Note: No spoilers are contained in this review.
Monsters of Men is the third book of the Chaos Walking trilogy. “Chaos Walking” refers to the main idea of the series: on a colonized planet in the future, men have been transformed by a virus causing their thoughts to be heard by everyone else. They can even hear the primitive thoughts of animals. The result is constant noise; constant information overload. How it affects them is the crux of the story.
As one of the characters in Monsters of Men comments:
“War makes monsters of men, you once said to me, Todd. Well, so does too much knowledge. Too much knowledge of your fellow man, too much knowledge of his weakness his pathetic greed and vanity, and how laughably easy it is to control him.”
The books also tell a coming of age tale about Todd Hewitt, a boy who is not yet considered a man, and how he comes to understand manhood in a different way than any others; about Violet Eade, a survivor of a scouting ship for new colonists with whom Todd forges a relationship; and about the struggles for power in this chaotic, dystopian environment.
As many other reviewers have pointed out, it isn’t possible to summarize the plot without spoiling the first two books in this series, but the themes explored by the story can certainly be reviewed. Is killing ever justified? Should personal desires ever override what is best for the group? How can you attain strength in the face of injustice, or retain goodness in the face of evil? How can you prevent fear from guiding action? How do you cope with a world in which there is just too much information?
What we get from these books are no black-and-white answers to these questions. The series shows that the truth is complex; sometimes answers are clear, but mostly they are variations on the shade of gray.
Evaluation: I can tell you that any story in which you can sense the thoughts of animals is going to be high on my list, as well as any book that takes an in-depth look at the issues of information overload and the psychological basis for war.
I think my evaluation of the second book, The Ask & The Answer, is equally applicable here:
“The author takes what is basically a one-note idea and creates a dark fugue of complex characterization and surprising plot turns. There are such moments of deep tenderness and poignancy intermixed with visceral cruelty that it can take your breath away. This is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat book that repeatedly impresses you by the author’s skill for conjuring up the unexpected.
And not only that: we, the readers, have unexpected reactions. The characters whom we have learned to hate, we find we can love. The characters whom we have learned to love – they have learned to hate, and yet we cannot hate them for it.”
The first two books of the series each won a number of awards. The third is not a book that can stand alone without the previous two, but like many trilogies, you feel compelled to read the third if you have been involved with the others. I have to say that I, personally, was not as taken with the third book as the first two, but I’m pretty much alone in that. Most readers loved it as much as the others in the series. I join them though in feeling that there are definitely enough interesting possibilities to tack another related trilogy on to this one [making a hexad, in case you wondered].
Published by Walker Books Ltd., 2010