An intriguing and gripping, if overlong, series opener. 4/5 stars.
Imagine a world where all thoughts were audible. What consequences would that have for the individual and society?
This is the intriguing premise underlying The Knife of Never Letting Go, an original and sometimes gripping series opener from Patrick Ness.
I found the hero, Todd Hewitt, a very convincing 13/14 year old (depending on whether you count his age in Earth years or New World years) and someone the reader can truly root for. I particularly enjoyed his developing relationship with Viola.
[SPOILER ALERT] If you’re a dog-lover, prepare to have your heart broken. Todd’s rather daft, but loyal companion, Manchee, is wonderful (more points to Patrick Ness for depicting the thoughts of a dog so convincingly!) and what happens to him is rather upsetting.
The world building is also convincing, although I think the fact that this story is set on another planet is incidental – at heart this is a story about the many difficulties and harsh realities of growing up.
It is also a tale of survival against the odds and, viewing the book in this way – as a series of near misses and escapes – it is far too long. At nearly 500 pages, it becomes exhausting in places. Reader fatigue isn’t helped by the style at points. For example:
Pages written with
Only a couple
Could it get
Aaron, the main bogeyman, is possibly the most persistent fictional hunter since Javert in Les Mis. I could have done with one or two fewer encounters with him.
And after such a tiring read, don’t expect to be rewarded by a satisfactory conclusion. The series opener ends on a tremendous downer and cliff-hanger. You have been warned!
Having said all that, I don’t want to give the impression I didn’t like this book, because I did. Although a YA novel, it is in no way patronising and doesn’t shy away from dark and difficult issues. It also asks some interesting questions, including: what makes a boy a man? And, what makes a man a monster?
I’ll be buying the next book in the series as soon as time and money allow 🙂
In other news, as if he needed to do anything else to cement his credentials as a thoroughly nice guy, Patrick Ness has been spearheading a remarkable fundraising initiative for the Syrian refugee crisis, rally support from YA authors and fans all over the world. As of Sunday afternoon, Philip Pullman’s pledge had taken them up to half a million pounds. Click here to find out more and donate if you like.
And for those of you who want to know more about the plot, here’s…
The blurb: Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.
But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?