I don’t know about you, but there are some days that I really don’t want to listen to people talk. In a world where everyone is communicating (be it by mouth, phone, or social media), but where few are saying anything worthwhile, sometimes I just need a little bit of quiet. Many days I don’t want to hear the constant stream of nonsense that issues forth from people’s mouths. And I most certainly wouldn’t want to be able to hear whatever nonsense is rolling around inside people’s heads.
But that’s exactly what I’d have to deal with if I lived in New World, a dystopian planet displayed by Patrick Ness in his Chaos Walking series.
Todd Hewitt is just a month away from turning thirteen, the age where boys become men in Prentisstown. Prentisstown is not the kind of place that one wants to grow up in. The inhabitants are infected by an alien germ, a germ that has made the thoughts of every man hearable in a loud, never-ending Noise. And in a dirty town where all women have been killed off by the germ, Noise is a very nasty, vicious thing, filled with anger and depression and brutality.
When Todd and his dog, Manchee, stumble across a girl who has no Noise, their lives are thrown into disorder. Todd finds that a shocking secret has been hidden from him, a secret so horrible that he must run for his life to escape from its grips.
But with a half-crazed preacher and the entire town on their heels, Todd, Manchee, and the girl may not escape. How can one hide when your thoughts can be heard by the entire world? Because without quiet, with peace replaced by terrible Noise, everyone, Todd included, is just chaos walking.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is something entirely new. Narrated from Todd’s illiterate, gruff point of view, the writing style was completely alien to me. It’s a kind of unreliable narration, not because Todd is unreliable, but because the information he has been fed since he was a child are all lies.
Also, given the fact that Todd can’t really read or write, many of the sentences are long and without commas and just run on and on and on with misspelled words and a voice full of frustrayshun as Todd tries to understand what is truth and what is lies, which leads to a rather genius flow of narration that I’ve never seen before and that will probably never become popular because it can be a little bit exhausting to read because you never stop for breaks and it just goes on, faster and faster and more intense until finally comes a period.
I was two pages into this book when I decided that I hated it. Then, one page later, I realized that it was brillian. Then, a while afterwards, I wanted to throw the book across the room, cuss at it, then pick it up and start reading again. Yeah. It’s one of those books.
However, after finishing the book, I can safely say that I thought it was an amazing, strong story that I can recommend to any of you who don’t mind gritty narratives that rip your heart to pieces.
Why does it rip your heart to pieces? Well, for starters, there’s a dog as a character. And I think we all know how that ends. And, despite the fact that we all know how it ends, none of us are going to be able to resist Manchee. Not even Todd, who first despises Manchee, then comes around to lovingly calling him his “good effing dog.”
Secondly, this novel revolves around Todd, his knife, and his struggle to come to terms with what exactly it means to become a man. Does it mean being able to look into somebody’s eyes and take their life in order to save yourself and your friends? Or does it mean having the strength to resist the anger inside, no matter how righteous, and spare your enemy’s life? Todd doesn’t know. His constant fight to keep from falling like the others from his town is a heartrending story to watch unfold.
Todd’s relationship with the girl, Viola, was handled amazingly well. It’s a common complaint of mine that most authors seem to think that a strong male and strong female character can’t exist in the same book. Patrick Ness is not one of these authors. Not only was Viola a strong, likeable character, but her friendship with Todd made both of them better than they ever could have been by themselves.
The suspense and plot twists in The Knife of Never Letting Go was also very well-executed. The main antagonist, a half-crazed preacher called Aaron, was a horrifying, almost demonic force that is exactly the kind of bad guy that we need more of: He had a motive, he was convinced he was in the right, and he was just plain scary. The other antagonists (Mayor Prentiss and his followers) were rather flat and didn’t make very much sense. However, given the fact that they were meant to create a vague sense of dread looming over Todd and Viola, it was rather fitting that they didn’t have many distinguishing characteristics. So I won’t be too hard on Ness for that one.
I will, however, mention that I’m pretty annoyed with the cliffhanger ending. I can’t explain it to you because of spoilers, but it was a bit abrupt, left everything unresolved, and made me feel slightly cheated. Oh well. Maybe ending it like that is crucial to the beginning of the second book? Maybe. I’ll let you know when I read the second one.
That being said, can we talk about how Ness incorporated the folk song “Early One Morning” into this book? Because that was brilliant. Brilliant, I tell you! It gave an entirely new dimension to both the book and the song. Bravo, Patrick Ness. Bravo.
Sometimes I read a book and think, “This would make a really, really good movie.” When I think this, there is usually very little chance that it will actually happen, since Hollywood doesn’t seem to like the same books that I do.
Fortunately, Lionsgate got the memo on this one. They own the rights to the Chaos Walking movie series. While they currently don’t have a release date or cast, we have a little bit of information as to who will be behind the creation of this movie series. It seems that Doug Davison will be the producer (he’s who we have to thank for the best animated movie on the planet: How to Train Your Dragon) and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Cast Away) will be the director. I think The Knife of Never Letting Go will have a chance at a good movie adaptation with those two at the helm, don’t you?
If you like exploring new writing styles, strong characters, and gritty-but-brilliant storylines, then Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go is for you. If you’ve never read it, you should definitely check it out. If you have read it, then leave me a comment below and tell me your thoughts!
Hannah Heath – bookworm and aspiring author
Author of the YA Christian dystopian "Skies of Dripping Gold," I'm a voracious bookworm and avid writer. I wince every time I hear the phrase "I don't like to read" and often wish someone would invent candles that smell like hardcovers. When I'm not being nerdy or fighting Lyme disease, I'm off seeking representation for my YA Christian Fantasy novel, The Stump of the Terebinth Tree. My writing tips blog full of sarcasm and geekiness can be found here: http://hannahheath-writer.blogspot.com