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

4.1 out of 5 stars 482 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Chaos Walking Series

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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
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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
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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 (482 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,072,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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
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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.
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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: Paperback
If you read the Amazon reviews of THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO you will see many 5-star ratings from readers and only a few 1 and 2-star ratings.

I am in the 1-star camp and let me tell you why:

If you read the 5-star reviewers, you will see that many of these folks reacted to Patrick Ness writing which, in it's essence, is very creative and skillful. He knows how to write an economical sentence and sketch in a character. He is not afraid to try fresh and daring constructions of words on the page. His presentation of telepathy is original, interesting, and very well handled so that you do believe: "Yes this is what if would be like if you could hear everyone's thoughts." So I can understand many readers being hooked. But even among the 5-star reviewers you find people who say: "I loved and hated this book."

Let's look at why you might hate it:

Where Ness fails almost completely is as a storyteller. Rather than taking the time to construct authentically believable dramatic situations, Ness seems to think that the shortest path to drama is violence. The beatings start on page 6 and are followed by stabbings, shootings, kickings, guns, knives, machetes, maiming and gruesome killings. When the plot of endless pursuit on a frontier planet called New World slows down, it usually offers a brutal scene of struggle & capture. I am not a reader who objects to violence, but I do object when it is pointless and offered in place of a story. This random violence is not drama -- it is melodrama and a shameless manipulation to jerk the readers emotions around. You know it's melodrama for one simple reason: the bad guys NEVER have a problem finding our protagonists and tormenting them.
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