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By Howard on 05-24-12
Really interesting world but seriously messed up
The first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy (I suggest you listen to the bonus prequel before you start this book.) It's all about power - obtaining, keeping and demonstrating power, that is until anti-power shows up and challenges the status quo. The anti-power in the form of two 13-year old adolescents who battle for their freedom, their lives, an oppressed race and an interesting connected planet. One word of warning: The first and third books are wonderful. Unfortunately, there is a second book that is rather tedious. I almost didn't get the third book because of how much I struggled with the second. I am greatful I convinced myself to try the final book. It was indeed the best of the series. Many lovable and memorable characters that are brought to life by Mr. Ness.
The narrator(s) are pitch perfect for their roles in the performance. I recommend the Chaos Walking Triology with the understanding the second book is a struggle to finish.
22 of 22 people found this review helpful
By Ryan on 06-14-12
Intense, well-voiced story, somewhat clumsy plot
“Intense” is a good word for this young adult novel. The setting is some time in the far future, on a colony planet peopled by religious settlers looking to distance themselves from the problems of the old world, including most technology. Except that much has gone wrong since the first landing. There was a war with the planet’s alien inhabitants, who released a “noise germ” that makes everyone able to hear everyone else’s thoughts, including animals. And this germ also killed off women and girls, leaving behind only men and boys. At least, this is the grim reality as understood by the story's protagonist, Todd Hewitt, who is the last boy in the troubled village of Prentisstown. However, as we soon learn, Todd doesn't really know a whole lot.
The setting and Todd’s voice, which are both well-realized, are immediate hooks into the story. Todd, with his often-ignorant view of the world but firm set of adolescent convictions, is a convincing teenager, and it’s hard not to like his dog Manchee, whose canine utterances (via the “noise”) are the comic relief of the book. Todd’s a sort of dystopian, telepathic Huck Finn. And once the story gets going, it keeps going, sending Todd fleeing from some frightening enemies, while not entirely letting the reader in on what the big picture is.
I liked a lot of things about the book. The character voices are well-done, conveying some different attitudes and perspectives. The author also does some interesting things with the “noise” idea, exploring what a world in which some people broadcast their every thought (while others don’t) would be like. I don’t get the impression that Ness was trying to comment directly on things like social networking, but it’s easy to find connections. As the interactions between Todd and another character make clear, a world of constant sharing through some ethereal medium might feel overwhelming and oppressive to some, but its absence strange and unnerving to others. Gender issues, deception, and religious ideas about man's fall from innocence are other themes that are touched on. And scenes with animals are cleverly done.
The audiobook production, by the way, is excellent. The reader’s accents really bring out the characters’ personalities (including Manchee), and the representations of noise are well done, too, with a little bit of sonic distortion as a cue.
I did, however, have a few issues with story logic. For one, the plot over-relies on the old stringing-along device of withholding information from the reader (and Todd), then interrupting any scene where important revelations seem imminent (e.g. "the man who wanted Colonel Mustard dead is... oops, I'd better take this phone call."). That works once or twice, then grows annoying. Also, the bad guys, while thoroughly bad and endowed with a Terminator-like ability to keep reappearing, are so thinly fleshed out as characters that I found their motives unclear. The last sequence with Aaron the crazy preacher, while making a certain thematic sense, didn't feel as convincing as it seemed meant to.
Still, the “noise” idea and character voices are so well-realized and there are enough affecting scenes that I’ll give the Knife of Never Letting Go an overall thumbs-up, despite the clumsier aspects of the plotting. It's a grim novel, however, and I definitely wouldn't recommend it for very young readers -- the violence and suggested violence, while not glorified, gets intense in spots. There’s also a fair bit of profanity, though it’s mostly disguised with “effin’”.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful