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The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One Hardcover – September 9, 2008
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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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*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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Top customer reviews
It immediately begins with Todd Hewitt the main character, and introduces us to a world where every thought in each characters heads are audible to everyone—including the animals. Ness refers to this as ‘noise.’
In order to write this style effectively, the ‘noise’ doesn’t match font or format. The type overlaps, some is larger than other, and it creates a visual noise on the page to match the audible noise to the characters.
The book is placed in the young adult genre, but this as much due to the main character’s age as the audience. It handles very heavy themes in a mature manner, and doesn’t condescend to its audience.
The book is not just interesting format and concept, but also a very intelligently written, immediately captivating story of Todd and his dog and a new friend he meets when he runs away from his home.
This was one of the few times I was actually unable to put the book down and when I finished reading it, I immediately needed to purchase the second in the trilogy.
In a time where we’re being inundated by Young Adult novels and series about dystopic societies it is refreshing to read something truly unique, which doesn’t sacrifice any quality in that uniqueness.
If you enjoy the Young Adult or Science Fiction genres, I would strongly recommend this book. It is deep, fun, makes intelligent statements about society—as all good Sci-fi should— and has believable, and relatable characters within a scenario that is unlike anything you’ve ever read or experienced.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that we are constantly reminded of the pain Todd is in, whether it be physical or otherwise. Maybe I'm just a poor reader, but in other books I tend to forget a character's current state (injured, heartbreak, etc.) and so I can't fully get into the character's mindset. Here, I felt I could do just that, and so "suffer alongside with" Todd. I think a lot of this also had to do with the author's brilliant writing style. It was very "talky", light, emotional and kind of liek a conversation the POW (Todd) is having with himself.
Not many things annoyed me through the book, except Aaron. It is never hinted at in the book, that I noticed, but that guy can not be human! No one would ever survive all the things he went through, so I believe he did something to himself to boost his endurance or something.
As I'm sure other readers will agree to, I also really hated that Manchee died. I got to love that dog and the relationship between him and Todd. I almost cried when I read the last few lines before he died. His confusion was so sad when he couldn't understand why Todd left him :(
There is a great deal of background to the story, but Ness takes his time revealing that background, giving the reader the chance to discover it slowly and naturally. His use of language is outstanding, sometimes poetic, but always immediate enough to appeal to young readers as well as readers my age (68).
Working with young people for whom this book is directed, I know they love series books. They dislike having to let go of the characters they have fallen in love with. However, I'm not a fan of series books, but the Chaos Walking series, of which The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first part, is a notable exception. I'm going to read the next book in the series after finishing The Knife of Never Letting Go.
I highly recommend this book not only to the ages for which is intended but for any adult who appreciates well-written, engaging fiction.