le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Ask and the Answer

Read it today, just gulped it right down. I don't really know who this Patrick Ness character is, but this Chaos Walking series (thus far only these two books, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask & the Answer) is pretty fantastic.

Knife was a little better, I think, mainly because it's narrated entirely by Todd (Todd! Who names their dystopic hero Todd?), and his narrative voice is absolutely unbelievably amazing. I'm staggered by Todd's voice. He's not - as a character - well-educated or fully literate, and his narration is full of misspellings, efforts to suppress his own thoughts/narration - it's just brilliant. So much of the book(s) really do feel like transcribed thoughts, the kind of stuttering slow-motion repetition of horror, fear, anxiety, love.

Ask veers away from this, by alternating the narration between Todd and Viola; her voice isn't quite as compelling as his, though her story in this book may be the more gripping. But after having re-read Twilight last week (for an informal grad seminar I'm participating in this semester, NOT as a voluntary exercise in masochism), the strength of Viola and Todd's connection, their relationship, rings so much more true than the relationship between the sparkly vampire and klutzy Bella.  Viola and Todd, as a pair, are infinitely more engaging, and because of the immediacy of the narration coupled with the urgency of the actual plot, the quasi-operatic heights of the relationship don't feel forced, fake or like overblown teenage puppy love.

The political subcurrents of the books are also quite shocking - the banding/branding of the aliens (the Spackle, the name of which - unfortunately - only makes me think of that plaster-patching goop) and the women, the mind control, the dependence on "the cure" (pills) - have obvious resonance with recent and contemporary Western life.

The comparison of these books to The Hunger Games and DuPrau's Ember books still definitely rings true, but Ness's novels are amped up and feel more sophisticated and pressing than DuPrau's, certainly (I'm not sure about Collins's books - I think I need to re-read Hunger Games before I can fairly compare; fortunately, we'll be reading it in my class in just about two weeks, so I'll have my chance).

As I was with Catching Fire, I'm antsy and irked that I'll now have to wait the aeons and aeons before the third book comes out in the Chaos Walking series (and since The Ask & The Answer was just released, I'll be cooling my heels for awhile). Something will come along to fill the gap - it always does - but the waiting is never the easy part.

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