Friday, 13 September 2013

Review - The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)

Goodreads description: 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?

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get round to reading this. Patrick Ness’s astonishing dystopian debut, the first in the Chaos Walking trilogy, establishes a unique voice in children’s fiction.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is narrated by Todd Hewitt, who is the last boy in Prentisstown, a settlement in which no one’s thoughts are private, but are constantly audible in an overwhelming Noise, one of the many side-effects of a war. All the women and half the men were killed, and the town is completely isolated. But when Todd and his dog. Manchee, unexpectedly stumble across something impossible – a gap in the Noise which is completely silent, he discovers that his town has many secrets, and it’s no longer safe for him to stay. But how can he avoid being caught if his enemies can hear his every thought?

Totally original and gripping, this book had me on tenterhooks. Despite the unconventional writing style – it’s written in the vernacular of the narrator – this is a fast-paced read that maintains a high level of suspense throughout. Todd is a sympathetic and engaging protagonist and his companion Manchee is a loyal sidekick. The other characters are well-drawn, and Patrick Ness does a great job of revealing his dystopian world. This series was published before The Hunger Games and dystopia became incredibly popular, but in any case it’s a very different kind of dystopian novel. Todd is largely ignorant of what’s happening outside the town, and much is withheld from him in order to ensure his safety – after all, anyone can hear his thoughts at any point. This proves a great technique for keeping the reader on their toes – and when the revelations come, they pack a real punch! As for the jaw-dropping cliffhanger ending…

This is a haunting, gripping dystopian debut, and I’ll definitely be reading more from this talented author.

Rating: *****

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