Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

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? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is. Taken from Goodreads.

I checked this out some months ago, but could barely get through the first chapter because it was too . . . weird. After seeing that the third one (yes, another trilogy) is due to come out this fall, and stumbling upon more raves over this book, I decided to give it another go. I think I should address my initial hang-ups, because I think there are others who would shy away from The Knife of Never Letting Go for the same reasons.

First, the language. The voice of Todd, and a handful of other characters, read the way I always imagined The Blue Fugates (you know - the Blue People of Kentucky/West Virginia) would probably sound. Thick southern drawls where creatures are "creachures" and lots of "a-ridin off" and "ain't ya's" and certain men's Noise is IN Different font. This can either be an effective attention-grabber or a jarring distraction - I think it's supposed to be both, actually. I like it. Ness wisely uses language, punctuation (or the lack thereof), and font choice to evoke a certain momentum or emotion. For example:

"And he's grabbing her by the neck with one hand and smashing a cloth over her nose and mouth with the other and as I call out and take a step forward I hear her scream from beneath it and she tries to fight with her hands but Aaron's holding her tight and by the time I've taken my second and third steps she's already swooning from whatever's on the cloth and on my fourth and fifth steps he's dropping her to the ground and Manchee is still in my arms and on my sixth step he's reaching behind his back and I don't have my knife and I have Manchee with me and I can only run toward him and on my seventh step I see him bring around a wooden staff that's been strapped to his back and it swings thru the air and strikes me full on the side of my head with a CRACK . . ."

The Punctuation Rejection works well to keep the scene fast and gripping. Love it.

Initial Hang Up #2: there is this creepy aura about this world Todd lives in. The whole environments feels like the color of the cover - like the way the sky looks when there has been a huge fire. Red-orangey gray without true sunlight, swamps and tumbleweeds and poverty and cruelty. The Noise of the men is usually desperate, bleak, and hopeless. And while Todd hints at some of the things he regularly sees in the Noise of their memories of women, it never gets graphic or offensive.

I think when I did my First Attempted Reading I just wasn't in the mood for something dark and despairing. Now that I've rejected the pleasurable things in life and have begun kicking puppies and making rude gestures to old people I guess this genre is more fitting to me now. Anyway. I found this to be a great read; compelling characters, fast-paced storytelling, gripping suspense and a dash of mystery.

Highly recommended to dystopian/sci-fi fans.

Book source: Local library.

1 comment:

  1. down with the puppies! and manatees too. glad you like these books...they're definitely not a cheerful walk in the butterfly-sprinkled meadow, but they're still awesome, and i have some hope for a not-completely-devastating ending to the trilogy (haven't gotten hold of monsters of men yet).