The Knife of Never Letting Go
Chaos Walking #1
Thriller, Suspense, Spy fiction
Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (2008), James Tiptree Jr. Award (2008), Green Mountain Book Award (2012)em>
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in Prentisstown, New World. He is one month awayfrom becoming an adult. With a dog as his only friend, he is impatient toturn thirteen and be among the 146 men in the all-male community.
In the New World, everyone hears everybody else’s thoughts. Noise is everywhere resulting from the virus released by the alien race during a brutal war. The virus left all women dead and men infected with the Noise. When Todd finds a hole in the Noise which is a girl, he is forced to flee from Prentisstown.
The protagonist narrates the story using a raw language that some readers may not find comfortable or desirable. Once you get pass the irritation on “yers”, “direkshuns”, “preparayshuns”, etc., you will appreciate how the writing style serves the prose. The power of the narrative will somewhat diminish if Patrick Ness wrote it in an eloquent voice.
As the story progresses, we find that everything that Todd was made to believe is very far from the truth. Each fact he learns is a step towards an inevitable adulthood. The opening sentence declares his youth. His tone is clearly immature and his tirade puerile.
“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t nothing much to say about anything.”
“(S)uddenly here’s this brand-new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn’t have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, o, happy birthday, Todd, here’s a brand-new puppy, Todd, and even tho you don’t want him, even tho you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he’s got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?
But as the story ripens, his thoughts and character also evolve.
“The knife is alive. As long as I hold it, as long as I use it, the knife lives, lives in order to take life, but it has to be commanded, it has to have me to tell it to kill, and it wants to, it wants to plunge and thrust and cut and stab and gouge, but I have to want it to as well, my will has to join with its will.”
“I think maybe everybody falls. I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking. I think the asking is whether we get back up again.”
The Knife of Never Letting Go transcends the young adult genre. It is an apotheosis of bildungsroman literature. When all its contemporaries are forgotten, collecting dust, it should still be seen shelved with The Catcher in the Rye, Little Women and To Kill a Mockingbird. It is an examination of the deepest and darkest recesses of a human soul through the narrative of a young boy growing up faster than he would have wanted. For one does not need to dive into deep space and meet aliens to know fear; he only has to delve into a man’s thoughts. For man wants to understand. What he doesn’t understand he fears. And what he fears he destroys.