First sentence: ‘The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.’
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown, a town believed to be the last remaining settlement of New World. In Prentisstown, everyone can hear each other’s thoughts, can see the memories and images flashing through each other’s minds, in a constant, never-ending Noise. But only one month away from the birthday that would turn Todd into a man, he stumbles across the impossible.
And now he has to run.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first of a YA dystopian trilogy by Patrick Ness. Recommended to me by a friend, given to me for Christmas, I picked it up and was immediately swept away. I don’t normally like books written ‘in dialect’, or with passages of semi-stream of consciousness, but with this novel, with its context of Noise, it fit both the character and the setting. Written in first person and in the present tense, Todd’s discovery of the silence and his flight through the swamp and into the unknown is immediate, pressing, urgent. I found myself anxiously awaiting the evening the four days it took me to read it, because then I could go home and keep reading. I’ve already reserved the next of the trilogy from the public library.
One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed this novel is because it did nothing that I expected it to. YA sci-fi/fantasy is my genre of choice, and though I have noticed a trend (well, three books) of YA dystopian novels being told in the first person and in the present tense (such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Possession by Elana Johnson), this book, its characters, its setting, and its story were still refreshingly unique.
And I was particularly taken with the concept of Noise. Other authors have explored this idea of telepathy, but none have quite grasped the nuances and implications of a collective consciousness like Patrick Ness has. It is difficult to explain exactly how he has done it, but needless to say I found this aspect of the novel both fascinating and useful. Useful because my own novel Orion features a race which has this peculiar characteristic. I have much food for thought now regarding the further development of this aspect of my novel.
Should you read it? Of course you should.