Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

War Makes Monsters Of Men

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My review of Monsters Of Men by Patrick Ness is up now at Strange Horizons.

For me, The Knife Of Never Letting Go, the first volume of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, was pure infatuation. It was a novel I knew little about, which I had requested to review on a whim, and within pages I was smitten. The Ask And The Answer was a different proposition. There were now expectations. As a result I was able to look at the novel more closely, more critically than its predecessor, but still with a generosity of spirit. And this was repaid by a bold novel which took the original adventure in a much more radical and hard-nosed direction. At the same time, despite Ness’s success in re-inventing his story, flaws did start to appear: an elevation of moral and political symbolism above what we might find believable; the dilution of the narrative voice; rather too much irksomely histrionic teenage angst; and a simplicity to its prose which sometimes veers into dumbing down.

Now the series concludes with Monsters of Men and those flaws haven’t gone away. They are minor, but from time to time their repetition does provoke a disproportionate reaction, as though Ness has forgotten to put the towel on the radiator after he’s used it just once too often. There is one particularly manufactured moral dilemma late on in the book that actually made me scream. More often, though, I am willing to overlook imperfections because of the obvious qualities the book is endowed with. Some I doubt I even see. I really think I am in love.

As that quote suggests, it is less analytical and more emotional than most of my reviews but I think that is what the novel required. As far as I am concerned, Chaos Walking is one of the most important works of both science fiction and children’s literature of the last decade.

Written by Martin

14 June 2010 at 13:42

Posted in books, sf

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. My editor has just pointed out that the opening would be stronger if it avoided the repetition of “fade” and instead said:

    Infatuation cannot last. There comes a point when the initial thrill must either gently fade or deepen into love. Or catastrophically explode into a bitter falling out.

    He’s right but we didn’t spot it beforehand. Those are the breaks.


    14 June 2010 at 18:06

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