Thursday, 26 May 2011

Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

Firstly I have to explain that I was late in coming to these books, and yes I know "Holly how on earth did you miss these for so long? Where was your head,? It was up your bum again wasn't it?" But that lateness to the party meant I could gorge myself on all three at once with none of that waiting a year for the next book to be published (oh how that kills me).

I remember picking up The Knife of Never Letting Go numerous times in bookshops and lingering over it in on Amazon but never taking that final sweet step to owning it. And then one day, when I was at the end of my monthly book buying funds, and I was running around the local library in my lunch hour looking for something free to read, it again caught my eye. And thankfully this time I saw sense and booked it out.

It had me at the first page.

"The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.
About anything.
"Need a poo, Todd."
"Shutup, Manchee."
"Poo. Poo, Todd."
"I said shut it." 

I mean who wouldn't crack a smile at a beginning like that? Needless to say I was hooked in for the long haul.

And. Wow. What a story, a wonderful, incredible and huge story that revolves around two of the strongest and most real characters you'll ever care to know. I fell in love with Todd and Viola and even now I'm finished I still find myself thinking of them and wondering what they could be up to. Ness has made these characters real to me and that is a sign of a great storyteller.

The tale begins in a small town of men. Todd, the youngest in Prentisstown a place where you become a man at 13, is always under the impression he's missing out on some big secret. And keeping secrets is no mean feat on a planet where every man's thought, feeling and desire is broadcast in an endless noise to the minds of those close by. As far as Todd knows the world is empty outside of his small town and all the women, now gone, victims of some virus released in a war with the planet's native species known only as Spackle.

Then in a single day all of Todd's certainties suddenly explode when he stumbles across a girl hiding out in the swamps, where did she come from? Why can't he hear her noise? What follows is an humongous adventure that sees the two running for their lives, becoming pawns in a power struggle between a mass murder and a terrorist and finally fighting in an all out war while ships filled with thousands of settlers are floating through space towards it all. And throughout all of it Todd and Viola learn to lean on each other as they try to figure out how to save a world that's suddenly trying to destroy itself.

"She tried to kill you, Viola. She tried to blow you up... You don't owe her nothing,' he says.
But I feel his arms on me and I'm realizing things don't seem so impossible anymore. 
I feel Todd touching me and there's anger rising in my gut but it's not at him and I grunt and I pull myself up again, leaning on him to keep me there as I stand. 
'I do owe her,' I say. 
'I owe her the look on her face when she sees me alive." 

What I loved most about these books were the characters (I can't call them secondary), Ness writes great people and I constantly found myself reevaluating my impressions of them. None more so then with the violently arrogant character of Davy Prentiss, who slowly turns from this figure of total terror into a scared young man who desperately wants nothing more then an approving word from his father. Ness manages to redeem murders and vilify life savers and at no point do their actions ever feel unnatural or for the sake of plot only.

I also have to give him kudos for the style, the stories are told in the first person and with each successive book another character's perspective is added. This has been tried before and I usually find it to be lazy way of upping an authors word count, it tends to dilute the story and the characters, but not here. Ness writes each character with such a solid sense of who they are that they could just be thinking about eating breakfast and I would have found it engrossing because it was them thinking it. I didn't ever get the sense that Ness was pushing himself or his views on me, the reader, I was only ever aware of the characters and in a story that deals with gender inequality, torture for the sake of information, terrorism and humanity's prevalence towards violence over peace regardless of the consequences, that is no mean feat.

"Choices may be unbelievably hard but they're never impossible. 
To say you have no choice is to release yourself from responsibility and that's not how a person with integrity acts." 

I don't want to go to far into the plots of the books because I came to them completely clueless and it was a joy to uncover this story with no idea of where it was going to turn next. All I can say is that it ends well, there is nothing more important for me than a satisfying ending and Men of Monsters has it.


Holly said... [Reply to comment]

Welcome to the blogosphere, Holly! Love your name btw. Some people call me Holly G too. :)

I enjoyed your first two reviews. I have a copy of Garden Spells I'm dying to get to and I adore the Chaos Walking series. Welcome and happy blogging! I'll see you around.

HollyG said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for the warm welcome! And may I congratulate you on your awesome name too? Enjoy Garden Spells, it's totally sweet, I'm definitely going to pick up The Sugar Queen now!