I did it! I finished the Chaos Walking trilogy! And in only ten days! This may actually be a personal best for me.
Chaos Walking was a story that continued to evolve right up until the final moments of the story. In The Knife of Never Letting Go, we only got Todd’s perspective. In The Ask and The Answer, we were given Todd and Viola’s perspectives. And then, in Monsters of Men, we got Todd, Viola, and 1017 (The Spackle who Todd saves in The Ask and The Answer). It was so beautifully done. Seamless. This story never once rested on its laurels. It just kept getting better.
As the final instalment of a trilogy, Monsters of Men did not disappoint. Everything was escalated. Battles, martyrs, betrayal, love, all that good stuff. But never in a way that seemed contrived. The story had a natural flow that made me feel like I wasn’t reading a story at all. As I read, I found myself so immersed in the plot that it felt like there was no plot at all. I’d open the book and simply be in the New World with these characters that were just oh-so-real. Flawed and imperfect and sparkling and gorgeous. I kind of felt like the Tenth Doctor in The Christmas Invasion:
Look at these people: these human beings. Consider their potential. From the day they arrive on the planet, and blinking step into the sun. There is more to see than can ever be seen. More to do than – no, hold on… Sorry, that’s the ‘Lion King’. But the point still stands.
Because the characters? While being flawed and sometimes making stupid mistakes, still try their best. Even the Mayor, our main antagonist, is someone to whom we can relate. And that is definitely an accomplishment, given how hateful I found that man throughout the entire series. Ness not only understood his characters, but understood the imperfections of humanity as well as humanity’s inherent goodness. I think a lot of this series simply explores the depths of humanity, on the spectrum of good and evil, and if either of those things actually exist.
Our central relationship, Todd and Viola, progresses. It’s YA, of course it does. But not in an over-the-top, out of proportion way. Just takes its next natural steps. This progression is not a major thing, though. This does not drive the story. Todd and Viola’s connection drives the story, not what they decide to do with that connection. There’s even a bit of a love triangle, but this is not cliched. Not really. Again, this feels as natural as breathing. Chaos Walking is a story that unfolds on each page. There is very little effort involved on the part of the reader. The story happens around you; envelops you. I loved it.
Everything I love about this series, I have said countless times before. So I will just leave you with this last point. Ness’ structural playfulness is one of his main strengths. But even this evolves in Monsters of Men. I tried to choose a page with no spoilers on it, and I think I nailed it. If you’re worried, just look at the shape of the text, rather than the words themselves:
How amazing is this? With less than 50 words on a page, Ness conveys the ambiance of the situation exquisitely. This could not have been an easy task. Not only did Ness have to choose the right words, but also the right spacings and alignments. And yet he, once again, has nailed it.
Ness is incredible.
This probably comes as no shock to you, but I give Monsters of Men: