When we first meet 17 year old Seth Wearing he's not in a good place, in fact he's drowning in a freezing, raging sea, his head and shoulder smashed on jagged rocks. But then Seth wakes up ....
And what a world he wakes up in. Despite moving to America with his family eight years earlier, Seth finds himself back in his childhood home in England. However, the familiarity ends there; he is alone in a barren, desolate landscape where everything is encased in dust and weeds and he has to forage for food and supplies in deserted shops. Seth's waking nightmare soon turns into a battle for survival and on the way he meets two fellow young travellers, Regine and Tomasz, who are equally scared and damaged, but also brave and determined in their fight for survival.
The story of how they came to be in this twilight world is gradually revealed and it's an inventive and pretty complex one. As you would expect in a modern YA novel there are topical themes such as race, immigration and sexuality, and Ness weaves these into his poetic narrative seamlessly, with no hint of banner waving or political correctness. Despite their tragic backgrounds, Regine and Tomasz bring some much needed light, humour and friendship into Seth's life, and Seth himself is a very endearing and sympathetic figure, carrying a burden of guilt which no-one his age should have to bear and still wrestling with the demons and broken heart which led to him to his watery grave.
Although I'm not much of a YA or Sci-Fi reader, I love a good post-apolcolyptic, dystopian story and this is certainly one of the better ones I've read recently . Of course Patrick Ness has form - his Chaos Walking trilogy (which I haven't read yet, though I loved The Crane Wife) has won many awards and I think he may be onto a winner with this one too. The ending is very ambiguous and open (almost frustratingly so), but if, as I hope, there's a sequel and perhaps also further instalments on the way, then this beguiling and thought-provoking novel has certainly whetted my appetite.
Imagine waking up in a world you sort of remember, but is not yours. Seth is drowning. He dies. He wakes. And he lies, on the pavement, outside a house he lived in until he was eight. Everything around him is covered in a thick layer of dust; he is naked apart from a few bandage type things wrapped around his trunk and legs, the house looks sort of familiar, but he knows his family emigrated to the US some years previously, so why are things that should be in America in this house? There is no electricity, nothing is working, the tap does not run and he is oh so thirsty - and outside all is silent.
This is the start of Seth's adventure, and the start of a book that hooked me in from the very beginning, for I was as desparate as Seth to find out who? where? why? I felt much empathy towards this 16 year old, alone in a very strange place, with no human contact. It must be what people who are shipwrecked feel like, but with a difference, for there are clothes shops to pilfer, and some food is still available if you can use a tin opener (for it is obvious that whenever this is happening, its been happening for several years).
To say more about the story itself would give away too much, but imagine what is wrong with the world, imagine things you do every day being the cause of his loneliness, imagine ... well, just imagine what you might think, what you might do.
I first came across Patrick Ness when I read A Monster Calls, a book he finished from the notes of the late Siobhan O'Dowd; a different style to my usual reads, and a clever way of dealing with a tricky subject. What an imagination Ness has. I know, in another book of his (The Knife of Never Letting Go) that there is a talking dog - got to read that one very very soon!
But back to More Than This. First, the cover. My copy is hardback, but I do hope they keep the doorway when this is published in paperback. Yes, there is a doorway cut into the actual cover of this book, which is opening onto the title page. And this should give a new reader a clue, as it is all about opening doorways that might lead you to the answers. The style has good, shocking, stops and starts which make you gasp, make you fearful of turning a page, but definitely make you want to read on. And reading on, you find yourself thinking aloud "oh! yes!.... that is already happening"; and "oh! my goodness that could happen now and if it did....." It's a clever concept, and dystopia is one of those subjects that can conjure up a new world so easily but will not necessarily make a good read. More Than This is more than a good read, it's a scary read but with no zombies or vampire or werwolves; it's a thoughtful read, with the future not the one we expect, and above all it's an exciting read because really, you do want Seth to come out of this OK and above all alive! The ending is open and in this case that's not a bad thing at all. I think that this was aimed at Young Adults - say from 12 onwards, but if you like dystopian tales, your age will not matter a bit.
on 10 July 2016
I was a little disappointed by this book as it just wasn't as powerful as The Knife of Never Letting Go.
It's another example of a book where I liked the concept more than the execution. The first half of the novel was very strong. After Seth's dramatic "death", the opening chapters where he wanders alone through the ruined town are very tense. Although little happened, there was always the threat that something would and the mystery of whether or not it really was Seth's Hell. The flashes of Seth's life also really drew me in and I found myself completely invested in the tragedy of his past.
However, I started to lose interest in the second part when the novel took a turn towards the dystopian. I never really connected with Regine and Tomasz in the way that I did Seth and his school friends. The science fiction elements felt unoriginal and slapped on, taking a little too much from The Matrix and never fully explaining themselves (or the strange advanced technology the humans seemed to possess.
The philosophy also felt pretty heavy handed. It's wasn't all that subtle, largely spoon-feeding the reader some weighted discourses on the nature of reality that didn't really sound as though they came from the mouth of a teenage boy. However, I did love the themes of the novel. The story dealt with themes like homosexuality, child abuse and victim blaming in a mature way and its ultimate anti-suicide message was quite beautiful.
All in all, it's a mixed bag. I don't regret reading it but it's not the best that Ness has to offer.
Seth drowns in the sea. He dies. And then he wakes up.
To discuss the plot in much detail would spoil the book for a reader. Seth wakes up in a world he knows, but not the one he died in. Why is he there? Is he alone? Is he really dead?
I found this intriguing. The revelations, as they come, are shocking and well played. The twists are unexpected (or they were to me!), despite the ideas being seen before in film and literature.
The writing is tense, descriptive, playful. We see snippets from Seth's life interspersed with his new surroundings, seeing his back story and reasons for his drowning. The secondary characters are well drawn, rounded and at times funny.
The ending is open enough to allow a sequel, and I certainly plan to look out for one.
Even the cover is delightfully put together, teasing and tasteful.
I was never going to say no to this, having been thoroughly impressed with A Monster Calls and the Chaos Walking trilogy. I believe Patrick Ness really is one of our most talented writers for Young Adults writing today.
'A book...It's a world all on its own too. A world made of words...where you live for a while.'
Readers of my review of The Crane Wife, will know that I am fully paid up member of the Patrick Ness fan club. So, it was with great excitement that I greeted news of a new YA novel. Those lovely people at Walker books were kind enough to send me a copy, and it went straight to the top of the reading pile.
More Than This is staggering. From start to finish, it is a relentless, captivating read. It opens with Seth, a boy on the cusp of adulthood, floundering in freezing waters, thrown onto jagged rocks. He dies. The rest of the book shows what to him happens next. Much as with The Crane Wife, to disassemble 'More Than This' and lay it bare for review, is to diminish it. The narrative and themes link together to form a beautiful, seamless whole that cannot easily be conveyed.
To be honest, I needn't add much else. Stop reading this, and go and find a copy, now!
On the off chance you're still here, I shall try to explain just why I think the book is so good. I won't dwell on story and plot points. They're impeccable but they're only half of what this novel is about. This a novel about life, about existence, about our place in the world. With its target audience struggling to work out where they fit in, More Than This might just be the perfect handbook.
It offers no easy answers, for there are none, but it is an ideal tonic for those who are feeling unloved, unappreciated, misunderstood (I.e. most of us). The exact nature of Seth's destination remains malleable; hell, alternate reality, past, present or future, virtual, hallucination or real? Seth's quest to discover the truth of his predicament reveals more about himself than it does his location.
This is a beautiful life-affirming novel, about friendship and trust, about accepting our life for what it is, and ourselves for who we are. The writing makes for effortless reading and is wonderfully observed. In places it is devastating, and should carry a health warning for a parent with boys of 8 and 4. It had me in pieces.
In my opinion this book surpasses my previous Ness favourite, The Ask and the Answer, but they are both great for similar reasons. Both tales twist their readers preconceptions, and in doing so reveal a little piece of how humanity works. The conclusion to the story is well balanced and in perfect keeping with what came before. It is, perhaps, the novel's assertion that there may not be 'more than this', and so we should make the very best of it. Start by reading this book.
on 13 August 2014
Seventeen-year-old Seth drowns; in fact his action is deliberate. He wants to escape the horror of his existence. Racked with guilt over the fate of his younger brother, an event he feels is his entire fault, he doesn’t have much to live for. Then he wakes up, back in his old home in England, and things start becoming very weird indeed. He is wrapped in silvery bandages, and his old street is deserted. The whole place is uninhabited and overgrown. He seems to be the only person left alive in the world. He must now forage and scrounge for clothing, food and water. He wonders if this is hell. His dreams don’t help because his previous life comes back to him in huge, unwelcome chunks of memory. Then he meets two other people, with their own unique and strange tales to tell.
Despite the fantastic beginning, with a description that pulled me right into the ocean with Seth, I struggled to finish this book. Parts of it were incredibly exciting and then would grind to a halt with unnecessary introspective and philosophical meanderings on the part of the main character, meanderings which became boring and one had the urge to say, “Oh, just get on with it!” The plus side: an utterly riveting and plausible story premise that comes much later on (just when you are wondering what on earth this is all about and is he dead or not, and if everyone else is dead, then where are the bodies?); really wonderful descriptions that have the reader in the grip of the moment; action and tension to add to the positively bleak and hopeless situation; events that come out of nowhere that have a cinematographic and surreal feel to them; the depth of emotion Seth feels for the loss of his younger brother and his friends. In fact, Seth’s guilt is so palpable that one is consumed with curiosity to learn the truth. The two characters that join him are so different, so lost as well, and so eager to hide the circumstances of their lives/deaths. One feels the pain of the characters as they reveal the humiliating and tragic burdens they each carry.
What I did not enjoy: the flashbacks were sometimes jarring and intrusive, until I accepted them as part of the story-telling process; the fact that this world, while it began as an interesting construct, did not have enough to sustain the story and/or the last three inhabitants. I found the ending abrupt and it short-changes the reader in a way. There were many loose ends in the unfolding of this tale that I feel the author might have tried to answer. The characters were confused and, as a result, the reader becomes confused. It is as if the author didn’t bother to work things out to the last detail, which is possibly not the case, but feels that way. The reference to same sex love/relationships was dealt with sensitively and delicately, in an almost tender way. However, this might surprise readers who are not prepared for it, especially if the reader is younger than the protagonist’s age of 17. Ultimately, the characters’ thoughts on what constitutes life and death, and the option of living in a constructed world, avoiding the reality of a life too sad/tragic/hopeless to contemplate should give readers food for thought. However, I have no doubt that the intended audience of older teens and YA readers will love this book. Three stars.
This book starts with a boy drowning. We don't know why or how he has got in the water, we just know that he dies. And then wakes up. Tired, frightened, disoriented, and utterly alone. He appears to be the only person in a strange abandoned world; a world full of overgrown weeds and dust and decay and silence. Where is he? How did he get there? And where is everyone else?
Gradually Seth starts to get to grips with his situation. He finds things he needs to survive and starts to explore. Every time he falls asleep he has vivid dreams, and through these we start to piece together his past life. As the story progresses Seth finds himself starting to come to terms with some of the bad stuff that has happened to him.
Although this book is quite long at 480 pages, it is very readable and I managed to complete it in 2 days. The story line is quite confusing and I definitely recommend not trying to make too much sense of it (I think that's the point - we're never quite clear what is real and what is Seth's imagination) - just go with the flow, because what is important is Seth's growing emotional maturity (for me as an adult anyway - though possibly not for the intended YA audience!).
I do feel that in places it is a wee bit too confusing and also a bit rambly and repetitive occasionally (hence dropping one star). And I was also concerned that it is pretty bleak - all the young characters have had some pretty horrible things happen to them. This bleakness is mitigated (for me anyway) by the upbeat nature of the ending.
The ending comes upon you quite suddenly and it IS ambiguous (as other reviewers have said). For me that's it is redeeming feature and I thought the ending was just perfect. The message is that if you feel that "there must be more than this" then there probably is ... go out and find it. And I think that's a great message to give to teenagers.
So, would I recommend this book to young adults - yes definitely. I don't think it is as good as the Chaos Walking series, but still an interesting and thought provoking book.
on 4 June 2016
Another cracking tale plucked from the imagination of Patrick Ness. A boy drowns in the ocean and then finds himself alive and somewhere odd but familiar. I wasn't sure what to expect from the premise and as an atheist, I was hoping it would not be supernatural but I wasn't going to mind if it was because the supernatural is all imagination to me. What happened next is not something I can divulge but it was certainly imaginative and enthralling. Worth a read.
on 1 May 2014
Unfortunately I was left with a feeling of disappointment upon finishing this book..
For me it started really well, then seemed to wander off course to its unoriginal twist and never really found its way back. Then was padding to the cop out, slightly preachy non-ending…
Not a bad book but for me didn’t live up to the promising beginning…
on 9 October 2013
I adored `More Than This'. If ever there was a book to make you think, this is it.
You are immediately thrust into `More Than This', Ness escaping that awkward getting to know what's going on phase and plunging the reader straight into the action. I loved how anonymous `the boy' was, the possibility that it could be anyone. The realisation that it didn't matter who he was. I was amazed that even though I knew almost nothing about the boy, I could still care about him as a character.
The scattering of memories across the novel is extremely effective as it allows us to never know too much or too little. Not to mention that the memories are always relevant and always add something to the story immediately. But what more had I expected from the creator of the phenomenal `Chaos Walking' trilogy?
As the novel continued, I read at any given opportunity just so I could find out more about the boy and this place he'd woken up in. I had to know more. There's an air of mystery surrounding `More Than This' which just further adds to the feeling that you need to keep turning the pages and ask `What's next? What's next?'. This makes it near impossible to put down.
Ness creates an unnerving atmosphere that made me huddle close to the pages and fully immerse myself there. At times I was blown away by the beautiful description and the way he phrases certain things to really make you stop and think. Interesting observations of human thoughts and behaviours grow deeper and deeper as you read the novel until you feel cleansed by its conclusion.
As always, I was awestruck by Ness's pace. I know of no other writer who uses a dash to such monumental effect. The chapters are short, making it so easy to pick up and yet impossible to put down. At times I felt my heart pounding as I was reading as though I was there. The pace was perfect.
The only possible criticism I could have for `More Than This' is that I felt one too many adverbs were used. This is because they jump out at me on the page because of my hatred for them and I didn't think they were all needed.
Patrick Ness truly is the master of his craft.