide if he's willing to kill in order to "become a man." Viola is the newly arrived colonist whose parents died in the crashing of the scout ship. She puzzles Todd because she does NOT have noise. All the men, all the animals have noise. Women are mysteriously noise-free. Their thoughts cannot be heard by others. (Women can and do read the thoughts of men. And MEN hate this so very much). The Knife of Never Letting Go ended in a horrible place. Our two had spent over four hundred pages racing to reach a town called Haven only to arrive and....
Viola spends this book worried about Todd--they are separated for most of the book--and worried about what will happen next. Will the women (led by Mistress Coyle) war with the President's army? The women are THE ANSWER. The army (mainly if not exclusively men) are THE ASK. Both seemed determined to defeat the other no matter the cost. Both seem short-sighted and not really thinking about what is best for the planet, best for humanity. Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle seem to be two peas in a pod--stubborn, selfish, dishonest.
Todd spends this book worried about Viola--as I said, they are separated for most of the book. He will do his duty and do whatever the Mayor (the PRESIDENT) says if he promises to keep Viola safe and allow them to see each other and be together again. He'll bide his time following orders--always kept close by the Mayor's son, Davy--until an opportunity comes along. Todd doesn't like being in the army. He doesn't like working with the slaves--the SPACKLE. He doesn't like banding the slaves or the women. But unlike the women of The Answer he doesn't physically rebel and become violent. He's still conflicted.
Mainly the book is about the skirmishes between The ASK and THE ANSWER...and the lies and broken promises of Mistress Coyle and President Prentiss. Todd and Viola are sad, lonely, angry, confused. More than anything they want to be TOGETHER and live in a peaceful community. This seems impossible.
My thoughts: I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one the first time I read it. I can't say the same the second time I read it. Perhaps because you can only be surprised by the story and characters once. One thing that really surprised me the first time was the character arc of Davy Prentiss. The ending of this one is SOMETHING especially the first time I read it.
I would still recommend this series with a few reservations. First, I think you have to read all three books in the proper order, and, close together at that. I think the books will have the biggest impact on readers if they're read back to back. Second, I think that the series isn't for all readers. You have to be fine with a moderate amount of profanity and really enjoy science fiction set on another planet. If you don't enjoy science fiction, then this series probably won't seem all that good.
"If you ever see a war," she says, not looking up from her clipboard, "you'll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors. You accept things that would appall you at any other time because life has temporarily lost all meaning." "War makes monsters of men," I say, quoting Ben from that night in the weird place where New World buried its dead. "And women," Mistress Coyle says. (102)
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 is 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." (215)© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews