03 August 2010

SADDEST. ROADTRIP. EVER. or The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

This book. Oh, God, this book.

I wasn't sure I was ever going to be able to write about it, but then Dystopian August started over at Presenting Lenore, and I thought, "What dystopian books have I read recently that I can post about?" And this book (this book!) popped into my head, and I said, "No, because just thinking about it makes me cry." And then I couldn't stop thinking about it. And I was like, "I'll write the review, and then I can put it away again because I will cry if I think about it."

So. Brain, this one's for you.

As The Knife of Never Letting Go begins, Todd Hewitt lives with his guardians, Ben and Cillian, and he has grown up believing that his home, Prentisstown, is the only remaining town on a new planet that was settled and then decimated in a war between the colonizing humans and the native Spackles. This war, he knows, also led the Spackles to release a virus that killed all the women and made it so that all men can hear each others' thoughts, creating an ever-present Noise. Even animals' thoughts are a part of the Noise, and some animals can talk, like Todd's dog, Manchee.

But as Todd approaches his thirteenth birthday -- the age at which every boy in Prentisstown becomes a man -- he and Manchee discover a pocket of silence in the swamp near town, and Ben and Cillian, increasingly wary of Mayor Prentiss and his designs on Todd, force Todd and Manchee to flee Prentisstown and the terrible fate that awaits him there. Pursued by the Mayor and his growing militia, Todd discovers that the world is nothing like what he has been taught and that he must make difficult (and often heartbreaking) choices to avoid becoming a pawn of the Mayor's twisted plans.

Ness's writing style is amazing; the story is written from Todd's point of view, and it's very easy to get so caught up in the rhythms of Todd's narrative that time just bleeds away, and suddenly it's midnight and you've read two hundred pages. Todd's journey is full of suspense, but so, too, is his (and the reader's) gradual understanding of Prentisstown, its history, and its place in New World. Too, the story is gripping and terrifying; this is not a book that's easy to break away from or to forget about once it's done.

And I'm just going to say it: Manchee is the best dog character in the history of literature.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the most powerful, most original, and most upsetting books I've read in a long time (and I powered through Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott in one afternoon at Barnes and Noble). I may have misled you from my intro above, but Knife is a damn good book. Maybe one of the best I've read this year. But it's difficult, too, because the world that Ness has built is a gritty, often misogynistic world that offers hope for redemption but at a terrible price.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first in the Chaos Walking trilogy. The second book, The Ask and the Answer, was published in 2009. The third book, Monsters of Men, is scheduled for release in September 2010.


Jana said...

This is one of my favorite books. I just finished Monsters of Men & loved the series. But, like you I felt it was just so darn emotional! I cannot imagine ever re-reading these books no matter how much I love them!

Lenore said...

I loved this too! And it is so hard to think about...especially since my little cat died.

I will be reviewing Monsters of Men this month. Truly a masterful series.

Thanks for joining in and linking your review!