The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. It was released in the UK on 22nd October 2008 and it is 496 pages long. Thanks to Walker Books UK for sending me a copy for review.
In Prentisstown, New World, there are no women, only men…and one boy. Todd Hewitt is the last boy alive and it is only one month until his thirteenth birthday and the day that he finally becomes a man. Todd has never even seen a real woman in the flesh, only in videos, because when the citizens of Prentisstown settled on the New World, they didn’t know that there was a terrible disease waiting for them. The disease of Noise. The Noise is a disease that enables all men to hear each others’ thoughts but ended up killing all of the women, including Todd’s mother.
As Prentisstown is full of men, they can all hear each others’ thoughts and there are no secrets. Not anymore. Todd can even hear the animals talk and converse with his dog, Manchee. After being sent to the swamp, Todd somehow comes across a spot where there is no Noise at all. Peace and quiet. When he returns home, he knows something is terribly wrong when Ben (one of the guys he lives with) tells him that the time has come for him to run. Todd doesn’t know why he has to run but does what he is told.
Running back through the swamp, Todd runs into what he thinks is a Spackle, the original 'people' on New World but it doesn’t take him long to realise that it is actually a real girl. Todd knows that everything he has ever known isn’t true but he doesn’t have time to think about that because the people of Prentisstown are after him. He and the girl whose thoughts he can’t hear are going to have to make a run for it, into the unknown, if Todd is ever going to realise what is really happening.
What I thought
I have to be completely honest and say that I thought that I was going to totally hate this book. It isn’t really the kind of book that I would normally read but after being surprised by so many other books that I wouldn’t usually pick, I was determined to give it a good go. When I started reading it, I couldn’t get into it at all but I was adamant that I was going to give it a fair shot so I ploughed on. Am I ever glad that I did?! The Knife of Never Letting Go ended up being one of the most interesting, gripping and exciting books that I have ever read.
The reason why I found it hard to get into to begin with was the language used. Todd is someone who has never been taught to read and write properly so as the book is told in first person, from his point of view, he text appears exactly as he thinks e.g ‘cuz’ and ‘tho’. As the story went on though, I didn’t find this nearly as distracting as I did to begin with and I totally changed my mind about the language used. Going on this journey with Todd only made me like the language used more as it gave him more depth and I could understand the things that he had missed out on being taught. When Todd meets Viola (the girl), his language becomes even more noticeable. As soon as she begins to speak, the difference between the two is extremely clear because she speaks very politely and properly, unlike him.
Todd and Viola’s companionship is really what drives both the characters and the story. If they hadn’t have had each other to cling on to, I doubt either would have carried on. Being utterly alone in such a strange place and in their situation must have been terrifying for them both so I can see why they clung to each other as much as they could. Having someone else on their minds gave them both something to live for and something to fight for. I loved seeing their relationship develop and how they overcame so much on their journey together.
Even though I loved both Todd and Viola, I have to say that I loved Manchee maybe just a little bit more. In a story so full of excitement and action, a talking dog was exactly what it needed to give it a bit of light heartedness. His dialogue was really funny because it was really strange to think of how a dog would talk and what they would say if they could. Some of the things that Manchee came out with were completely obvious but it didn’t take anything away from the humour of it. Manchee wouldn’t have been a strange companion for Todd in any other story but in this one, Todd didn’t even like his dog because he never really wanted him. I really loved to see their friendship develop as Todd realised how much Manchee really meant to him when things began to get tough.
The basic idea behind the plot was something that really got me thinking. What would it be like if everyone around you could hear everything you were thinking? Would nothing you ever thought be a secret? And, how would I cope? As soon as I realised that I wanted answers to these questions, it made me wonder how Todd was ever going to escape. If the whole town could hear his thoughts, how was he going to get away without letting them know where he was heading?
When Todd and Viola’s adventure really began, my heart never stopped pounding until the very end and even then, it carried on pounding for a little bit longer. There is never a page that goes by where something exciting or intense happens and I couldn’t help but to carry on reading. Although I was at work when I started reading this book, I picked it up on every single break I got just because I couldn’t bare to leave it alone any longer. I couldn’t sit still while I was reading because I was so nervous about what would happen and worried about what Todd and Viola were going to encounter next. The world that Patrick Ness invented was one that is truly addictive and although I wouldn’t have wanted to be a part of it, I did want to know everything about it.
The main reason behind Todd having to run away is answered throughout the book but there is so much that wasn’t. I didn’t think this was a bad thing at all though because it makes me realise how much more is going to be revealed in the other two books in the trilogy. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes that I wouldn’t have imagined and these things help to build a complete vision for New World. I wasn’t ready for how the book ended at all and due to the amount of shock involved, I ordered book two, The Ask and The Answer the very next day. The Knife of Never Letting Go is wild, passionate, tense and exciting. A must read!