Saturday, December 13, 2008

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go


The Knife of Never Letting Go
Chaos Walking: Book One
by Patrick Ness

Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown, a town of men and boys. There are no women in Prentisstown, because they all died, along with many of the men, from a virus released as a biological agent in the war between the colonists and the natives of the New World, known to the colonists as "Spacks." The same virus made it so that all the surviving men can hear each others thoughts, a constant barrage that they call Noise. Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown; all the others have become men, and with no women, there will be no more children. In one month, Todd will officially be a man as well.

But then Todd finds something unexpected in the swamp; something that will turn his world upside down. Everything he knows, or thinks he knows, is wrong, and soon Todd is on the run, pursued by the Prentisstown authorities. The world is far different than what he was led to believe, but is there anyplace in it where he can be safe?

I'm still trying to decide if I loved this book or hated it. First, you need to know that Bad Things Happen in this book. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it does provide a fair bit of dramatic tension. But if you are a person who doesn't like sad books, you may not want to read this one.

Overall, I loved the book. It's well-written, engaging, exciting, and the characters are very well developed. Even Todd's dog Manchee turns out to be quite an interesting character, in spite of Todd's assertion on the first page that "...dogs don't got nothing much to say."

I love the way Ness shows the Noise, as a mess of overlapping words of different sizes and shapes. It really conveys what it must be like to hear every thought that bounces through everyone's mind. I also loved the idea that in spite of hearing every thought, deception and outright lies are not only possible, they're common. Noise lies. The thoughts that go through our heads aren't always true, and with so much noise, it's easy to hide things in the commotion.

I read this book pretty much straight through without stopping. I kept wanting to slow down so that I could better appreciate the excellent writing, but the story was so exciting that it drove me along at a fast pace. I told myself that I'd go back and reread it when I finished, to savor the writing. But - when I finished the book I was so angry that I didn't feel like going back to reread it anymore.

I don't want to say too much, because I don't want to spoil the book for you. But I can't fully express my opinion without saying something about the ending. I'm not going to say very much, but if you don't want to know anything, you should stop reading now.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, which isn't uncommon for the first book in a series. But what made me angry is that what happens right before the end, and the way things seem to be headed, negates the whole theme of the book. Hope is such a strong theme throughout the book; even when you have no reason to hope, you have to go on because of hope. But, the way things seem in the end, it appears that all that hope was wasted. There is no reason to hope after all. It made the book pretty much of a downer. Laini Taylor called it a "punch in the stomach," and I think that's a good description.

I've decided to reserve judgment until the second book. Maybe things will turn out differently than they appear at the end. Maybe there is hope after all. But for right now, if you don't like reading books that leave you feeling a little down, you might want to wait on this one until book 2 comes out.
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