The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking, Book 1 by Patrick Ness
I am a big fan of dystopic fiction, and The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the most compelling pieces of dystopia I have read in awhile.
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown. His birthday is coming, when he will take his place among the men of his community: a community of only men, where each can hear the others' thoughts. The inhabitants of Prentisstown -- man and beast alike -- are afflicted with Noise: a continual stream of thoughts and images from every male creature. There is no stopping or shielding Noise, it is just a way of life. But when Todd stumbles upon a hole in the Noise, things begin to change in Todd's life and he finds himself on the run from all of the people he's ever known, and discovering along the way that all he's known to be true may not be.
I loved Todd's voice. It did take some getting used to; and not just Todd's voice but the steady stream of all voices, down to Todd's dog, Manchee, or the crocodiles that want to eat him. But Noise has a different font (or many), and once the transition into Noise has been made, all of the voices become very compelling and interesting. Ness manages to make them distinct, which is no easy feat. He also keeps the sense of urgency going through the story without ever making the reader think "Oh, enough already!", or without giving away too much information too soon, so that the revelations along the way are spoiled. The action remains taut and the narrative quick-paced and interesting.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first in a trilogy, Chaos Walking, and Ness couldn't have made that more clear. First, there is no way that the conflicts of the story could have been resolved in one book; second, the ending is so abrupt that it would leave most readers extremely irritated if it was not to be continued. The ending still may irritate some, but it certainly makes you want to read the next in the series, The Ask and the Answer...*
Really, there's not much more I can say with out giving something crucial away. There's a lot of crucial in this book. But if you can't feel for Todd and get caught up in his story (that is, if you have the attention span to handle Noise), then I don't think you're human. I'm just saying.
Patrick Ness's site, with various random bits for you to consume.
This won a whole mess of stuff, like:
2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize
2008 Guardian Award
2008 Jame Tiptree Award
2009 Carnegie Medal (shortlisted)
2009 Manchester Book Award (longlisted)
This book has some pretty sweet covers. It's one of those "I want to own them all" things. Which is your fave? (mine's #2)
Here's a little interview with Ness where he talks a bit about the book. All the while, Get the Party Started is playing. Not sure why...
*Review coming. I just finished it and have a LOT to say, and can't say it because again, it's all crucial. :}