Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, Book #1)
Author: Patrick Ness
Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.
But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?
The first thing that struck me about The Knife of Never Letting go was the interesting writing style. Todd’s narration is written in the dialect used in Prentisstown, and since it is coming from his perspective and he cannot read or write, it makes sense that longer words would be spelt phonetically. This made me feel a lot closer to Todd and his story, which I really enjoyed. It also demonstrated how different his world is, and gave the narration personality. I also liked the rather artsy way that the Noise was portrayed – the text in different fonts, showing whether the thought was harsh and quick through a spidery, scrawled text, or whether it was calm and methodical in a very conservative font. It really made me understand how the noise worked, even if I did have to focus and read each thought, trying to gain some insight into who it was.
What really drew me into reading the book in the first place was its very unusual concept. Unusual is a good thing when reading, especially since a lot of books can sound the same, making them quite boring. Even so, once I thought I knew what was going to happen and had been lured into a false sense of knowing the world, a big surprise made me take a step back for a moment, and then read on vigorously for the next three hours. I’m not sure whether this is Ness’ storytelling or my complete lack of observation (it may be a bit of both), but either way I liked it a lot.
Throughout the novel there is a huge sense of foreboding, which at some points made me want to read on more, and at some points made me feel like I was going to go into cardiac arrest. I knew that bad things were going to happen, but the suspense was almost unbearable. The book is very powerful, and very violent. Not just in terms of plot, but in the way that the novel is unforgiving and completely ignorant of the reader’s feelings. In more than one instance, I felt uncomfortable reading violent scenes, but I knew this was Ness’ desired effect.
By the end of the book I was expecting a very large cliff hanger (which I got) and I’m sure this is some evil plot Patrick Ness conjured up to put his readers through the most pain. Nevertheless, I’m eager to read more and will seek out the rest of the trilogy, and the author’s other books, to devour and savour. As a footnote, however, Manchee will never be forgotten (and Ness, never forgiven).