Review ‘Chaos Walking’ Book One “The Knife of Never Letting Go”

by on October 20, 2011

in book reviews, Entertainment

CHAOS WALKING book one - The Knife of Never Letting GoThis is a book review of Chaos Walking book one of three, titled “The Knife of Never Letting Go.” It’s a young adult series written by author Patrick Ness.

The Knife of Never Letting Go” takes place on a strange world called New World. They have a slightly strange dialect and we follow Todd Hewitt, who we find will repeat phrases to himself to keep sane or calm sometimes.

But for good reason, because the planet where Todd lives, all of men’s thoughts radiate out of their heads for all to hear. In “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” all the free floating thoughts in the world are referred to as The Noise. In addition, the affliction that caused this also seems to have caused animals to have the ability to speak in rudimentary phrases.

Todd has grown up in a town where he was told that the women died because of a germ that was unleashed on them all by the native population and he is the last young man in the town of Prentisstown who is technically, about to hit the age that he becomes a man.

It’s also important to know that his family had given him Manchee, a dog he seems to hate. For some reason he never took to Manchee and has an unwarranted disdain for his dog.

<The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking) on Amazon>

Todd was raised by guardians Ben and Cillian, the only parents he’s ever really known. That and there’s something Ben and Cillian never did, and that’s tell Todd about the history of Prentisstown. Something that Todd figures out as the story unfolds.

Though becoming a man is a much heralded event, a few things happen that set Todd on a course he never saw coming. One he wasn’t prepared for. One that averts Todd from his destiny of becoming a man.

One day while out walking and hearing everyone’s thoughts from each building and person he walks by, he encounters an odd bubble of silence. A strange gap in the noise. But as he tries to get near it, it seems to move away from him.

Todd later discovers that the bubble of silence turns out to be a girl. A young girl named Viola. Finding her sets things in motion that Ben and Cillian had arranged eleven years prior, apparently waiting for this moment. They already had a rucksack prepared for Todd and force him to run from the town, following a map they had prepared for him.

Todd, Viola and Manchee are a curious traveling team, but their travels are laced with danger as the men of Prentisstown, led by Mayor Prentiss, figure out Todd is on the run. Ben and Cillian try to cover Todd’s escape and stage a standoff at the house. The hope is that the ruckus of the gun battle will drown out the Noise of Todd’s escape as well as buy him time.

And the game is afoot!

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The writing style of “The Knife of Never Letting Go” uses as odd and funny as the title, being a sort of English that reflects the speech patterns of the locals as well as Todd’s near illiterate state. It strongly reminds me of the language style we hear in Joss Whedon‘s Firefly universe.

That style made it very hard to get past the first few chapters of the book as it was a bit confounding to adapt to how the world was presented.

But then there’s The Noise, a unique and frightening perspective if you dwell on the idea of everyone knowing what you are thinking. It is a great tool used by the author to add an element of non-surprise. There’s no sneaking around anywhere as long as you have noise coming out of your head. And if you don’t have noise coming out of your head, like Viola, then it’s an obvious void of noise that also stands out. (Of note, though women don’t have noise, they can read the noise too.)

Todd’s relationship with Viola starts out rather rough and grows over time via several events that force them to acknowledge they need each other.

Todd’s relationship with Manchee, whose limited language, is pretty much about “poo,” “food,” and “Todd?” is, from Todd’s perspective, tolerant. This is a relationship between a boy and his dog, starting out strained at best but again, as they learn to depend on each other, it grows out of a wonderful understanding of man and his best friend, literally. This relationship between boy and dog, elicited some of the strongest emotional responses from me while reading the book.

Then there’s Todd… who always does the right thing, by him, all the while, worrying about if he’s done the right thing or not. But also doing the right thing seems to get him beat up repeatedly.

One of his adversaries continues to beat on him at every turn of the road, and though Todd has chances to rid himself of this frenzied nutcase, he can’t seem to sink the knife in him. Instead, he leaves him injured, tied up, or what not. Yet this nemesis of Todd’s, Aaron, just keeps coming and coming.

But Aaron isn’t the only issue. He’s just one piece of the problem, since the Mayor had put together an army and is pursuing Todd for all he’s worth.

In other words, there is no rest for Todd, Viola or Manchee.

It’s obvious that the settlers that came to this planet, seemed to be Christian pilgrims, as there’s continual references towards that framework. Despite having come to New World in ships, the first thing done with the ships is dismantle them to create living quarters, buildings and such.

They came, looking for the simpler life, as Todd was told. And in so doing, well, that outlook itself created challenges for the characters in the story.

What I found fascinating by the first chapter of the Walking Chaos books, “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” was that the style of writing that was representing the characters didn’t agree with me, yet, I found myself continuing to read the story to see what would happen.

I guess that means I liked it. The only other aspect I’d give the book is that the ending of this first book/chapter goes against the grain of what I like or don’t like about multi-part book stories… It ends in such a way that it’s as if there’s another chapter behind the last sentence of the last chapter, and there’s not. You need the next book to continue the story.

I’d rather not have first books of a series end on cliff-hangers, but there you have it. And I did snag the second chapter and am moving on with the story. I guess that means something! Right?

Extra Tidbits, in case you didn’t know:

If you’re a fan of the Chaos Walking book series, you may have heard by now that much like The Hunger Games, Lionsgate studios have bought the rights to the book series with the intent of making it another motion picture, much like they’ve done with The Hunger Games. Right now, preliminary information indicates that it will come out in 2014, but it’s way too early to bank on that.

Also, in case you missed it, there’s a free kindle book out there making this trilogy a four-part series. It’s called The New World (FREE short story) (on Amazon), and is a prequel of sorts, detailing Viola’s journey to New World before she meets Todd. I hear it’s pretty good and I think I’m going to stop reading part 2 of Chaos Walking, “The Ask and the Answer,” and hit this up first.

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