The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking, #1
Page Count: 497
Publisher: Walker Books
Original Publication Date: 2008
Genre(s): Young adult, Dystopia, Science fiction
“Without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”
Many years ago, settlers traveled from the Old World to the New World. Prentisstown is the only settlement in the New World, and living in it is Todd, the last boy to become a man in a world of only men. There are no women in Prentisstown. There are also no secrets, as far as Todd is concerned, because of the Noise: everyone can hear each other’s thoughts, see what’s in their minds clear as if in their own mind—all day, every day. But Todd is wrong—the town holds dangerous, dark secrets that Todd will learn after turning 13 years old. But before he can learn them, he’s forced to run. And the world changes.
The secret to reading series is to wait to start reading them for ten years, until all the books have been published and there’s no waiting. Cliffhangers drive me nuts, and waiting 1+ years to find out what happens next is impossible for me, unless I really like the series. Because I just forget the story and lose interest. The Knife of Never Letting Go was published over ten years ago, and with an ending like that, I’m so glad I’ve already got the sequel queued up on my Kindle.
The novel is told in first-person POV from Todd’s perspective, an almost-thirteen-year-old boy on the run from dangerous men. Todd is different from the other men in Prentisstown, and running is the only thing that will keep him safe. Alongside our MC is Manchee, his dog, and Viola, whom you’ll meet relatively quickly so I feel like that’s not really a spoiler. The trio is trying to put as much distance between themselves and Prentisstown, supposedly traveling to a safe haven in the distance.
This is a true adventure novel. What I mean by that is, it’s pretty much non-stop action and the entire plot consists of running away and fighting off bad guys. That’s about it. It’s tense and action-packed and, at one point, so utterly heartbreaking I had to put the book down lest I throw my Kindle into the bathwater. I won’t spoil what happens, but even though I knew it would happen at some point, I wasn’t ready. I literally started sobbing, ran into my bedroom where my dog was lying down, and cuddled with her while she licked my tears away. It was definitely one of the most heartbreaking scenes in a book I’ve read. So, thanks, Patrick Ness.
Because the biggest chunk of the novel is about our MCs running away, it can drag a bit and seem repetitive. However, the action, the mystery surrounding the New World and Todd’s life, and the edge-of-your-seat feeling save this story from becoming boring or lifeless. I devoured this book. Sure, it seemed a little “ugh, again?” every time one of the ‘bad guys’ caught up, or someone they trusted turned out to be less than kind, but that’s very much par for the course with adventure stories. Overall, I enjoyed it.
The characters, though? Not as much. I really like Viola, and Manchee, and Todd’s guardian Ben, and even the slow friendship that forms between Todd and Viola. But Todd himself? He was very frustrating. Often rash, unthinking, rude, and temperamental. But I had to keep reminding myself: he’s literally a child—a 12-year-old boy—who’s been lied to his whole life, had no friends, and never went to school. Like, how can you blame the kid? So though I wasn’t Todd’s biggest fan, I did understand his character, so it wasn’t like his attitude ruined the story or anything. And I actually kind of liked his character development by the end. However, in some regards, I found it hard to see him as just a 12-year-old. I pictured him more as an immature, stunted 15-year-old. I’m interested to see how he continues to grow.
I’ll admit this book was hard to read at first due to the spelling and grammar. The book is written how the characters speak and write, as they have little to no education in Prentisstown, and it’s told from Todd’s perspective who doesn’t know how to read, so it looks like this:
“The plans are being planned, the preparayshuns prepared, it will be a part, I guess, tho I’m starting to get some strange pictures about it all.”
Big words spelled out phoenetically, other words shortened or changed like “tho,” “yer,” “cuz,” etc. Definitely jarring at first, but you get used to it. It puts you in the mind of Todd. Plus, if you (like me) were able to read A Clockwork Orange with no problem, then this book will be a piece of cake.
All in all, I really enjoyed this novel, which surprised me after having disliked the past few Ness novels I read. I’m very excited to continue the series, and even more excited if the film actually happens. Until then, you can find me crying on the couch reading Book 2, still traumatized from that scene in Book 1…