Category Archives: Dystopian

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

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The Blurb:

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

“The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.

My Review:

As I suspected, I liked “The Ask and the Answer” by Patrick Ness more than the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy – and I came to like Todd Hewitt a good deal more in this novel.

When Todd carries a badly wounded Viola into Haven, they expect that their troubles will be over; that their questions will be answered; that Viola will be able to contact “her people” – colonists who are approaching the world of “Noise”. However, the young protagonists find something completely different to their expectations.

Todd and Viola are forced to separate and throughout the unfolding of this violent and often heartbreaking story, they rarely meet. However, the ties that bind them are extremely strong and their faith and trust in each other brings real life to this story. They meet many devious characters for whom power is the guiding light and Todd has to develop ways of dealing with awful situations and actions in which he had to participate.

In the first book of the trilogy, I was irritated by Todd, but the way his character developed in “The Ask and the Answer” provided much to like and admire. Although some of the things he had to do were despicable, he tried to show compassion. Viola continued to be a strong young woman, growing in strength even in the face of betrayal.

This book was written from the points of view of both Todd and Viola – I think this worked very well and helped to broaden the scope of the story. Their voices are quite different and there was no confusion for me, just added enjoyment. I have admired the work of Patrick Ness for a while now and have no reason to change my views. I think he is an extremely skillful, thoughtful writer and although the Chaos Walking trilogy is aimed at young adults, the questions that we are asked to ponder are applicable at any age.

Needless to say, I have now made a good start on the third book: “Monsters of Men”

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

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Blurb

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

My Review:

I was intrigued with the idea of Noise in both men and animals – the ability or disability – to be able to hear what creatures are thinking. This plays a huge part in the development of the plot of “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness.

The world that has been home to Todd Hewitt is a strange one. Not only is Noise prevalent, but there are no women in the town where Todd grew up. His thirteenth birthday is approaching – the date when he will become a man – when Todd encounters a girl in the nearby swamp. He is totally amazed by this being and also, by her silence. However, this unexpected meeting has enormous consequences for Todd and he is forced to flee from all he knows.

The story centres around Todd and Viola’s attempts to reach the town of Haven, where they are assured they will be safe and learn the answers to their many questions.

I was drawn in by the plot lines, but found that I didn’t like Todd very much; maybe I will warm to him in the next two books in the trilogy. I also found the constant running rather monotonous! However, despite these feelings, I’ve moved on to the next book, “The Ask and the Answer” straight away!

About the Author:370361

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

Christmas Past: a short story by Julie Elizabeth Powell

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Julie Elizabeth Powell has an admirable talent for writing. Her works include novels, memoir, poetry and short stories, covering a wide range of genres.

This particular piece, Christmas Past , is a short story, set many years in the future. According to the Law of the New Earth, curiosity was considered to be dangerous and it had, on the whole, been bred out of the population. However, this dangerous attribute that had once been such a driving force for humanity, seems to have escaped extinction.

Thomat and Draven are determined to find out the secrets that have been hidden from them by the Elders. In their search, they discover an archive full of details about Christmas and its associated traditions. Their eyes are opened to the possibility of life that can be lived in a new and meaningful way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short story. The messages contained within it are thought provoking and so relevant to the world we live in.

 

More Than This by Patrick Ness

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This is a review that I wrote in July,2015, after my first Patrick Ness experience!

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Seth is drowning. He struggles to survive, but the ocean is too powerful for him and he is dashed against the rocks. He dies.
When Seth regains consciousness, lying half naked on a concrete pathway, he is utterly confused. In a weakened state, he manages to rise and look around him. There is something vaguely familiar about the derelict street in which he finds himself. But what is it? Where is it? How can this be?
Layer upon layer of this fantastical story is laid back to reveal what has really happened to Seth…..or does it?

“More Than This”is an amazing Young Adult story by Patrick Ness. I had not read anything by this author, so had no idea what to expect. What I found was imaginative, wonderful writing, a real page-turner. The story raised many questions for the reader, not only about what exactly was happening in Seth’s life, but also about life itself. Even at my age – a grandmother and in my mid sixties – I found myself thinking deeply about some of the points raised by the author.

This is a novel which looks at the meaning of our lives; friendship; love; guilt; betrayal; the need to know ourselves. These themes were faced by the characters in the book and also presented to us, the readers to think about and to look at their impact on our own lives.

Although I realise that this genre is not for everyone, I think “More Than This” is well worth reading. I shall certainly be looking for more of Patrick Ness’s work in which to lose myself

Christmas Past: a short story by Julie Elizabeth Powell

23806311

Julie Elizabeth Powell has an admirable talent for writing. Her works include novels, memoir, poetry and short stories, covering a wide range of genres.

This particular piece, Christmas Past, is a short story, set many years in the future. According to the Law of the New Earth, curiosity was considered to be dangerous and it had, on the whole, been bred out of the population. However, this dangerous attribute that had once been such a driving force for humanity, seems to have escaped extinction.

Thomat and Draven are determined to find out the secrets that have been hidden from them by the Elders. In their search, they discover an archive full of details about Christmas and its associated traditions. Their eyes are opened to the possibility of life that can be lived in a new and meaningful way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short story. The messages contained within it are thought provoking and so relevant to the world we live in.

 

The Winter Boy by Sally Wiener Grotta

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“The Winter Boy” is the second full length novel by the talented writer, Sally Wiener Grotta. We are not told exactly when the story is set, but it is sometime after a cataclysmic event, known as the Great Chaos. Gradually, over a long period of time, the Peace has been established by a group of widows called the Alleshi. The Alleshi work to maintain and extend the Peace by training young men to become their Alemen. The bonds between the Alleshi and their Alemen are very strong, based very much on trust and loyalty.

The two central characters in “The Winter Boy” are a young Allesha called Rishana and her first Boy, a difficult young man, a “problem boy” named Ryl. Rishana is to train Ryl throughout the winter, in a way which will develop his abilities to be beneficial to the Peace. The training takes many forms and it is always the hope that the Boy will reach the status of Aleman with all the skills he needs to survive, while enhancing the Peace.

Their journey through their winter season is not easy for either Rishana or Ryl. Both characters undergo changes, and both have episodes of extreme disenchantment with the whole process. Both feel manipulated at times and one of the most interesting aspects of the story, for me, is how they worked through their difficulties and coped with surprising revelations.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I particularly liked the development of the characters and their response to the lessons they learned. Although set in a time that is not our own, many of the insights offered throughout the story have relevance to our world and our own humanity. I loved the myths and legends that were used as part of Ryl’s training. “The Winter Boy” is also a suspenseful tale and I always returned to my reading, eager to find out what would happen next.

I took quite a while to read this book, not because I found it tedious, but because I didn’t want it to end! This is a story that will stay with me for a long time; thank you Sally Wiener Grotta for writing such a wonderful, thought provoking story.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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“The Handmaid’s Tale” had sat on my bookshelf for years and I have tosay, I’d never been tempted to read it. Friends had praised the novel,but it wasn’t until it was chosenas a book group read , thatI took the plunge. How glad I am that I did!
“The Handmaid’s Tale”is set in the future – in 21st century America, after a take over of the United States. The structure of society has been changed drastically, with women being assigned different roles, depending very much on their proven fertility. The story is told by the Handmaid, Offred. She looks back to life she once had , one which we can recognise, and she gives us many details of her present life. This life is so different reading about it is uncomfortable and shocking in many aspects.
Margaret Atwood has woven an amazing story. I didn’t always find it a pleasant read – in fact, it was absolutely horrible in parts, but it was fascinating and I never felt the need to put the book aside. I thought the last chapter was particularly good in the way it rounded off this not-to-be-missed book.

An excellent, thought – provoking novel.