By Patrick Ness.
Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.
But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?
I went to see the new Spiderman the other day (I know, way off-topic, but bear with me) and I found myself really enjoying it. It had a comedic tone that suited me, and I liked the new guy a lot. So when I went on IMDB to rate the movie (8/10 by the way), I got curious and clicked on Tom Holland’s link. Among other things, I found out he’s doing a movie called Chaos Walking, based on a trilogy of books I had yet to read. Of course, my first reaction to these news was: challenge accepted.
I enjoyed this story so much. It’s a dystopian that feels fresh, and it’s based on a simple concept that I loved – what if everyone could hear your thoughts?
Let’s talk about the writing style first. It’s peculiar, and I understand that many people will find it off-putting when they start reading. I’m here to tell you that you get used to it, and by the end of the first book it’s an integral part of Todd’s character. It’s distinctive, it’s original, and it’s his voice. Don’t be afraid to try something a little different, you might actually like it!
In the world that’s presented in Chaos Walking, humans settled on a planet where there is Noise, which is what they call the sum of all of one’s thoughts, loud and unfiltered. Everyone can hear everyone’s Noise, and all living things have it, except for women. These thoughts give away secrets, obviously, but also fantasies and intentions, so it’s not always easy to tell what is true and what is wish. This also provides with a great conflict between men and women, because men’s thoughts and desires are exposed for everyone to see, but women’s are not. The idea that this can lead to resentments and grow into violence is well explored in the books.
The first book is narrated by Todd, who at times has unsympathetic actions and thoughts, but is never unlikable. I found myself rooting for him, even when I didn’t agree with his choices. His relationship with Violet, our other main character, progresses beautifully as the story moves forward, and by the end of the book I could definitely feel the strong connection between these two people. We can see from the beginning Violet reacting to Todd’s thoughts right as he is thinking them, and we feel Todd’s frustration at being an open book to Violet through his Noise, but getting nothing back from her. We see him disregard her feelings at first, because he can’t read her Noise and can’t tell if she’s even feeling anything. And then that moment comes. The moment when he realizes that he’s learned how to truly read her, not her Noise but her expressions, her eyes, her movements – that moment is amazing. A bond snaps in place, and it is never broken throughout the trilogy. It’s incredibly well written.
The first book deals with escaping Prentisstown, and finding out the truth about the world. The second expands on the fight with the women, and the third deals with the clash with the natives of the planet. Every one of them makes you question and ponder about a myriad of important subjects – sexism, racism, slavery, war, love. Is it better to care and be in pain, or to not care at all? Is it ever right to go to war for someone you love? What if that choice saves your loved one, but deals death for a greater number of people? What would you not do for the people you love? When do you stop being the hero, and turn into the bad guy? Is there such a thing as the lesser of two evils? Does the world really have that many shades of grey?
As you can probably tell, I was fascinated by the journey these books took me on.
Read them, debate them, feel them. It’s worth the ride.
The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.
4 hearts out of 5.