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I was a fan of Patrick Ness’s harrowing young adult science fiction novel, The Knife of Never Letting Go. That series explored some pretty dark, serious themes (adults lying to kids, religious craziness, manipulation, war) and had some interesting twists, so I thought I’d check out his latest novel.
More Than This is a book that mixes weighty issues with a Twilight Zone-esque premise and a narrative that turns at right angles, keeping the reader guessing. In the opening pages, teenage Seth is dying in the ocean, broken against rocks. He wakes up, if that’s the right term, in his childhood town in England. Except the town appears to have been abandoned for many years, and Seth seems to be alone.
As we learn from Seth’s flashbacks while he wanders the desolate, otherworldly place, which he dubs “hell”, his short life was rough. He’s had to deal with guilt over a terrible incident involving his younger brother, which he feels responsible for, two distant parents, homosexuality, and estrangement from his friends. Quite a lot for any young man. As it turns out, though, Seth isn’t alone in this mysterious afterlife. There are others, who are dealing with their own grief. And there’s also an enemy, a sort of literal Death figure.
The first half of the book keeps new revelations coming at us, each arriving like a bombshell that churns up the landscape of what we know so far. Questions are raised about which reality is really “real”, though the eventual vehicle for this is a somewhat clunky sci-fi backstory that might or might not be meant to be taken at face value itself. If I’m correct about “might not”, it would certainly be a bold choice for a young adult author to leave his readers with an existential hall of mirrors. Perhaps Ness will write a sequel?
But, even though the book ends with a lot of question marks and some of its action gets a little repetitive, MTT is carried by the intelligence of its writing, the maturity of its themes, and the emotional weight of Seth’s memories. Two supporting characters that arrive about a third of the way in are enjoyably written, and provide a degree of comic relief (which lord knows is needed). I suspect that a book like this might be a bit too heavy and epistemological-minded for many of readers in the intended age range, but there are always those that can handle it.
If you’re new to Ness, you should probably start with the more straightforward Chaos Walking trilogy, but this is a good next step. I’ll put it somewhere around 3.5 stars. Audiobook narrator Nick Podehl, who seems to be everywhere these days, delivers another solid performance.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
This book may be a little intimidating to some because of its length, but trust me, you'll be wishing for more. What a page turner! It will have your heart racing. I seriously checked out of the real world when I was reading this because it's a story that pulls you entirely into that world. There really is no way to summarize this book without plot spoilers, but there's also no way to explain what you're walking into. I'll admit, I wish there was just a tiny bit more closure for the supporting characters, but not even that could ruin this experience. It really does not matter what genre you're into, there is something in here for everybody.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful