“Maybe our story will turn out differently if we take the left fork, maybe the bad things that are waiting to happen to us won’t happen, maybe there’s happiness at the end of the left fork and warm places with the people who love us and no Noise but no silence neither and there’s plenty of food and no one dies and no one dies and no one never never dies.”
* * *
“Cuz I see Viola looking back at me as we run and there’s brightness on her face and she keeps urging me on with tilts of her head and smiles and I think how hope may be the thing that pulls you forward, may be the thing that keeps you going, but that it’s dangerous, too, that it’s painful and risky, that it’s making a dare to the world and when has the world ever let us win a dare?”
* * *
“‘Here’s what I think,’ I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my Noise like whispers of the truth. ‘I think maybe everybody falls,’ I say. ‘I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking.’
“I pull on her arms gently to make sure she’s listening.
“‘I think the asking is whether we get back up again.'”
* * *
This book has been sitting in my room for over a month, beckoning to me, tempting me to abandon my academic pursuits and fall into this incredible story.
I knew it would be incredible from the first moment I laid eyes on the cover. I was taking a break from grading and homework one Saturday morning, browsing the young adult section at Barnes & Noble, not expecting to find anything new that didn’t involve vampires or angsty darkness (not that this book isn’t dark, it’s just not that kind of dark). As soon as I saw the cover, I knew I’d found something impressive. First, there’s the image of a road. This book is about a journey–literal and figurative. And the title: what the heck could The Knife of Never Letting Go possibly mean? So I picked up the book, read the first chapter, and decided I must buy it before I shifted into responsible teacher mode and graded a stack of student journals in the B&N cafe.
When I went home sick on Tuesday, I decided to curl up on the couch and read because that’s what I do when I’m sick. But I was caught up on all my reading for school, so I realized the time had come to read this book.
The basic plot: a boy named Todd is one month away from his thirteenth birthday, at which time he will undergo the ritual to make him a man. Todd, however, lives on a planet called the New World, in an isolated village called Prentisstown. Todd is the last “boy” left in town. This village consists only of men; previous to this story, according to the story Todd has been told, a virus called the Noise germ infected the residents, killing all the women and half the men. The germ also made it so that every man hears every other man’s thoughts. No one can ever escape the Noise, and even the animals have Noise through which they communicate with humans.
The month before his birthday, Todd is made to flee the town for reasons that he doesn’t fully realize and the readers have no concept of. He grabs a rucksack, and he and his dog Manchee cross the swamp and escape Prentisstown, with an army of villagers forming to chase him down and kill him. Outside of the swamp, Todd meets Viola–the first female he has ever encountered, a girl his age. Her parents are dead, and she is also being attacked by the villagers. The two of them flee, and the story ensues.
The first aspect of this story that is immediately recognizable is the language in which the story is written. Many longer words are misspelled intentionally. For example, “preparations” becomes “preparayshuns.” Also, the author, Patrick Ness, employs a lot of run-on sentences and comma splices, bad grammar, and double negatives, and he breaks many other major rules of language. This should annoy me. It doesn’t. The run-on sentences actually add a lot of tension to the story. They move the action along more quickly and greatly reveal the intensity of the narrative. Additionally, the misspelled words and other grammatical issues aptly imply the degradation of society. Education is no longer important, and the men have slipped into a violent, selfish lifestyle. Much like Faulkner, Ness uses the narrative style in an incredible way to paint the chaos of the society he has created.
This book also provides an extensive commentary on society and religion. One of the main antagonists is Aaron, the preacher in Prentisstown. He is an almost mythical creature–he escapes death so many times, and he always manages to be several steps ahead of Todd and Viola. He preaches hellfire and brimstone, and he’s everything a good preacher would never be. He attempts to hide his violent and repressive nature behind a mask of religion.
Additionally, the book is an interesting commentary on the differences in gender. Women were resistant to the germ, and as a result, men can never know what women are thinking. Women, however, still hear everything men think, and as men attempt to hide their Noise, women become more adept at reading the silences in their Noise.
There’s so much more I could talk about: the idea of voice being what actually comes out of your mouth, or what you actually think; the idea of what actually makes a man; tension between hope and despair; and so much more. However, this blog is long enough already. In conclusion, this book is now one of my favorites. It has a cliff-hanger ending, however, as it’s the first book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy. The second one is already out in hardback, and I’m going to buy it this afternoon because I just can’t wait. That means, though, that I’ll probably have to wait a year or so before the conclusion. It’ll be frustrating, but worth it. The book is so good!