Power struggles, an alien race, and a boy and a girl trying to make peace for everyone.
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
No. of pages: 643
As a world-ending war surges to life around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions. The indigenous Spackle, thinking and acting as one, have mobilized to avenge their murdered people. Ruthless human leaders prepare to defend their factions at all costs, even as a convoy of new settlers approaches. And as the ceaseless Noise lays all thoughts bare, the projected will of the few threatens to overwhelm the desperate desire of the many. The consequences of each action, each word, are unspeakably vast: To follow a tyrant or a terrorist? To save the life of the one you love most or thousands of strangers? To believe in redemption or assume it is lost? Becoming adults amid the turmoil, Todd and Viola question all they have known, racing through horror and outrage toward a shocking finale.
‘Monsters of Men’ sees the stakes for both Todd and Viola raise to a global scale. Told in alternating perspectives between the love-stuck teens (and that of one of the Spackle) as they try to influence opposing factions to a peaceful resolution as a colony ship comes close to land… but land to what? A controlling faction ruling with fear and lies, or the utopia humanity has always dreamed of? But how can any of that be achieved when the settlers have enslaved the native alien species and committed genocide against the race and other human settlements. It makes it hard to organise the population when all the men’s thoughts are laid bare in the Noise, even if some of the men have mastered how to hide their Noise. ‘Monsters of Men’ brings the trilogy to an epic conclusion.
There are a lot of elements in this trilogy, and all of the themes mix and become an important distinction for our two protagonists in ‘Monsters of Men.’ Political control through fear, murder, terrorism, genocide is at the forefront. It mirrors the colonisation of Earth where we saw the murder and erasure of aboriginal peoples like in America, Australia, and New Zealand. The native residents of New World, the Spackle, are either killed off or enslaved, their culture ignored by the human settlers; prompting an additional war between groups of people.
We are also faced with the duplicitous nature of thought and action – how does that add up to honesty? And if our thoughts are not on display for all to read, is that dishonesty? We see how the faction of men have split, some accepting this new state of being, and others viewing it a women having something to hide. And women, alternatively, seeing the shameful thoughts of men on display. The whole culture of shame, guilt, and fear plays out in dividing the population. Some using if for power, some for religion, some for manipulation.
There is even more character development for Todd and Viola as they are forced to make decisions for the good of the colony, or should I say the planet New World at great risk and sacrifice. I think by this point in the story, even though events throughout the series have forced them to grow up quickly, they are still in their early teens, and I struggled a bit with their level of responsibility, their reactions and courage. They are meant to be 13-14 years of age… I mean it felt a little unrealistic. That aside, I did get carried away with the story and this small fact did not impact too heavily on my enjoyment of the trilogy.
It was great to see the Spackle represented, take a forefront sharing the narrative along with Todd and Viola after being in the background of the story for so long. We learn about their culture, their community dynamics, and connection to the land. With all the conflict though, I felt a full picture wasn’t able to get painted as we only see them through the eyes of one member as they lead a rebellion.
‘Monsters of Men’ is better than any of the previous novels, the pacing was a lot faster, though the story still felt far too long. But there is a lot to unpack in the 643 pages, still, it could have been edited down to make it more accessible to the YA demographic. I can see why the film adaptation of the debut novel of this series did not perform well in the box office, because there are so many elements packaged into this story it can be involved and busy – it doesn’t translate well for the big screen.
There were many plot twists that I did not see coming which overjoyed me to now end. I love surprises and stories taking unexpected turns. I’d definitely recommend this to all my reader friends, but I know some may be put off because of its length and complexity – as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of themes, layers, and subtext jammed into this story. It’s like comparing people who love playing games that are point and shoot to those who spend weeks or months on campaigns. You need to invest time to get the pay-off. And boy does this pay-off! All the little plot threads are tied off and leave the reader with a sense of completion and hope.
Overall feeling: Long, but a delicately detailed tale!
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