Friday, June 05, 2009

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

Book: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Published: 2008

Time: 2:20:24
Number of Pages: 479

Todd Hewitt has only thirty days until his thirteenth birthday, when he will become a man. Good thing, too, because he's tired of being the only boy left in Prentisstown. Right around the time he was born, the New World's strange plague killed off all the women and gave all the men the ability to broadcast their thoughts. Prentisstown has been dying ever since, toppling under the weight of its citizens' despair and loneliness.

Then, to Todd's shock, his beloved foster father tells him he has to leave. But where? Prentisstown is all that's left. Every other settler on the planet is dead. Aren't they?
The things you know right now, Todd, those things ain't true.
With only this cryptic statement to help him, Todd is thrust out into the world, a world that becomes bigger and bigger every day as the things he always knew become lies. He meets a girl--a real, living girl--and then finds a settlement, and then realizes that the men of Prentisstown are hunting them down. But why?

And in thirty . . . twenty-five . . . twenty more days, he will be a man.

Why Did I Hype?: That title. My god, that title. It doesn't actually make very much sense as a statement, but once you read the book you understand.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 10/10

This book right here is an example of stellar worldbuilding. Ness's world is so carefully crafted that he can put Todd--and by extension, the reader--right down in the middle of it, with relatively few pauses to explain what's going on, and lets you figure things out all by yourself. Even more impressive when you realize he had to build two worlds--the one Todd always believed in and the one that he gradually discovers.

The Noise, which can best be summed up as stream-of-everyone's-consciousness, is a huge part of the novel. You would think that secrets can't be kept with the noise, but as Todd points out early on, it just means that you get hit with everything all at once, consequential woven in with banal until it all just becomes, well, Noise.

I started reading this book in a noisy diner, and perhaps that's why I so immediately understood the concept of babbling cacophony that ultimately means nothing. Or perhaps it's our experience of the internet, a constant stream of blogs and twittering, newsfeeds, facebook, info info info until you feel like crawling under your bed and meditating with the dust bunnies. But at least we can turn it all off.

There's so much more I can say about this book--about gender roles, about colonialism, about the way we rewrite history, about Todd's foster fathers, about the horrific choices Todd is faced with. But I'll let you discover that for yourself. If you haven't already, go find The Knife of Never Letting Go, carve out an evening, and read it. You may scream and claw at your face, like I did upon reaching the end, but you won't be sorry you took the ride.

And once you have reached that end, you'll probably want to rush out and find The Ask and the Answer, which is unfortunately not due out until September. If you need me for the next little while, I'll be biting couch cushions in half.

ETA: To correct the timing.


Anonymous said...

Oh shiny, shiny, shiny on a /stick/. I, hmm. Might have to go see if the library has this.

smaileh said...

I loved this book, and I must say you speak about it much more coherently than I could when I finished it. I actually had a hard time reading any other book for a while after this.

Bibliovore said...

meta4mix - Yes, yes, yes you do!

Smaileh - considering what I Twittered about it, that coherence was hard-won. And I think I suffered a bit of the same--judged the next book harder because KNLG was so amazing.

MotherReader said...

I've been trying to avoid wanting to read this book and now... and now... this review! I give up. I'll put it on my list.

Patti said...

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the sequel and whoa. It was awesome. I can barely contain myself until the next one comes out.

Good review!

The Floating Lush said...

Already on my list, and now I just want to read it more.