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The Ask and the Answer is the second book in The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness and it is everything I hoped it would be and a million things more. I feel genuine sorrow for all those individuals who read the first book as it was released and had to wait a whole year until this was published.
Ness is the king of the cliffhanger! Honestly, he is as sublime a writer as he is a cruel a writer and the pain and anxiety and anguish I felt whilst reading this was only offset by the beauty and grace of his writing. I am so glad I had all three books to hand as I waited approximately one nanosecond between finishing the first book and taking a sneak peek at chapter one of the second.
This book is completely and utterly unputdownable and, if possible, I loved it even more than the first. Ness gives the reader everything – every breadth of emotion, beautifully crafted writing, extensive and original world building, corporeal characterization, legions of plot, and action, action, action for days! He is such a brilliant story-teller that I expected nothing less…but was still blown away!
The book opens in the midst of the action of the end of the first book, plunging you straight back into the depths of the plot. Without skipping a beat I was there, living and grieving and loving alongside my beloved main characters, Todd and Viola.
If anything, this book had a more poignant edge to it. I felt heartbreak one hundred times over in The Knife of Never Letting Go but here it was intensified. I could previously isolate Todd and Viola’s stories and remove myself from their plight when I got too involved but, with the addition of the Spackle (the indigenous species to the New World that the humans raged war with and later enslaved) it all just felt too real. The colonization of the planet and the hateful treatment and enslavement of the native Spackles felt so horribly, historically accurate that I couldn’t switch my emotions off. I felt somewhat responsible whilst reading this and almost ashamed to belong to the hate-fueled, discriminatory and domineering human species. It was heartbreaking to read, yet accurate. In short, reading this made my heart hurt. And by that I mean that the writer did a good job.
The explored themes of colonization, war, gender divides, power, coming-of-age and the good/bad binary made this a book where you got to learn whilst you read and where you got to know yourself and your stance on these issues too.
There wasn’t a pain-free moment as the lines between good and bad were continually blurred erased and altered; which made my empathy and the pain I felt equal for all. I am still not sure there even is a definite good and bad side. There are just sides. Both sides have a cause. Both sides have experienced pain and anger and heartbreak. Both sides have inflicted pain and anger and heartbreak. Both side is justified. Yet, neither side is justified. How is the reader supposed to know who to fight for if the characters don’t know their own hearts? I guess I am just going to have to continue with book three and find out.