2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant trilogy,
This review is from: Chaos Walking: A Trilogy - The Knife of Never Letting Go; The Ask and the Answer; Monsters of Men (Paperback)
This is a remarkable and brilliant trilogy. It has an imaginative and interesting setting and premise, a gripping style and a story which kept me reading keenly right to the last page of each book as it came out and hungry for the next. They are billed as books for young adults and I think they would enjoy them greatly, but other not-very-young-at-all adults like me should read them, too. They are page-turningly exciting and form a really rich narrative which makes remarkably profound observations on very important themes without once making you feel as though you are being lectured.
The central, extremely ingenious, idea is that thoughts, including those of animals, are audible to everyone else. This is called their Noise and remains a fascinating idea throughout. The central character is twelve-year-old Todd Hewitt and a flavour of his narrative voice is given by this:
"Men's minds are messy places and Noise is like the active, breathing face of that mess. It's what's true and what's believed and what's imagined and what's fantasized and it says one thing and a completely opposite thing at the same time and even tho the truth is definitely in there, how can you tell what's true and what's not when yer getting *everything*? The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking."
Todd was brought up in a small, closely controlled community. Exactly where this community is and the nature of it emerges slowly in the narrative, and again this is very well-controlled and skilfully done. Early on in the story Todd discovers something which puts him in extreme danger and he has to run from the place in which he has spent every day of his life so far. The story to begin with is of an outsider searching, hunted and running in an unknown land. Later, as Todd takes on other roles, the story becomes morally complex and very involving in many ways.
The first book is narrated by Todd alone. For me, the second and third books are even better as other narrators also appear as their stories unfold - a very difficult trick to pull off convincingly, but Ness does it brilliantly. The voices are clearly identifiable, and the structure allows Ness to explore how misinformation and misunderstanding can be exploited by the ruthless and bring grief to the innocent. Ness also explores how a dictator can manipulate even the well-meaning, the nature of oppression and suppression and how the good can become dehumanised by inhuman situations and treatment. There is also a constant sense of the complexities of the ethics of resistance and terrorism, and how seemingly legitimate anti-terrorism measures can be exploited by those wishing to limit freedom. No easy answers are presented, very few people are portrayed as wholly good or wholly bad, and the entire book is imbued with a sense of the difficulty of knowing the right thing to do and how hard it can be to do the right thing even when you know what it is. And, though it all, an uplifting sense of the strength and power of friendship and love.
Be warned, there is some real, unflinching horror here, too. It is anything but gratuitous - it is central to the story and to the ideas being considered - but I found it truly disturbing because, like the whole of the trilogy, it is so brilliantly written.
These books have more intellectual, ethical and moral content than most books written for adults, conveyed in a superbly-told, imaginative and thrilling story. I cannot think of much more to ask of a book than that, and I recommend all three in the strongest possible terms to adults of all ages.