Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The narrator of The Knife of Never Letting Go, Book One of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series, is Todd Hewitt, the last boy in Prentisstown.  There are men in Prentisstown, and very young men - just barely more than boys - but Todd is the last child.  Oh, and there are no women or girls at all.  The town was ravaged by a virus, the Noise, that made every male's thoughts audible to those around him.  There is no secrecy, no privacy.  Everyone can hear what everyone else is thinking.  The cacophony has driven some men mad but worse, it has killed all the women.  Only men are left in Prentisstown - and the animals, which can talk/broadcast their thoughts too.

One day, about a month before Todd is to become a man at age thirteen, he and his dog Manchee go out into the woods surrounding the town to fetch some apples.  Even in the forest there is no quiet as the squirrels and birds and other assorted critters contribute to the Noise.  But then, out there, Todd finds a spot of true silence: it's coming from a girl, alive, about Todd's age, and cowering in the bushes.  Things happen very quickly after that as Todd realizes that the town is hiding a terrible secret.  Todd, Manchee and the girl Viola must run from the men of Prentisstown, out into a world that none of them knows.

I realize I'm being particularly vague here, with little to no plot outline.  But I don't want to spoil The Knife of Never Letting Go and to tell much more would reveal too much.  This YA fantasy novel, with touches of science fiction, is pretty good and I have a feeling that it's going to get better as the series progresses.  It is heart-wrenching, funny, tender and violent.  The book is written very much in Todd's voice, complete with misspellings and mispronunciations (which is a little distracting sometimes), which conveys the urgency of his and Viola's situation.  The dog Manchee provides much of the needed humor; the start of the book is great:

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."  "Shut up, Manchee."  "Poo.  Poo, Todd."  "I said shut it."
Awesome - and giving a pretty clear picture of Todd and Manchee right from the git-go.

TKoNLG ends on a big cliffhanger, clearly intending to continue in successive books.  I'm looking forward to picking up the next one.

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