Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Chaos Walking Book One by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Chaos Walking Book One by Patrick Ness, $27.99 Walker Books

Patrick Ness is a charming American, making quite a splash with his Chaos Walking books.  I had heard he was gay, but reassuringly he lets a gay sensibility exist in his work, not take it over.

"I've always said if you set out to write a 'gay' novel, you're setting out to write a mediocre novel. You need to set out to write a novel, and if it has gay stuff in it, fine. There are enough coming-out stories in the world - there really are."   says Ness.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the story of Todd, who lives in a strange town on an alien planet.  We meet Todd just before he officially becomes a man of 14.  All creatures here including Todd’s dog Manchee can talk with humans as everyone hears the noise of everyone else’s thoughts.  We later learn no one can hear the thoughts of women.  However in Prentisstown there are no women as all were killed in the native Spackle  war 13 years prior.  After the death of Todd’s mother he has been brought up by his neighbours Ben and Cillian.  So there’s our gay reference and positive role models. 

Todd is the last boy left.  On becoming a man the town will share its secrets with him.  Before this can happen however his Dad’s insist he run and never return.  During his flight to freedom he discovers a strange girl his age.  A joint adventure of terror and challenge begins.

Ness has developed a great story here.  The setting is other worldly.  He springs surprises deftly and keeps the story moving.  We see Todd make mistakes and grow.  He is a young man showing warmth and integrity.  Todd discovers there is more to the world than Prentisstown and the planet also discovers that his town is still there.  Tension builds as his former townspeople pursue him and start a war on everyone else.  This sense of fear is mixed with hope that goodness, embodied by Todd, can help overcome evil.

I recommend you give this book a go.  While it is published for the Young Adult market it appeals to a wider audience.  One small warning though, you will then want to read the two sequels Ask and the Answer out now and Monsters of Men  due in May 2010.

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