Numbers 2: The Chaos
Frome, Chicken House, 2010, 345p
Rachel Ward has become more confident in Numbers 2. The plot feels like it is well formulated, better planned. In the same way that the Chamber of Secrets is the best Harry Potter book, I feel that writing a second novel gives an author a certain level of pizzazz.
The character development is stronger here. Perhaps this is because Ward has chosen to write from the point of view of both of her main characters, Sarah and Adam, alternating chapters between them. In the first of the Numbers trilogy, we only hear Jem's narrative, meaning we do not really know what happens to Spider when the two are separated. In The Chaos, we learn so much more.
Furthermore, the first book seemed far too spiritual for my liking - Jem spent a lot of the plot hauled up in Bath Cathederal, whereas in the second novel, Adam faces the apocalypse. The reader must suspend their disbelief, but Ward is less caught up with philosophising about the existence of God - a theme which I felt damaged the first novel.
The importance of destiny is an important subject that runs through both these novels. Is one's destiny determined, or can it be changed? In the first novel, Ward did not explain this concept very well. In The Chaos, the forboding apocalypse means that Adam is forced to act, to try to change the Numbers, to try and save lives.
Ward's alternative future is terrifyingly realistic, almost within reach of the present. People are tagged and must carry an ID. Freedom of speech is repressed, and terrorism is the greatest concern. It's an over-exaggerated version of reality, and yet it seems very possible.
It is very rare that a sequel is better than the original. I can only hope that Rachel Ward continues this winning streak!