Patrick Ness – The Knife of Never Letting Go
26. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2008)
Chaos Walking, Book 1
Length: 480 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian sci-fi
Started: 13 February 2011
Finished: 16 February 2011
Where did it come from? Purchased from Bookcloseouts.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 17 November 2009. (Y’all! Why did you let me sit on this book for fifteen months?) (Actually, I know why: I was stalling because I didn’t want to get started on the series before they were all published. But still!)
Why do I have it? Oh, gosh, this is old enough that I don’t remember where I first heard of it (probably from tons of people), but I feel like blame most likely goes to Nymeth or Darren. Shall we say half a point each? Also a hat tip to Jenny for providing the kick in the ass I needed to finally pull it off the TBR shelf.
My head is noisy
enough without having my
whole town in there too.
Summary: For Todd Hewitt, and every other man in Prentisstown, there’s no such thing as being alone. One of the last strikes of the alien Spackle against the human settlers was a germ that killed all of the women, and made the men – and their animals – capable of broadcasting their thoughts, and incapable of shutting themselves off from the Noise of others. Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown, only one month from his thirteenth birthday and the ceremony that will turn him into a man. In the meantime, though, he’s been spending a lot of time in the swamp that borders Prentisstown, alone but for his talking dog Manchee. Then, one day, he comes across something he’d always thought was impossible, and that discovery sets off a chain of events that will cause Todd to have to flee for his life. But where else can he possibly go, and how can he get away when his pursuers can hear his every thought?
Review: I’m hardly the first person to say so, but: holy crap, this book was good. Really, shockingly, nail-bitingly, bedtime-ignoring-ly good. I was coming off a book that was the polar opposite of plot-driven, and I was looking for a read with a focus on telling a good story, something that would suck me in and keep me reading. And man alive, did The Knife of Never Letting Go deliver. It’s got twists and turns like nobody’s business, most of which caught me totally by surprise, and Ness does a good job of delivering action and suspense and mystery and excitement and emotion in equal measure. He even employs one of my usual literary pet peeves – where the narrator knows something (in this case by reading it in someone else’s Noise) that the reader doesn’t, and the author is deliberately coy about not providing the reader with crucial information in the name of building up suspense – and somehow manages to do it in a way that didn’t leave me totally frustrated and annoyed. Don’t ask me how; authorial magic and possibly voodoo, I suspect.
The excellent plot doesn’t mean that Ness skimps on his characters, however. Todd’s a sympathetic narrator, and watching him deal with the systematic stripping away of everything he had and everything thought he knew is quite fascinating. A lot of the coming-of-age elements of the story are admittedly kind of predictable, but Ness manages to frame them in such a way that they feel like something new. Yet again, Ness gets away with another of my literary pet peeves when it comes to his characters: heavily transcribing dialects and deliberately misspelling words to indicate the uneducated. That sort of thing has vast potential to be annoying, but Ness makes it work, and in Todd’s voice it just sounds authentic.
Also, while we’re on the subject of characters: Manchee is now an inductee into my Literary Canine Hall of Fame. He’s an awesome character, while still being completely believable as a normal dog, and he made me miss having a puppy of my own something fierce.
Really, the only issues I had with this book were 1) there was an awful lot of running, so it felt at times like a book-length non-stop chase scene; some of that could have been pared down, and 2) the one bad guy that just would not die, well beyond the bounds of what is medically believable or even physically possible. Other than that, however, this book was just all-around fan-fricking-tastic, and I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If by some chance I am not the last fan of YA dystopian fiction that hadn’t read this book, then I strongly encourage whoever’s left to stop delaying and pick this book up posthaste. You won’t regret it.
Other Reviews: I normally don’t do this, but seriously, everybody and their (presumably non-talking) dog has reviewed this book. If you want to see how many, check the Book Blog Search Engine results.
First Line: The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.
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