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The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One [Hardcover]

Patrick Ness
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 customer reviews)

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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

Review

"Sets a high standard in an already crowded fantasy fiction genre."
— THE INDEPENDENT (U.K.) — Independent, The (UK)

Review

A fully annotated list for middle and junior high students.
"Skillfully structured narrative creates an elegant mixture of action, dialogue, and dark, dsytopian pathos."

Review

"This riveting SF thriller is action-packed, with edge-of-your-seat chase scenes, a monstrous villain who just won't die, and moments of both anguish and triumph...Emotionally intense...haunting page-turner."

Review

"Another of my absolute favorites. Not only does it have a breathtakingly original premise in the noise, but in Todd and Viola it also has two of the most captivating characters of the year, while the plot is breathtakingly, almost unendurably, suspenseful."

Book Description

"Tension [and] suspense...are palpable throughout, mitigated by occasional moments of welcome humor."

From the Publisher

Awards & Recognitions:
Amazon.com Best Books of 2008: Top 100 Editors' Pick
Horn Book Summer Reading List
Teens' Top Ten Nominee
Carnegie Shortlist
James Triptree Jr. Award
American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults
Booklist Editors' Choice
Booktrust Teenage Prize
Tayshas High School Reading List (Texas)
Guardian Children's Fiction Prize (UK)

About the Author

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England's Radio 4 and SUNDAY TELEGRAPH and is a literary critic for the GUARDIAN. This is his first book for young adults. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

THE FIRST THING you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

"Need a poo, Todd."

"Shut up, Manchee."

"Poo. Poo, Todd."

"I said shut it."

We’re walking across the wild fields southeast of town, those ones that slope down to the river and head on toward the swamp. Ben’s sent me to pick him some swamp apples and he’s made me take Manchee with me, even tho we all know Cillian only bought him to stay on Mayor Prentiss’sgood side and so suddenly here’s this brand-new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn’t have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, no, happy birthday, Todd, here’s a brand-new puppy, Todd, and even tho you don’t want him, even tho you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he’s got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?

"Poo," Manchee barks quietly to himself. "Poo, poo, poo."

"Just have yer stupid poo and quit yapping about it."

I take a switch of grass from beside the trail and I swat after him with it. I don’t reach him, I don’t mean to reach him, but he just laughs his little barking laugh and carries on down the trail. I follow after him, switching the switch against the grass on either side, squinting from the sun, tryingnot to think about nothing at all.

We don’t need apples from the swamp, truth be told. Ben can buy them at Mr. Phelps’s store if he really wants them. Also true: going to the swamp to pick a few apples is not a job for a man cuz men are never allowed to be so idle. Now, I won’t officially become a man for thirty more days. I’ve lived twelve years of thirteen long months each and another twelve months besides, all of which living means I’m still one month away from the big birthday. The plans are being planned, the preparayshuns prepared, it will be a party, I guess, tho I’m starting to get some strange pictures about it, all dark and too bright at the same time, but neverthelessI will become a man and picking apples in the swamp is not a job for a man or even an almost-man.

But Ben knows he can ask me to go and he knows I’ll say yes to going because the swamp is the only place anywhere near Prentisstown where you can have half a break from all the Noise that men spill outta theirselves, all their clamor and clatter that never lets up, even when they sleep, men and the thoughts they don’t know they think even when everyone can hear. Men and their Noise. I don’t know how they do it, how they stand each other.

Men are Noisy creachers.

"Squirrel!" Manchee shouts and off he goes, jumping off the trail, no matter how loud I yell after him, and off I have to go, too, across the (I look round to make sure I’m alone) goddam fields cuz Cillian’ll have a fit if Manchee falls down some goddam snake hole and of course it’ll be my own goddam fault even tho I never wanted the goddam dog in thegoddam first place.

"Manchee! Get back here!"

"Squirrel!"

I have to kick my way thru the grass, getting grublets stuck to my shoes. One smashes as I kick it off, leaving a green smear across my sneakers, which I know from experience ain’t coming out. "Manchee!" I rage.

"Squirrel! Squirrel! Squirrel!"

He’s barking round the tree and the squirrel’s skittering back and forth on the tree trunk, taunting him. Come on, Whirler dog, says its Noise. Comeon, come get, come on, come get. Whirler, Whirler, Whirler.

"Squirrel, Todd! Squirrel!"

Goddam, animals are stupid.

I grab Manchee by the collar and hit him hard across his back leg. "Ow, Todd? Ow?" I hit him again. And again. "Ow? Todd?"

"Come on," I say, my own Noise raging so loud I can barely hear myself think, which is something I’m about to regret, you watch.

Whirler boy, Whirler boy, thinks the squirrel at me. Come get, Whirler boy.

"You can eff off, too," I say, except I don’t say "eff ", I say what "eff" stands for.

And I really, really shoulda looked round again.

From AudioFile

The first book of the Chaos Walking trilogy is a wild ride in a new world with some old problems. Patrick Ness built the world, but Nick Podehl pulls the listener into it through the embittered voice of Todd, a droll 13-year-old stuck in a community of men in which everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts. Now and then the book gives a sample of the audible cacophony. Todd and his dog, Manchee (whose thoughts are simple and doggish), find a hole of silence in the swamp--a girl. The trio--boy, girl, and dog--takes off, pursued by angry men, into a world much bigger than Todd imagined. Podehl's voice gradually becomes the safety bar we cling to as this roller coaster of bridge burning, space travel, and, yes, knife fights whips us around unexpected corners. The only problem is that the story ends in the middle of a sharp right angle. But that doesn't make it any less breathtaking. M.M.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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