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The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One Hardcover – September 9, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 453 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Chaos Walking Series

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Hardcover, September 9, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—Todd Hewitt lives in a world in which all women are dead, and the thoughts of men and animals are constantly audible as Noise. Graphically represented by a set of scratchy fonts and sentence fragments that run into and over each other, Noise is an oppressive chaos of words, images, and sounds that makes human company exhausting and no thought truly private. The history of these peculiar circumstances unfolds over the course of the novel, but Ness's basic world-building is so immediately successful that readers, too, will be shocked when Todd and his dog, Manchee, first notice a silence in the Noise. Realizing that he must keep the silence secret from the town leaders, he runs away, and his terrified flight with an army in pursuit makes up the backbone of the plot. The emotional, physical, and intellectual drama is well crafted and relentless. Todd, who narrates in a vulnerable and stylized voice, is a sympathetic character who nevertheless makes a few wrenching mistakes. Manchee and Aaron, a zealot preacher, function both as characters and as symbols. Tension, suspense, and the regular bombardment of Noise are palpable throughout, mitigated by occasional moments of welcome humor. The cliff-hanger ending is unexpected and unsatisfying, but the book is still a pleasure for sophisticated readers comfortable with the length and the bleak, literary tone.—Megan Honig, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Chased by a madman preacher and possibly the rest of his townsfolk as well, young Todd Hewitt flees his settlement on a planet where war with the natives has killed all the women and infected the men with a germ that broadcasts their thoughts aloud for all to hear. This cacophanous thought-cloud is known as Noise and is rendered with startling effectiveness on the page. The first of many secrets is revealed when Todd discovers an unsettling hole in the Noise, and quickly realizes that he lives in a much different world than the one he thought he did. Some of the central conceits of the drama can be hard to swallow, but the pure inventiveness and excitement of the telling more than make up for it. Narrated in a sort of pidgin English with crack dramatic and comic timing by Todd and featuring one of the finest talking-dog characters anywhere, this troubling, unforgettable opener to the Chaos Walking trilogy is a penetrating look at the ways in which we reveal ourselves to one another, and what it takes to be a man in a society gone horribly wrong. The cliffhanger ending is as effective as a shot to the gut. Grades 8-12. --Ian Chipman

Product Details

  • Series: Chaos Walking (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; First Edition edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763639311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763639310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (453 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #834,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

As a child
I was born on an army base called Fort Belvoir, near Alexandria, Virginia, in the United States. My father was a drill sergeant in the US Army, but much nicer than that makes him seem. I only stayed at Fort Belvoir for the first four months of my life and have never even been back to the East Coast of America. We moved to Hawaii, where I lived until I was almost six. I went to kindergarten there, and we used to have field trips down to Waikiki Beach. I once picked up a living sea urchin and got about a hundred needle pricks in the palm of my hand. I made up stories all the time as a kid, though I was usually too embarrassed to show them to anybody.

As an adult
I've only ever really wanted to be a writer. I studied English Literature at the University of Southern California, and when I graduated, I got a job as a corporate writer at a cable company in Los Angeles, writing manuals and speeches and once even an advertisement for the Gilroy, California Garlic Festival. I got my first story published in Genre magazine in 1997 and was working on my first novel, The Crash of Hennington, when I moved to London in 1999. I've lived here ever since. I taught Creative Writing at Oxford University for three years, usually to students older than I was.

As an artist
So far, I've published two books for adults, a novel called The Crash of Hennington and a short story collection called Topics About Which I Know Nothing, a title which seemed funny at the time but less so 10,000 mentions later... Here's a helpful hint if you want to be a writer: When I'm working on a first draft, all I write is 1000 words a day, which isn't that much (I started out with 300, then moved up to 500, now I can do 1000 easy). And if I write my 1000 words, I'm done for the day, even if it only took an hour (it usually takes more, of course, but not always). Novels are anywhere from 60,000 words on up, so it's possible that just sixty days later you might have a whole first draft. The Knife of Never Letting Go is 112,900 words and took about seven months to get a good first draft. Lots of rewrites followed. That's the fun part, where the book really starts to come together just exactly how you see it, the part where you feel like a real writer.

Things you didn't know about Patrick Ness
1. I have a tattoo of a rhinoceros.
2. I have run two marathons.
3. I am a certified scuba diver.
4. I wrote a radio comedy about vampires.
5. I have never been to New York City but...
6. I have been to Sydney, Auckland and Tokyo.
7. I was accepted into film school but turned it down to study writing.
8. I was a goth as a teenager (well, as much of a goth as you could be in Tacoma, Washington and still have to go to church every Sunday).
9. I am no longer a goth.
10. Under no circumstances will I eat onions.


Patrick Ness is the author of the Chaos Walking trilogy. The Knife of Never Letting Go, Book One of the trilogy, won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and the Booktrust Teenage Prize. The Ask and The Answer, the second book in the trilogy won the Costa Children's Book Award 2009. The third book, Monsters of Men, is released in September 2010.

He has also written a novel (The Crash of Hennington) and a short story collection (Topics About Which I Know Nothing) for adults, has taught Creative Writing at Oxford University, and is a literary critic for the Guardian. Born in Virginia, he lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
...or you'll have missed out on a brilliant book. I won't regale you with plot details (you can find them elsewhere easily enough and I'd hate to spoil this for you), I'll just tell you why I loved it.

A few months ago, I was complaining to a friend that there was nothing really original coming out these days in the areas of speculative fiction, particularly when it comes to the YA end of the spectrum. It all seems to be vampires this, werewolves that, discovering latent magical powers here, falling in angsty love with someone with magical powers there... My friend listened patiently and then recommended that I read the 'The Knife of Never Letting Go'. Friends are great.

I chewed through this book in a few sessions. I wouldn't have put it down if everyday life hadn't so rudely interrupted. It made me laugh, cry and cheer. Then I gave it to my partner who is not a keen fiction reader and he loved it as well.

Before Patrick Ness started punching out punchy fiction, he was (and still is) a journalist. It shows. Not a word is wasted in this book, the prose is always expertly crafted and never dithering waffle. The post-apocalyptic dystopian world is unique and wonderfully built, even though we only get to see it through the eyes of Todd, our illiterate protagonist. Ness evokes a rare and pure honesty in Todd's voice that immediately sweeps us up in the action and continues to hurtle us through the story until we slam into the brick wall of an ending.

'The Knife of Never Letting Go' is a masterpiece in itself, but thank the Muses that Chaos Walking is going to be a trilogy.

My 'Where It's At' rating: 4.8/5

@@@@ Plot
@@@@@ Pace
@@@@@ World
@@@@@ Characters
@@@@@ Style
1 Comment 148 of 156 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
On a far-flung world newly settled by humanity, twelve-year-old Todd Hewitt of Prentisstown is a boy on the brink of becoming a man.

When settlers came to this world, they found it already inhabited by aliens known as the Spackle, and a war was waged against them to colonize the planet. Now, almost twenty years after the first settlers landed, the world is low-tech but free of the "spacks." However, they left behind them the "Noise germ," a chemical contaminant that causes all the men who come in contact with it to broadcast their thoughts for everyone's hearing--and kills all the infected women.

On the eve of his thirteenth birthday, Todd has never seen a woman. He was the last child born in the settlement before his mother succumbed to the Noise germ and died, and now he's the only boy left in the village of Prentisstown, all the others having turned thirteen and been proclaimed men. Now, with Todd's birthday approaching, the entire town is anxious, and Todd can hear it.

The men of the town are keeping something from him; although they can hear each other think, it's possible to learn techniques that allow one to control the information that others can hear. Ben and Cillian, his adoptive guardians and old friends of his parents, are both worried for him, though Todd doesn't know why.

And then, with less than a month to go until Todd's thirteenth birthday, he stumbles across a secret that no boy is meant to know and all men have been forced to forget, a secret about the history of his world and the lies he's been told. Todd has no choice but to escape from the town he's called his home and the people who have been his parents, on the run from something more terrible than the alien Spackle, and more familiar.
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Format: Hardcover
Todd lives in Prentisstown, a dystopian nightmare where all women are dead and everyone can hear each other's thoughts (known as noise). As the only "boy", the youngest in the restless and violent town, Todd's only real companion is his (talking) dog, Manchee. When he discovers a girl in the swamp one day, his caretakers tell him he's in danger and he has to make a run for it.

As thus begins book one of the Chaos Walking trilogy. It's best to go into the book knowing only as much as Todd knows (which is surprisingly little considering no one's thoughts are private), so I won't go into spoilers here. Suffice to say that leaving Prentisstown considerably expands Todd's worldview and understanding. Todd is an intriguing character, a real innocent, with a voice that matches his lack of education.

The ideas here are very creative, especially in regards to the noise. It's interesting to see what animals have to say (not much of interest actually) and how differently the various settlements Todd encounters on his journey have dealt with the problem of broadcasting their every thought.

I cruised through this thinking the whole time that it's an A-/B+ book - until I hit the ending. The narrative is dark, but the ending is even darker and though it works on an intellectual level, it's an emotional sucker punch - a cliffhanger that makes you think the book must be missing some pages.
5 Comments 76 of 86 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
"The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything."

Todd Hewitt is a twelve-year-old boy living in Prentisstown in the New World. The New World is a another planet that was settled years ago by people who wanted a simpler way of life. But when they reached the New World, they encountered an alien race known as the Spackle. And there was war. A war in which a germ was released that caused the "noise". This germ not only killed all the women in the New World, but most of the men. Only the men of Prentisstown are left. And they have the "Noise" disease. They can hear each others thoughts, or noise as its called. And although this sounds pretty cool in theory, being able to read eveyone's thoughts makes for a big jumbled mess most of the time. So many thoughts coming at you in all directions is enough to drive a person crazy. But this is the only world Todd has ever known.

Both his mother and father died during the war. Todd lives with friends of his mother's, Ben and Cillian, and his dog, Manchee. Prentisstown is the only settlement left from when the settlers arrived on the New World. But just 30 days before Todd's 13th birthday (the one that means he's a "Man"), something happens on his walk through the swamp. Something that causes him to go on the run from everyone and everything he has ever known. And, boy is his world turned upside down!

That's about all I can say about this book without giving away any part of the plot. And I think going in blind is the best possible way to read this book. Now...on to what *I* thought of it:

I had to give myself a day or two's time to let the story sink in before I could write this review.
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