Tuesday, 22 July 2014

#reviewsdaytuesday: The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

I read these books at the start of the month when I didn’t have any internet, and they pretty much saved me from madness. Set in a new world, we join Todd, the last boy in Prentisstown, when he is one month away from becoming a man. Prentisstown is a place where all the men can hear each other’s thoughts (which they call noise) and there are no women. As I’m reviewing the series as a whole, I can’t promise there won’t be spoilers for each book, but I won’t spoil the ending of the series as a whole.

I know its the wrong book, but I've lent The Knife Of Never Letting Go out to the fella!

I loved the two main characters in this book. Todd is headstrong, confused and trying to do the right thing: the perfect teenager. Viola (the girl Todd meets in the opening chapters of The Knife of Never Letting Go) is powerful, protective and wise. Both of them felt very full as characters, and very believable, and I enjoyed hearing from both their perspectives in the latter books. There were so many memorable moments in the series (Todd? Todd? – my heart broke), and all the big revelation moments were perfectly delivered.

This being said, there were some moments (particularly as the second and third books progressed) that I felt weren’t necessary. The amount of times Aaron comes back in the first book is a perfect example of this. Aaron feels very two dimensional as a villain. He lacks and explanation for his acts, and I feel like Ness perhaps overused his role in the opening book as the driving force of evil – he was coming back from the dead in impossible ways. This overusing of an evil is the biggest flaw in all of Ness’s work that I’ve read (particularly in his standalone More Than This). I believe the terror can be driven from within the main characters as well as from the outside, and in the first book I don’t know whether this was explored as much as it could have been.

As a series, Chaos Walking is an investigation into the concept of privacy and power (and the connections between them). Prentisstown is a settling in chaos, where men’s thoughts spread out from them uncontrollably, where they couldn’t handle the silence of women and so went to war. This is thrown into sharp relief when Todd and Viola end up in Farbranch, where women rule and men follow. Again this is contrasted with New Prentisstown, where power lies in the control of noise (and, latterly, the conflict between this and the ultimate absorption into noise). For the most part I found this compelling and engaging, however I wish the area of conflict arose earlier in The Ask and The Answer, rather than mainly in Of Monsters and Men. As a book, The Ask and The Answer is a bit of a filler in the series – a transition between the chase of the middle and the war of the end – although, when I was reading it, it never felt that way.

I also really enjoyed the dialogue around manliness and men in the books. In Prentisstown, you have to murder in order to become a man. In contrast, Ben says that war makes monsters of men. The conflict between men and women is an integral part of the series, vying for power in almost every circumstance, and in many ways this conflict represents the conflict between silence and noise; the private and the public; truth and lies.

I loved this series, and I almost read a book a day. They are easy reads with a lot of depth of thought in them. They have a strict moral code which is figured out by Todd as the books develop, which is perfect for a YA read. There are so many wonderful, well thought out, characters in this series which I haven't even mentioned here: Manchee, Wilf, Hildy, Davy, Lee, 1017. All of these characters add so much more to the books and I don't know what the series would be without them.

I cannot more highly recommend this series.

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