08 March 2012

Post 487: The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. ISBN: 9780763644901.

I was not terribly impressed with the first book in this series. It was good, but it wasn't amazing. The Ask and the Answer, however, is pretty amazing. This is possible the best book I've ever read that personalizes the effects of war on individuals. There are a few different kinds of people that Ness explores in this novel. None of those people are outright bad or evil, but there are a few who are so wrapped up in their idea of what society should be that they ignore the cost and/or condition of human life in their quest to achieve that idea of perfection. Others believe that the loss of human life is good for the moment if only to achieve freedom in the long run, and so they commit actions they might not otherwise be capable of because they believe they have been provoked into doing so by circumstances. Meanwhile you have the typical good, ordinary person with no power who commits atrocious acts because they are following orders.

The point is, Ness has done a wonderful job at showing how normally ordinary people can behave in surprising ways during times of war, both for good and bad. He has done this in a surprising way, one that kept me guessing about who would end up being good, evil, or somewhere in between. Mistress Coyle was perhaps the most interesting and the most disappointing in terms of where she ended up on the scale. It's easy to want to like the revolutionaries, the freedom fighters, the firebrands, without really thinking about the harm they cause in pursuit of their goals, but Coyle is so duplicitous in her campaign that it is impossible to trust her intentions. She becomes less likable as the story goes on, and by the end of it I really would have liked to have tied both Coyle and Prentiss together and see if they exploded from the contact. Then we had Todd, who I wanted to take by the shoulders and shake really, really hard until he saw what he was doing.

But ultimately the best part was how well Ness characterized the way in which the relationships with the people who were attempting to control others affected the relationship between Todd and Viola. Although Todd and Viola both had a more intimate relationship with their leaders in government than most of us do, it was easy to see how the dishonesty they were presented with changed their relationship with each other. It is easier to become distrustful of everyone if the people who are supposed to have your best interest in mind are neglectful or even blatantly disrespectful of your health and well being as opposed to what will promote their own personal, greedy self-interest.

A truly moral candidate would be honest about what they support and why, and today would be considered completely unelectable, assuming they were even able to raise the money in order to run. Yet these are the people we need the most to try and run for office, and they are the people we need to elect. I can get behind a Republican who is against gun control for personal reasons, or even one who is against abortion, but a Republican who has the best interests of his or her constituents in mind will not be as likely to completely disregard the repercussions of a complete ban on abortion or a lack of legislation for gun ownership. Because when it comes down to it, none of us want our fellow humans to suffer, and so we agree that under certain circumstances a person who would otherwise have access to a gun should not be given that access. And while we may not want a person to have to have an abortion, we understand that it is sometimes necessary and we extend our sympathy and condolences to said person.

And this is something that has been forgotten on both sides of the line. My examples are what they are because I am simply more familiar with what I feel are wrongs done to me as opposed to how I have mistreated others.

Wonderful review over at things mean a lot. You can also read my post about the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go.
LibsNote: Library copy.

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