The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness is a very unique creation and deserves all the sales, publicity, awards and praise it has gotten over the years. I only finished the third book recently despite the fact it came out in 2010. In truth, I read the first book years ago, back in 2008. The reason wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I thought it was great, but there was a moment in the book where I found myself hating Ness for what he wrote (if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then you have something to look forward to…or not).
The three books in the series are The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and The Answer and Monsters of Men and are written in a different way to any other book I have ever read. The Point of View is first person from the perspectives of Todd and Viola. There is a third PoV in Monsters of Men but I don’t want to give anything away. The story opens with Todd and his dog Manchee who can kind of talk. By “kind of” I mean that every living creature has Noise. This comes in the form of thoughts that can be heard by everyone, whether you speak them or not. For creatures like horses and dogs, these thoughts could be very basic but for humans it is simply their normal interior monologue.
There is, however, one exception. Female humans don’t have noise. Not that there are any. Prentisstown, where Todd lives, is comprised solely of men. At every second of every day, Todd’s life is very loud. He hears and sees the thoughts of every man of every second of every day. That is, until he discovers a quiet spot. A place free of Noise. A place that shouldn’t exist.
It is from here he starts to learn that everything he knows, everything he has been told, is a lie. He must escape Prentisstown and its dastardly and devious Mayor, David Prentiss, and his marching army. He then meets Viola Eade, a girl his own age, and the first female he has ever seen other than in the Noise of the inhabitants of Prentisstown. Viola is weak and starving and the two must learn to trust each other and work together in order to survive. Along with Manchee they flee, as they pursue safety and the truth. The truth about Todd’s mother. The truth about the fate of every woman in Prentisstown.
That is just a taster of what is to come. The trilogy extends far beyond what I’ve mentioned and deals with war in a great many aspects. It’s amazing to think that a single mind was able to create this. The amount of hours Ness must have put into thinking about, planning and crafting the stories is mind-boggling. The voice is spot-on, the idea is grea and the books pace themselves wonderfully. Sometimes it can be tough to take a story to heart because the writing for the intense, exciting scenes just isn’t snappy enough. In the Chaos Walking Trilogy, the writing is sublime.
Another element of this trilogy that makes it so brilliant is the way it is presented on the page. I remember reading an interview with Ness even before I had read the first book and if I remember correctly, he spoke about how limiting writing can be when contrasted with movies or other art forms where the product can change shape or noise level or arrest the viewer with varying camera shots. And so, he wanted to apply that to the trilogy. The font type and size vary from PoV to Noise which makes for a very unique read and one that engages you more readily than other books. This is certainly one of the aspects of the trilogy that makes it stand out as a unique work.
It’s a trilogy everyone should read and if you want to be a writer, I would suggest studying it very closely. The way Ness flits from one Point of View to the other is effortless but the difficulty of executing it correctly must be off the charts.
There’s very little hanging back and taking it slow when it comes to Ness. He drives the narrative faster, sometimes at such a pace you simply cannot handle it anymore and you find yourself being drawn into reading so furiously that you skip words. I don’t want to say anymore about it because discussing the second and third book in more detail might mean giving something away in the first one and this is most definitely something that shouldn’t be spoiled.
The Chaos Walking Trilogy is a rare creation by an even rarer author. I read it, put it down, and even while I was away from the book I was thinking about it. Do yourself a favour and buy the books.
Age Group: 13+
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this post and enjoy the books even more. They really are that good.