Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness ★★

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)I've heard so many great things about this series, and about Patrick Ness in general, that I was very excited to read this series. After reading the prequel, The New World, and his standalone novel A Monster Calls (and adoring it), I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, I find myself disappointed.

Todd lives on New World, which is a relatively new (20 year old) colonization full of people from Earth. In Prentisstown, the settlement where Todd lives, there are no women, and the men hear all the other 164 mens' thoughts, called Noise, constantly. There's no escaping it. He has been taught that the Spackle released a germ that caused the deaths of all the women, and that the same germ caused the Noise, and also allowed animals to talk.

So when Todd finds a quiet patch out near the swamp, everything in his life changes and he's ushered out into the greater, supposedly empty, world with only his dog Manchee to accompany him. Of course he then begins to find out that things aren't exactly the way he'd been told.

Sounds intriguing... but it just didn't work for me...

This book is told in first person narrative. We're inside Todd's head throughout the entire book, and this was a problem for me. Right off the bat, we see that mens' Noise is everywhere, pervasive, unavoidable. Every thought, every nuance, every wish, dream, desire, image, everyone's everything everything everything is jumbled into a huge conglomeration of thought-pollution. So, when Todd is being ushered out into the wild blue yonder, clueless and confused and scared, he's told that he couldn't have been told why it was necessary because it would have been seen in his Noise. Right. Makes sense. But then just a tiny bit later, Todd is given a glimpse of the truth... and that is never revealed to the reader. Or at least not until the last 30 pages of the book or so.

How is it that everyone's Noise is everywhere and overwhelming, and yet this kid, who has trouble calming and controlling his own thoughts, is able to hide something so shocking from himself... from the "reader" he's talking to inside his head? And he is talking to us. Whenever he feels embarrassed or awkward, he adds a little aside (shut up) as if he knows we might be judging him for his weakness or whatever. So how is it that we're in his head, his wide open to the world head, and yet vital info is withheld?

Well, if it was revealed that early, there wouldn't be a story. Seriously. 90% of this book was stringing the reader along, spooning out little hints, promising explanations that are interrupted at the crucial moment when the speaking starts. Ugh. So frustrating. If all of the interruptions and travel time were removed, this book would be quite a bit shorter. We're gonna have a meeting to explain why things are so weird? Time to leave! You're about to explain everything? Oh, no you don't! This here inconvenient interruption will take care of THAT. Over and over and over.

Then when we FINALLY get an explanation, I was like "That's it?!" It seemed so anti-climactic and obvious. I expected something better, more profound... Something plausible and realistic.

For that matter, what is the point of any of it? The "revelation" seems so pointlessly stupid and short-sighted that I can't even begin to comprehend what the point is.


 In his quest for power, and in his insanity, the Mayor, Prentiss, is on a mission to kill off all the women on the planet and create a huge army of men under his command. Great. So... the population of New World will just dwindle down to nothing, then, with no women? Sounds like a perfect plan. Maybe they'll evolve into asexual beings without the need for women? Or maybe they'll all just die. Probably the latter. 
I mean, come on, at least make it somewhat realistic and make the women slave-breeders or something. Not that I would WANT that, but that's what a crazy despot tyrant would do. You don't KILL your reproducers, you control them. Duh. Didn't this guy read his Atwood??


Regarding the characters, I didn't really care about Todd, or Viola. I didn't really identify with them at all, despite liking Viola in the prequel. The only character I DID care about was Manchee. I loved him.

Todd seemed stupid and willfully ignorant, but proud and unwilling to listen, so of course he caused a lot of his own problems by acting before he thought anything through, and by not being willing to listen to anything or analyze a situation. It's just go go go. I mean, he has a BOOK of information that was given to him to help him understand, but he barely looks at it at all until almost the end of the book. Personally, I would want as much information as possible, but I guess I'm just weird. He didn't grow or learn at all, not one bit. What was the point of all of the things he went through if he still does them again and again and never learns?

Viola wasn't consistent, and I never really felt like I knew her. She starts out all scared and borderline catatonic, and then almost instantaneously starts to talk and interact with Todd... but never in a helpful, "Let's think about our next move" way. If there's about to be helpful information given, let's avoid it at all costs!

This is the same thing that bugged the everlovin' crap out of me about The Death Cure. Why would anyone want to struggle along blindly when they could have more information to go on? I understand that being able to hear all mens' thoughts would be information overload at times, but much of it is misinformation, so why not try to put it in some orderly fashion and get a straight-forward accounting of what's REALLY going on??

I just don't get it. I don't like being strung along like a fish on a line for nothing. If this was a short story, it probably would have been a great one. But it's too long as a novel, and I just don't see it working as a series. I'm sure there will be struggle, and it will be drawn out, because somehow the bad-guys seem to always be a step ahead, but that's annoying.

I just didn't get this one. I thought that it had an interesting premise, and a lot of potential to be great, but it didn't work for me. I don't think I'll be continuing this series.

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  1. This is one of the few books that I quit reading even though I'd already read almost all of it. It just depressed me and I was so tired of Todd and his dog getting beat up. I like dystopian novels, but this one was a downer. A few people told me that the other books in the series are better, but I have no wish to continue.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Kate. I wasn't depressed by it, instead I didn't really feel much of anything, except for Manchee.
    I heard the same about the rest of the series. I read a bunch of reviews of the 2nd and 3rd books, positive and negative, and I've decided not to continue either.