The sequel to “The Knife of Letting Go” picks up straight where it left off – Todd and Viola have arrived at Haven…but they’ve been beaten there by the mayor of Prentisstown, who now calls himself President Prentiss of New Prentisstown.
Todd and Viola become separated, and spend the rest of the book in different camps – Viola in “The Answer” a group of terrorists / freedom fighters who want to overthrow Prentiss, and Todd, who is left with the mayor.
There are no easy answers or black and white mentality for either of them. Todd is faced with hard choices, and the President brainwashes him effectively into watching and performing acts of cruelty and torture against the indigenous population – a case study of Milgram’s experiments (http://tinyurl.com/5tjxs) on dehumanising, and a chilling echo of genocide. Dehumanise a section of your population, see them as subhuman, and you can do anything to them. Stick yellow stars on them or brand them with an iron. Lock them in a prison camp and watch over them with rifles.
Similarly for Viola, whose opposing group of women are just as ruthless as the President. They have no qualms about blowing up barracks where soldiers sleep, or using bombs that only become live when you pick them up.
There are no heroes in this book. There are no winners. Todd and Viola do the best they can with the situation they find themselves in; like a real war, their hands come out covered in blood. How they deal with what they’ve gone through is what makes them the people they are.
Only three stars though, because once again Ness leaves the book on a complete cliff-hanger – it’s becoming a habit for him. Luckily, I don’t have to wait for the sequel. And Ness’s genocide and not-black-and-white war sometimes gets lost on the way through the 500+ pages, meandering a little until it seems to find what sort of ending he’s going for.
I’m reviewing the final part of the trilogy “Monsters of Men” next month.