This novel has to get some kind of award for most engaging (slash bizarre) opening lines.
“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.
“Need a poo, Todd.”
“Poo. Poo, Todd.”
“I said shut it.”
The first book of the Chaos Walking Series, The Knife of Never Letting Go begins a unique and clever trilogy. It is set in the future on a new planet where some kind of reaction to the atmosphere has resulted in a phenomena commonly known as ‘noise’.
The basic premise is that the thoughts of living creatures can be at heard by everyone. I imagine a kind of noise cloud floating around each person or character. I love the way that the writer visually represents this noise as a different font type, quite jagged and varying in size. The result is a visually stimulating read through the pages of this book. If you read the next books (which are a must, the end is a full on cliffhanger) you are introduced to the points of view of further characters land each gets their own font to represent their noise or speech. It’s absolute cleverness. The plot is a full on, action packed whirlwind. There is intrigue and plots, power struggles and escapes.
The main character is Todd, who is on the verge of ‘becoming a man’. He also happens to be the last ‘boy’. This bothers Todd. What does it mean to be a man? How will he become one? Will he fail? Todd and Manchee, his trusty companion, have to flee for their lives after discovering something hidden. Something that is the opposite of noise. Something that is silence.
Todd’s discovery puts his life in danger and completely blows out the window his preconceived ideas on how life is on this new planet. While Todd runs for his life, we slowly put together a picture of what happened when people settled on this new planet, the atrocities which were committed and the way human nature ran its course to lead to the society he lives in. We question, as Todd begins to question, the complete absence of women in this new world. Right throughout the series there are fascinating comparisons to be drawn between European colonization practices and the colonization of this new planet by humans. Chaos Walking also explores the function of women in society, the importance of literacy and freedom of information, and issues surrounding power, human corruption and what it means to be a man.
I think these issues and questions are thought provoking for both adults and teenage readers. It also makes the book great to write about if you’re an English student. Because the main character is a boy and violence is a thoroughly explored theme I think it definitely appeals to guys. However, there is also something (or someone?) for girls to connect with…. The story is character driven so if you’re put off by the other-planet-ness of it all, don’t worry it’s not really a sci-fi or a fantasy. In a way it’s more of a dystopia because the humans have at some point come from earth to escape some kind of futuristic chaos. You will love Todd, and love Manchee, and love this novel. It will take you on an adventure. You will laugh. You might even cry.
I raved about the awesomeness of The Knife of Never Letting Go for a long time after I read it, and here I am again. One of students even got me Patrick Ness’ signature at the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival 2013 because she knew how much I loved his books! I am constantly suggesting it to people to read and would really recommend to anyone and everyone. The series is utterly fantastic (and I think it does need to be considered as a whole unit, don’t just read the first one!). The message of all three Chaos Walking novels together is very powerful.
It’s totally worth your while to read and is hands down one of my favourite young adult series.
The rights for the movie have been bought by Lions Gate Entertainment and Charlie Kaufman will be writing the screenplay. It’s one to watch, I am very curious about how the concept of noise will translate to screen.
My rating: 4/5
Want to read? Buy it here.