#1 in Chaos Walking YA sci-fi trilogy
"The noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.” The first of a trilogy, this sci-fi book takes you on a roller coaster ride as a boy-about-to-become-a-man tries to stay alive on a hostile planet.
The Knife of Never Letting Go (#1 Chaos Walking), Patrick Ness
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Published 2008, 512 pages
Told in first person by Todd, an almost 13 year old (almost a man!), as he's forced to leave the only place he's ever known by the two people he loves best. He's forced to run for his life from the townspeople who watched him grow up and now apparently don't want him to make age 13.
Todd's town is populated only by men. 145 men. Men who can't quiet or control their thoughts. Imagine living in a place where most every thought you have is heard by everyone, even at quite a distance. Imagine how a group of 145 men who can't hide their thoughts manage to live together. NOISE! My imaginings aren't very flattering.
"His face and his Noise are as blank as I remember but the lesson of forever and ever is that knowing a man's mind ain't knowing the man."
Oh, and the best part? You can hear the animals' NOISE too.....their thoughts, if you will. Most of them are VERY basic and simple yet still add to the overall noise in the air. But Todd's dog, Manchee, is absolutely delightful. Odd at first, then a reliable, slightly humorous, character. Loved Manchee!
As Todd is on the run from his small home town, he meets and saves a ...... girl (from a space craft no less!). He'd never seen one and thought all females were dead. Imagine his shock that she can hear his thoughts and he hears - silence; no thoughts! The girl (also about 13) joins him on his escape. Their developing friendship is one of the cornerstones of the story as they learn to trust and rely on each other.
The history of the town, the planet, and the girl is slowly revealed as Todd discovers that everything he knew to be true, isn't. And how does a 13 year old boy adapt to all that new information smacking him? How would I?
"War is a monster. War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows. And otherwise normal men become monsters, too."
A fast read, lots of action, a little gruesome in a couple of places but it is a YA novel so nothing too disturbing, a realistic depiction of a growing friendship coupled with more bad luck and disasters than any one person should be able to survive.
As I thought about how many terrifying close calls they survive, I found myself comparing it to a Jack Reacher (Lee Child novels) or Jack Ryan (Tom Clancy novels) book. They also go from calamity to worse calamity, always escaping by the skin of their teeth. So, it's obviously a handy plot tool, adding suspense and tension. There's a fine line about how many times a hero can survive deadly disasters......I didn't feel like this story went over the line (though it was close).
And can I just say - that cliffhanger! Now that's how a cliffhanger is done......it's like in the movies where a car goes flying off a cliff and the scene cuts - "to be continued". I'll be picking up the next in this trilogy.
*ED: My review for the other two in the trilogy can be found here.
Do you read YA sci-fi or fantasy? What else would you recommend in this genre?
photos by Terrie Purkey, rice fields in Bali, Shannon Falls, Whistler, BC, Canada