This was an incredible ending to the Chaos Walking trilogy!!! I cried in the end :D
The short of it: a disappointing conclusion to a trilogy with a great premise and poor execution. The first book was by far the best and the only one that made sense. The second and third book rely on character daftness, overwrought drama and the reader’s will to like the two kids to get by and it doesn’t work all the same. Not a recommended read, I’d suggest to read the first book and go to Wikipedia to find out what happens next (or guess, really. It’s not like you can be wrong by far, just don’t use your imagination).
On to the long of it.
Despite all of Todd and Viola’s attempts at avoiding it, war has come.
Not war between human factions like we have seen in The Ask and the Answer, but a war that reenacts the conflict that decades ago threatened to wipe humanity off the planet. The Spackles are marching towards New Prentisstown, and the situation looks grim. A couple of months away from landing, the new Settlers might by then find there’s not one human left alive on the planet.
In the final installment of the Chaos Walking trilogy, Ness serves us a final showdown over 600 pages long. It disappoints.
I was hoping this final book would redeem the glaring flaws I had glimpsed in The Ask and the Answer, certain that a book nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (something I honestly can’t understand), had to bring to the series a conclusion so marvelously drawn together that it’d leave me speechless. Nothing of the sort happened, and I’m left alone with my bafflement.
The main point of the whole Chaos Walking trilogy, Todd’s love for Viola and vice versa, just didn’t make any sense to me. Just exactly when did these two kids fall so deeply in love? Not in the first book, where they hardly knew each other. In the other two, then.
But wait. They’re always separated.
So, how come? Good question.
Their relationship lacks a middle stage, any sort of middle stage, to make their (extreme) commitment to each other believable. Given that said commitment is the trilogy’s driving force, I’d say that’s a problem. I can’t understand what Ness did, especially because he showed he could develop a reasonable attraction and relationship introducing the character of Lee in Viola’s narrative. But neveryoumind. Say that we believe their love. There were still problems with the rest of the story.
In the third book, a third point of view joins Viola’s and Todd’s, and it’s the voice of 1017, the one Spackle slave to survive the mass murder of his people. While I appreciated the addition, which brought if anything a bit of variety in tone and voice, this novel couldn’t have handled the three points of view any worse: the majority of events are seen at least twice, often without any remarkable difference in perception, perspective, reaction or what have you, making many scenes redundant. The sections, moreover, are all very short (three pages, maybe four tops, many settling around two) and every one of them ends with a cliffhanger. By page 600, it is enough to make you scream out loud. Ditto with the truncated sentences to convey frenzy. I could understand if it were a characteristic of Todd’s pov, whom we know to be rather raw and instinctual with his thoughts and feelings, but it’s something applied to Viola and 1017 as well.
What probably annoyed me the most in the whole trilogy is the blatant stupidity of the two main characters (and not just them). Suspension of disbelief can only get you so far: after the fifth time the guy you know to be a manipulative mass murderer is able to deceive you yet again, you deserve everything that’s coming to you and worse.
1017 is remarkable because he does something I thought was utterly impossible to find in this series, seen how the main characters behave throughout it: he actually learns from his mistakes, and from what happens around him.
He’s the only character with some sort of arc.
This book is about identity, more than the other two were. 1017 has to learn how to be again one with his people and wash away all the hurt and the ugliness the years of captivity left in him. Todd has to… well. Todd is polluted by the Mayor without him realizing it, apparently, (even though the Mayor takes a couple of tours in Todd’s head and Todd yells at him for that, so maybe some rightful doubts should have risen, but whatever) and then is saved by someone else. Viola is awesome when on her own, as usual, and idiotic when she’s with Todd. As usual.
Angharrad actually survives. What do you know, eh?
I found Prentiss and Mistress Coyle both to be utterly impossible to believe, in their words and actions and everything. Their warfare was on the spot to get what they wanted, but what they wanted didn’t make any sort of sense. No motivation, no nothing (and no, I don’t accept the words “If I couldn’t have it then no one would”, sorry, you’ll have to work harder than that or admit that you’re joking).
The themes thrown into this series are so many and so huge saying their exploration was inadequate is an euphemism. I won’t even get started or this could go on forever.
Finally, the book’s pace is unrelenting despite the repetition of information, and the reason is that nowhere in this trilogy do we find a proper “action-reaction” structure. The characters hardly have any time to think anything over, they’re just jumping from one action to the other. I’m not saying there’s only one way to write, but you should have them think about what they’re doing and what’s happening around them some time or the other in those 1100 pages you put together.