My senior year in college, I took a Fantasty Lit class, in which we studied classic children’s fantasy novels from a smarty-pants lit perspective. We read 3 or 4 Harry Potters, 3 Narnia books and a couple from the Wizard of Oz series. I loved that class — I loved diving into these books that I’d read so many times before, and discovering how much they taught children about the world, and all the meaning hidden within them. I really hope that professor still teaches that class, and I hope that she’s heard of the Chaos Walking series, because it would be absolutely perfect for that sort of curriculum. There’s just so…much…in it.
“If you ever see a war,” she says, not looking up from her clipboard, “you’ll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors.”
Todd & Viola have finally made it to Haven, only to discover that Mayor Prentiss (now calling himself President) has taken it over without his army even arriving yet — the former Mayor surrendered the town without a fight in attempt to keep his population safe. Viola, who was shot right at the end of the first book, gets whisked away to healers while Todd agrees to do anything that the Mayor asks, in order to ensure her safety. They end up spending most of the novel apart, which allows up a new viewpoint — Viola narrates about half of the story. They quickly learn how things go in New Prentisstown, as the Mayor has renamed Haven. Todd and the Mayor’s son Davy get sent to deal with a population of Spackle that have been enslaved by the army. Viola ends up with a group of healers (all women) who have quietly begun a rebellion against the Mayor’s many rules and restrictions. Throughout it all, the people of the town know that new settlers will be arriving in a matter of weeks.
The parallels to World War II cannot be missed. The way the Mayor isolates the women and Spackle, turning the men against them in different ways. He forces Todd and Davy to brand the Spackle with numbers, and monitor their work in a slave camp, filled with Spackle families. The Mayor separates the men and women, enforces curfews and rationing. The Mayor uses his powerful Noise to hold rallies and meetings in which he slanders the women and riles up the men. Meanwhile, his army rules the town however the hell they want — including torturing women for information. Todd learns a lesson about appeasement — both by observing the former Mayor’s actions, and through his own actions — which he justifies to himself because he believes it will keep Viola safe. It’s a very well-written book — written in language that anyone can understand — that addresses some serious moral issues. And the plot grabs you and won’t let go — I finished this one and immediately started the third.