Every now and then a book comes along that is so amazing we just have to push it on other people to read. This is what happened to me a few years ago when my Book Pimp handed me The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. “It’s sooo good,” she says, “I was bawling at the end…it’s won lots of awards…you have to read it…” I’ve learned to trust my Book Pimp, so I accepted. She had also said that this book had one of the best few opening lines of all time. After perusing the first pages, I was inclined to agree:
The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.
“Need a poo, Todd.”
Needless to say, I read the first book in Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy. I sat up late at night to finish it, my heart racing, my eyes blurring with unshed tears. “Damn you, Book Pimp,” were likely the final words I muttered as I closed the cover and restlessly attempted to go to sleep.
The Knife of Never Letting Go sets the stage for an epic trilogy starring two young kids thrown into the middle of a brewing civil war in a dystopic settlement planet. Planet, you say? Yes, planet. This series is something of a cross between science fiction, comedy, and fantasy. Todd Hewitt is the only boy left in Prentisstown, the small male-only community. He’s on the cusp of his 13th birthday, the day he will officially become a man. Todd doesn’t think it’s odd there are only men in his town – he’s been told that all the womenfolk died after the native inhabitants released a “germ”, wiping out all the women, and infecting the men with Noise. What is Noise you ask? “The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.” All the men in Prentisstown can hear and see each others’ thoughts. There are no secrets, no surprises. Everyone knows what everyone else is thinking, including the animals (who also have Noise).
Todd’s world is shattered when he discovers a girl in the wilderness (A GIRL!), a girl who doesn’t have Noise. From here, Todd discovers that all is not what is appears to be, and he sets out to discover the truth of his world with the aide of his dog, Manchee and his new off-world friend, Viola.
What is so amazing about this series is how unbelievably gritty and unbridled it is. Todd and Viola face insurmountable odds together, and are forced to make decisions that the adults around them have epically failed to handle. In fact, the adults have epically EFFED them. The world as Todd knew before Viola was incredibly twisted and distorted, and now it’s up to Todd to make it right.
The Chaos Walking trilogy is an emotional rollercoaster. The Noise dialogue is often times funny yet poignant. We form attachments to characters that more often then not are effected in heart wrenching ways by the actions of the antagonists. It took me a few years to be able to read this series because of the emotional investment. The Knife of Never Letting Go is my favorite, though the hardest to read. I don’t hesitate to recommend it to people, though I myself will likely never be able to read it again. It’s too painful. The good news, however, is that the series does have a resolution, one that readers will find fulfilling and satisfying. It’s near perfect, considering the crazy-train we readers had to take to get to this point.
If you haven’t heard of Patrick Ness or his Chaos Walking series, I’d highly recommend checking it out. It’s a YA series featuring three books: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and The Answer, and Monsters of Men. There is also a short story prequel available as an e-book called The New World. Ness also has a new book coming out here in the US in the fall entitled A Monster Calls which was, expectedly, also a rollercoaster of emotions and a wonderfully meaningful read.