Monsters of Men
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (August 2010)|
Front cover of first edition
|Genre||Young-adult science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & trade paper), audio CD|
|Pages||602 pp (first edition)|
|LC Class||PZ7.N43843 Mon 2010|
|Preceded by||The Ask and the Answer|
Monsters of Men is a young-adult science fiction novel by Patrick Ness, published by Walker Books in May 2010. It was the third book of the Chaos Walking trilogy inaugurated two years earlier by The Knife of Never Letting Go. Walker's U.S. division Candlewick Press published hardcover and audiobook editions within the calendar year.
The title is from dialogue in the first two books. Todd Hewitt's adopted father Ben says "War makes monsters out of men" in The Knife, which both Todd and Viola later quote.
A Spackle army marches on New Prentisstown from one direction, and the forces of the Answer from the other. Mayor Prentiss has been freed by Todd to help defend the city, whilst Viola is with the scout ship, in hopes of acquiring additional aid.
The Mayor assembles his army and orders attacks on the Spackle forces at the waterfall near the city. The Spackle, however, while outgunned, are thousands in number, and their weaponry has evolved since the first war thirteen years prior. While keeping the bows and arrows, a new weapon that unleashes white "sticky" fire is mounted on the back of their bullock-like creatures, labelled "battlemores" by the settlers. This, along with another weapon - white sticks that shoot a mixture of organic chemicals - easily beat back the Mayor's first wave. Todd is nearly injured by the fire weapon, but uses his Noise in the same way he used it against the Mayor to incapacitate the rider of the battlemore. A second wave of soldiers, this time utilising artillery to cover them, are able to send the Spackle back in retreat.
Meanwhile, Viola finds Mistress Coyle with the scout ship, which has landed at the base of the demolished communications tower. Two friends from the settler convoy, Simone and Bradley have been sent to look for Viola, and are shocked at the state she, and the settlement, is in. Mistress Coyle, at first surprised that Viola is alive, quickly recovers, and tries to explain her actions. But Viola silences her and warns Simone and Bradley not to trust the healer.
Then, concerned with Todd's safety, Viola asks Bradley to launch a survey probe to scope out the scene. After seeing the war and Spackle weaponry, and faced with the risk of losing Todd, Viola nearly launches one of the scout ship's point-to-point missiles at the battle. However, the Mayor's secret artillery fires first. Bradley and Simone accept Viola's decision that nobody is trustworthy, save for Todd, and send the probe to observe the Spackle encampment, revealing the enormous numbers they have.
The narrative then switches to a Spackle in the midst of the Spackles' camp. The spackle is 1017 from the previous book, now branded "The Return," and exists as a separate entity to the Land, or the Spackle. He is the only surviving "Burden," Spackle taken as slaves after the first war, and seeks revenge on the "Clearing," or the settlers for killing his ‘one in particular’. His viewpoint ends with Bradley's probe being shot down.
The next day, Spackle dam off the river far down, blocking the water supply, and attack the Mayor's camp with a bow-launched burning boomerang that is capable of returning after hitting several targets and then being re-launched in a matter of seconds. Coyle attempts to manipulate Viola to launch a missile to save "her boy", but Bradley is heavily against it. Todd, being watched by a new probe, becomes a stationary target when his horse, Angharrad, refuses to move and he refuses to leave her (he cannot do the same thing he did to Manchee). When Viola thinks she sees Todd getting hit by one boomerang, though it was actually the Mayor's horse, she launches the missile, which causes a catastrophic explosion. This kills all the Spackle archers and blocks the way up and down the hillside, separating the two armies.
The Mayor then sends the thought "I am the circle and the circle is me" into Todd, softly, though Todd objects and threatens to hurt him. Then he notices that this quietens his Noise, and pushes away the memories of war, and so he finds himself repeating it for comfort and power. Viola arrives at the town square, shaken that she killed hundreds of the Spackle for Todd. Todd tells her that he would have done the same, but she finds little comfort. She then notices that Todd's Noise is quieter, and he sees that she has acquired an infection that is caused by the band that the Mayor put on all women in New Prentisstown, but the two do not elaborate on either's condition.
The narrative switches again to the Return, who is arguing with the Sky, the leader of the Spackle, and demands more action and attacks. The Sky refuses to do anything that will not be for the good of the Land, but asks the Return to trust him, and takes his to the Pathway's End. He reveals "the Source", a human captured before the war began. The Sky offers the Source to the Return if the two armies reach peace. The Return is unsure why such a person would be considered a reward until he recognises the Source as Ben, Todd's adoptive father.
Meanwhile, refugees begin to pour in from the outskirts of New Prentisstown - most of the men joining the Mayor's forces in the town square, while most of the women joining Coyle's forces at the landing site. The Spackle begin attacking the town at random, destroying various targets and killing any scout parties the Mayor sends. The white stick weapons are realised to be some sort of ballistic weapon that shoot acid, which vaporizes on leaving the barrel, but keeps cohesion until it hits a target. Eventually, the water store is attacked, and nearly all of the remaining water is lost.
During this time, the Mayor loses control over ordering soldiers with his Noise, and Todd hits him and takes over. The Mayor praises him for having such ability, but Todd is preoccupied with the discovery of James' body (a soldier who feeds the horses, drowned in the water tank flood). He would not have been killed if Todd had not controlled him to go get extra water for Angharrad, and this causes Todd to regret having controlled him for his own desires.
The army without water, and the Answer without food, the two parties are forced into a peace talk at the destroyed House of Healing. The Mayor and Todd meet Coyle, Simone, Bradley and Lee, and Todd and Viola quickly disclose the fact that they have brought additional soldiers who are in hiding. However, Todd doesn’t reveal why his Noise is becoming harder to hear, and Viola refuses to acknowledge that the infection from her arm band is starting to seriously affect her.
After negotiations, a peace is reached and a transfer of food is made from New Prentisstown to Coyle's camp. Now that the two groups are working together, the Mayor lures Spackle out to fight them, and the Answer provides bombs to destroy the attacking Spackle. Bradley, nicknamed "the Humanitarian", angrily convinces Todd and Viola to stop this. A Spackle is captured by the Mayor, and then sent back to the encampment with two messages. The Mayor sends one of absolute silence, and Todd tells them that they want peace. He hears the Spackle call him "the Knife," the name given to him by the land, after he killed the Spackle by the riverside in the first book, before running away.
Angry that the Mayor has undermined her, Mistress Coyle sends a bomb into the Spackle stronghold. The Spackle respond by sending the same Spackle that was captured, telling them to send two people to meet the Sky on the hill the next morning.
Viola and Bradley, who has acquired noise after staying on the planet for a few days, will appear the most trustworthy, are sent to talk. The Sky greets them, but one individual - 1017, the survivor of the Mayor's genocide, and the Spackle who had sworn vengeance on Todd when he was saved - recognizes Viola as Todd's "one in particular", and attempts to murder her. However, he stops when he sees the ID band on her arm, and in his surprise is taken away by the Land. Hesitantly, the peace talks resume.
That night, however, the Spackle launch a surprise attack on the Mayor and Todd. But the Mayor, who had read the Sky’s Noise through the messenger, knew of this plan beforehand and had already set up his artillery and soldiers. After killing the attacking Spackle, the Mayor grabs Todd's comm and tells the Sky that he can read him and that he should forfeit. The Sky, shocked, agrees.
The Return, meanwhile, has returned to the Pathway's End to kill Ben as peace has now been reached. The Sky meets him there, and watches as the Return fails to murder Ben, unable to kill just like Todd. He resents this, but the Sky tells him he will need this knowledge when he becomes the Sky, and then wakes up Ben, ignoring the Return’s confusion at this statement. When Ben wakes, he can speak in the language of the Land.
The next day, peace is reached, though negotiations are scheduled to continue. The Mayor strategically announces that they have beaten the Spackle to the hilltop campers, and that a cure for the ID band infection has been found. Mistress Coyle is outraged and convinced that the Mayor planned this, and takes to testing the cure, warning that audience that the Mayor is up to something. Her accusations are met with booing and anger, and she recedes in bitter anger. Soon, testing reveals that the cure uses an aggressive antibiotic mixed with an aloe the Mayor claims he found in Spackle weaponry, which allows the medicine to disperse ten to fifteen times faster. Viola asks Todd to decide if she should take the cure.
At the town square, the Mayor teaches Todd how to read by giving his skill of reading through Noise. After reading his mother’s diary, Todd asks the Mayor if the cure is real, and the Mayor simply says it is. Convinced, Todd brings the bandages to Viola the next morning to treat her infection.
Later, Mistress Coyle delivers a speech on her intentions to resign and hand over leadership to the Mayor fully. However, it quickly turns out to be a plot to kill the Mayor using a bomb strapped to her person. Todd, in an attempt to save Simone who is in front of Mistress Coyle, inadvertently saves the Mayor instead, foiling her plan and revealing that he can control people with his Noise (as he ordered Wilf to jump from his position near Mistress Coyle). The Mayor thanks Todd endlessly but Todd is horrified that he has saved the Mayor subconsciously and not Simone, as proven by the replay on nearby probes.
Viola is similarly horrified, unsure of who Todd has become. She tells him that she hates his silence, and they fight, Todd convinced that the Mayor has changed and Viola accusing him of turning into the Mayor. She then tells him that she cannot trust him anymore; that he isn’t him anymore, causing his Noise to flare up in anger, shock and hurt. The Mayor interrupts before more can be said, intent on delivering another speech to show the citizens that he is okay.
As the Mayor starts the speech, and asks Todd to be his son, Ben and the Return arrive. Todd, overwhelmed by happiness, launches himself at Ben and leaves the Mayor on stage, ordering people to get out of his way as he runs. The two embrace, and the Mayor is left feeling betrayed and unwanted. Now that Ben can speak the Spackle's language, he prefers using his Noise to communicate, and, consequently, Todd's noise opens up around Ben as they talk. After this, Todd asks Viola to leave New Prentisstown with him when the war is over, and declares that he doesn’t care about what will happen to everyone without his supervision. His Noise is audible once more, and he openly thinks about how beautiful Viola is and how he wants to hold her. He hastily apologises, but Viola kisses him, and thinks that it feels like "finally".
The present party splits to settle a peace immediately, leaving Todd and the Mayor alone. Angered that Todd no longer cares about him, and wishes to leave him the moment peace is established, the Mayor shoots Ivan and steals the scout ship, kidnapping Todd in the process. Learning how to operate the scout ship by stealing Bradley's Noise, the mayor launches the missiles at the Spackle, where Bradley, Viola and Ben are still negotiating terms. However, the missiles and 'cluster bombs' later fired does not explode.
The Mayor decides to try something different, remembering a trick Bradley's grandfather had taught his grandson. He remixes fuel and releases it. The fuel mixture is the same used by Viola's campfire box in the first book, when only a few drops blew up the bridge between old Prentisstown and Farbranch. The fire kills many Spackle, including the Sky, and the Return becomes the new Sky. Todd attempts to call Viola, but is cut off. However, Todd manages to convey that they are headed for the ocean.
The new Sky then releases the Dam on the riveras a retort. In this process, the falls burst and the town is swept away. Humans and the Sky then call a ceasefire.
The Mayor then lands at the ocean. The new Sky decides to attack the settlers, while the Mayor had ordered his remaining captains to attack the Answer and march into the town square to die. However, Lee, blinded earlier in the book, uses a rifle with Wilf's noise to see for him, kills Captain Tate and the soldiers join the remaining people. Wilf and Ben manage to dissuade the Sky from the attack, Wilf's honest and open Noise showing the Sky how to listen to the Land, leaving the Mayor disappointed.
Viola and Bradley now ride to the ocean in hopes of aiding Todd. However, Acorn, Viola's horse, dies from exhaustion, and she is forced to ride Angharrad while Bradley is left behind. At the ocean, the Mayor congratulates Todd, then says he will be a fine leader of New World - a world he doesn't want to be a part of, as the mayor is being driven mad, by too much knowledge. (It is explained that the Mayor, with his strong control of the noise, can hear every piece of information, all noise and all of the Land.) The Mayor then fights with Todd, using only their noises, and Todd wins. The Mayor then commits suicide by walking into the sea, where the killer fish of the planet eat him.
The Sky arrives on his battlemore with Ben. He sees Viola and Todd, but mistakes Todd for the Mayor and shoots him in the chest with an acid rifle. Todd’s Noise disappears, and he dies, driving Viola to threaten shooting the Sky back. The Sky, revealing that he shot despite knowing that it might have been Todd, realises how wrong he was to do so, and feels the regret Todd felt when killing a Spackle in book one. Viola stops short of killing him, realising that it would cause never-ending war, and that no one would remember Todd, and everything that he had done, after. She warns the Sky to get out of her sight, and returns to Todd. Ben suddenly asks if she can hear anything, swearing that he can hear Todd’s Noise.
The Spackle attempt to cure Todd with their medicine, and house him in the Pathway’s End. The remedies are working, and his Noise returns in bursts, on and off. The main convoy, carrying the new settlers, is about to arrive to in large ceremony the day the book ends. Viola will not attend because she will not leave Todd's side until he wakes up, though she knows that he will be changed, like Ben was. The Sky has promised not to take the cure for the band infection until Todd is cured, in an act of self-discipline, but Viola does not forgive him and will not let him enter to see Todd. Everyday, Viola continues to read Todd's mother's journal to him, hoping that he will hear and come back.
The epilogue cycles through Todd's experiences in the coma. He is entering his old memories, at his school, at Farbranch, but also human and Spackle memories from all over New World. He searches for Viola, unsure who she is, who he is. Every now and then, he hears abstracts from his mother's diary, and Viola, and he begs Viola to keep calling for him. The novel ends with hope that he'll return, the last lines being "Keep calling for me Viola-, Cuz here i come."
Critical reception has been largely positive. The Bookseller said the novel was "breathtaking" and noted that it was "innovative, intense writing at its incendiary best". 3 Am Magazine praised Ness, compared him to Philip Pullman, Robert Cormier and Paul Zindel, and called the series "too good for the Young Adult strapline." In review for the Daily Mail, Sally Morris called it a "suitably dramatic and powerful finale ... The ending is superbly well handled and Ness brings this original series to a close with the high-level tension and ambiguity he has maintained throughout." She recommended it for readers age 14 and up.
Beside winning the 2011 Carnegie Medal, Monsters of Men made the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist.
- "Monsters of Men". Walker Books. 3 May 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2012.. This presentation by the book publisher includes excerpts from book reviews.
- Chaos Walking series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 5 November 2012. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
- "Monsters of men" (first U.S. edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
- (Carnegie Winner 2011). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- "Press Desk: 'Chaos' Reigns, Patrick Ness Wins ...". Press release 23 June 2011. CILIP. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- "Patrick Ness: CILIP Carnegie Medal winner 2011". Press release 23 June 2011. CILIP. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Pauli, Michelle (23 June 2011). "Patrick Ness accepts Carnegie medal with fierce defence of libraries". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
- Patrick Ness (3 August 2009). "Diary: August 2009 Archives". Patrick Ness. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- "Children's Books" (reviews). Sally Morris. Mail Online. 21 May 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Monsters of Men in libraries (WorldCat catalog) —immediately, first US edition
- Patrick Ness at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
The Graveyard Book
|Carnegie Medal recipient
A Monster Calls