When you read a lot, and people you’re acquainted with start to realise that, they always ask you the same question.
“Who’s your favourite author?”
And there are always a few names that immediately come to mind. I call these the Alpha. My Alpha authors are Neil Gaiman and Cassandra Clare.
But then there are the Beta; the authors that are just as amazing but that maybe you haven’t known for as long, or haven’t read as much of as you have of the Alpha authors.
Patrick Ness is one of my Beta. (As is Patrick Rothfuss).
I read More Than This last year after being chased by the book through every book shop I went into. Including the book section of Big W. And was completely blown away by the complexity and genius of the story. So when I realised that Ness had written a trilogy, I had to buy it. Of course. Only, I had to chase each of the books for ages, trying to get the same covers. (A bit of a perfectionist with my books, I am). I finally got the last one a few weeks ago. And now, after about 12 months of making my way through my TBR list, I am finally getting to Chaos Walking.
The genius of this story lies in its language. Our narrator, Todd Hewitt, is a first generation settler on New World. He has very little schooling and has grown up with whatever stories have been told to him by his family. And his narration reflects this. He spells through as “thru”, says “twixt” instead of “between”, and has issues spelling certain words. Like “conversation” becomes “conversayshun”.
New World is a new planet on which the human race has started arriving. Old World, by all accounts, has become so polluted and wartorn that it is no longer habitable. So there was the first wave of settlers that arrived (Todd’s parents’ generation). Todd is part of the newest generation that was actually born on New World.
But then there’s the second wave, that starts with Viola Eade. Viola’s voice, in dialogue, is very different from Todd’s. She has been educated and so there are no spelling mistakes in her words. It’s a subtle difference that you only really notice if you’re paying attention. This is how Ness differentiates between his characters. And it’s brilliant.
I haven’t even mentioned the biggest difference between New World and our world. The men can hear each other’s thoughts. This is messy and it can never be shut off. So Todd has grown up listening to this Noise, thinking it is normal. When he discovers a patch of silence in the Noise, this warrants panic and suspicion. And this is where the story starts.
Oh! And the animals can talk. Let me tell you, crocodiles’ speech is damn well terrifying.
There are so many different voices in this book that a lesser author would have struggled to keep these voices strong. Ness, however, makes it so that we never mix up the characters even once. Including the bit-players and the animals.
Because this is the first book in a trilogy, it is hard to comment on the story thus far. There is a lot of running. A lot of violence. And a few secrets that get revealed throughout. But as far as plot goes, I feel that this was more an exploration of character. That we are given horrific circumstances and we see how Todd and Viola deal with them. We also see how different factions of people deal with both a New World and the Noise. This is what draws you in. I feel like we’ll get more plot than character exploration in The Ask and The Answer, the second book of Chaos Walking, but this is standard trilogy procedure. The plot has to grow and evolve in each proceeding book. Unless the author succumbs to SBS (Second Book Syndrome), but I can’t see Ness, a twice Carnegie Medal Winner, falling into this horrible pattern.
After closing this book, as you may have noticed, it was the language and the characters that left an impact more than the plot. I guess that’s why the plot barely featured here. I feel like first impressions are an important part of reviewing, so that is what I gave you guys.
Oh! The eponymous knife? That becomes a metaphor, a symbol, and a theme. But I can’t really talk about that without giving away spoilers. Trust me when I say that the title is a lot like the title of More Than This in that it is actually part of the story.