I’ve spent a good amount of time with Todd, Viola and the people of New World over the last month or so. I’m sad to see the end of the series (presumably…is Ness writing a fourth?), but I’m even sadder that I didn’t particularly enjoy this third installment — certainly not as much as the first two.
“A monster, I think, remembering what Ben told me once. War makes Monsters of Men.”
In the third novel, the book focuses mostly on war: the Spackle vs. the Mayor and his army vs. Mistress Coil and her people. We now have a third perspective joining Todd and Viola — a Spackle known as “The Return”, aka, Todd’s old enemy 1017. Everyone feels the pressure of the colony ship, which will land in a matter of weeks. Each group feels that this must all be resolved prior to the landing, or the new settlers will likely blow everyone to bits and move on. Todd and Viola try to force the Mayor and Mistress Coil to work together, in order to overcome the Spackle before the new ship lands. Of course, that creates the need to trust two very untrustworthy people.
Here’s what I didn’t like much about this one. First of all, the perspectives from 1017 — I had trouble getting into the head of this alien and his species. They reminded me of the Hive Queen and the drones from the Enderverse, with the Sky (their leader) playing the part of the Hive Queen, and the Return/1017 acting as a rogue drone. They all speak/think in one voice, and as 1017 basically lives his life hellbent on revenge while everyone else has their motivations funneled through the Sky — I don’t know, I just didn’t like it. Maybe that was partially due to the fact that I was simultaneously reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (review forthcoming), which contains some of the mostly richly imagined alien species I’ve ever read.
I also didn’t like what all occurs with the Mayor. He runs through so many choices and his motivations seems to constantly be changing. Ness seems hell-bent on providing redemption for each of his characters, and maybe it’s just my personal view, but I found the man damn un-redeemable. He kills hundreds of people, including his own son in cold blood, tortures hundreds of women, enslaves over a thousand Spackle and then murders them all. I know that lots of people helped him, but considering he had the ability to control peoples’ minds by the end of the series, it’s pretty easy to pin the blame on him. And I feel like Ness wants us to forgive him because in the end, he kills himself rather than allow Todd to dirty his soul by committing murder. Not enough for me.
Also, and I’m prepared to fight on this — I think it’s bullshit that Todd comes back to life, even a little bit. I was sad that he died but it wasn’t unexpected, and I think it cheapens things to allow him to come back through magical Spackle stuff.