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The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness (2008))
The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008)
by Patrick Ness
Paperback Edition
Publication Date: September 9th, 2008 (1st Edition)
Publisher: Candlewick
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World?

My Thoughts:
The Knife of Never Letting Go is a spine-chilling, suspenseful adventure complete with crashed space ships, crocodiles, and a talking dog. 480 pages never went by so fast. I was expecting a philosophical read about morality or social commentary, but I ended up disappointed. While I thought The Knife of Never Letting Go touched upon many themes like women’s rights, human interaction, privacy, collectivity, and violence–none of it was fleshed out enough, or made sense. However, I applaud Ness’s innovative story telling, and his character development doesn’t fail to impress: especially Todd’s relationship with his dog, Manchee.

Are The Villains All Cyborgs?
Poor Todd is constantly being chased by hostile, evil men that don’t seem to be capable of dying. The guy gets chomped on by crocodiles, thrown in a swamp to drown, and his nose bitten off by a dog–and he is STILL standing. WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT? How this guy is human is beyond me. I expected to see electrical wires bursting from his wounds at any moment.

The Noise:
What makes The Knife of Never Letting Go special is how the concept of hearing everyone’s thought’s is handled. In Todd’s world everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts through a deluge of sounds and imagery called The Noise. Even wild animals are not immune to The Noise germ, but women are. There is no such thing as silence, and all thoughts are privy to everyone else. There are no complete secrets. I would think that The Noise would make living easier, it would be “impossible” to lie, and make people more empathetic to each other. However, in the New World, The Noise has only created heartless, violent people. Perhaps knowing whatever everyone else is thinking only makes crazy people.

Todd Hewitt:
The 14 year old protagonist who starts off a naive, whiny kid who is forced to leave his home. He faces many conflicts. We see him transition from the clueless boy who refuses to admit that he can’t read to a man who would travel miles after being stabbed to save his best friend. He also is conflicted about his willingness to kill. There are times I want Todd to stop being a coward and kill his enemies (or at least stab their legs so they can’t come running once they’ve recuperated,) but at the same time I want him to retain his innocence, to be in control of his impulses. For some reason, he loses control out of the blue and ends up killing an alien. It was stupid, but at the same time I could see Todd desperately trying to prove that he could wield a knife.

I am annoyed that although the novel is in first person, Todd withholds secrets from the reader. I know it’s for suspense purposes, but it is frustrating. Almost as jarring as the multiple cases where Todd tells the reader that he is swearing. Oh gosh, just swear already.

Manchee:
Todd’s talking dog. Hands down the most adorable and lovable character. Despite Todd’s dislike towards Manchee, he remains loyal. His natural curiosity and his love for Todd makes him the perfect best friend.

Viola Eade:
I don’t get this chick. Maybe she was stunned into silence from her foreign surroundings, but the fact that she acts like a mute girl for much of the first part annoyed me. We knew she wasn’t mute because she knew how to scream, but the fact that she refuses to communicate was frustrating. Despite seeming like dead weight in the beginning, Viola is resourceful, and much smarter than Todd. And because she is immune to the Noise, she can also lie.

Todd’s Book
Before he leaves, Todd is given his mother’s diary which was supposed to explain everything. It was frustrating to see the book being mentioned but practically NEVER read. What up with that?

The Logic of Prentisstown Does Make Any Sense
I hope it’s not just me that keeps reading Prentisstown as Penistown? Which would actually make sense considering the whole town is made up of men.
On the other hand, I don’t get the logic of these people at all. Where did their twisted beliefs come from? For a town with only 146 citizens, they seem to completely disregard human life in favor of violence. Are they trying to wipe out the human race?
It is later revealed that women, being immune to the Noise, were murdered because the men couldn’t understand them. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to kill their mothers, sisters, and wives. Which leads me to think Mayor Prentiss was cheated on by his wife and created all this chaos to extract revenge.

Religion:
The people of Prentisstown are supposedly devout Christians, but their actions convince me that they read the wrong Bible, the one that says it’s okay to build an army to kill all your neighbors. I’m not sure if the novel is criticizing Christianity, or their religion is twisted by an evil dictator.

Pace:
The pace is the novel’s strongest part, guaranteed to have your heart thumping but I also felt it was too fast at times. It felt Todd was just running a marathon, breezing through all these settlements without a second thought. As a result, I got the action but not enough back story. Honestly, the only answers we get are given by a random info-dump towards the end.
There is never a dull moment, which made devouring Todd’s journey a pleasure. It was an absolute thrill ride. I only wish the scariest thing about his journey weren’t the same bad guys showing up on rotation. Although I found much of the society nonsensical and the villains ridiculous, it was a a high energy read that always kept me on my toes.

Rating: B-

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