24 February 2010
Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: YAL, SFF
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Todd Hewitt lives in Prentisstown, a strange place where all the men can hear each others' thoughts. They call this the Noise, an ever present stream of over 100 consciousnesses pouring out into the world and into the minds of the rest of the town. And the women..well, there are no women. When Todd was just a baby, all of the women in town died. The cause, so they say, is the same virus that brought about the Noise.
One day while walking in the woods, Todd comes across a presence...a silent presence, and this silence weighs on him heavier than the noise. But silence isn't supposed to exist. What other lies are the men of Prentisstown telling?
I have absolutely no idea how to talk about this book without spoilers. Every moment in the book is rife with possibilities, questions, and excitement. My mother, not the biggest fan of YAL, said she loved the story because it never stopped, and I completely agree. I could not stop reading; every turn of the page brought on a deep desire to see the next. And when I finished, I could not wait to get my hands on the second in the series.
Unfortunately, I was on vacation at the time, and apparently Ft. Myers Beach does not believe in bookstores. On the way back to my grandparents' house, I tried to convince them to turn around and go back to a Books-a-Million I had seen at the last exit, but I was met with eye-rolls and sighs. The moment we got back to the house, I drove to the nearest Barnes and Noble, and wouldn't you know it, they didn't have it. The next day I found it at a local mall. I immediately started reading.
Spoilery stuff: From the moment I read that Noise affected men but not women, I could see where things were heading. For one group of people to be so exposed to another group, while that group retains privacy, would be barely tolerable. And when you throw in the "natural" tendencies of men and women to be in conflict anyway, the situation has the potential to explode. In a situation like this, I can see events unfolding in one of two ways. Possibility #1 The women realize their power over the men and subjugate those they can easily read and control. Possibility #2 The men realize the power women have, fear it, fear them, and revolt. You can guess which way Prentisstown went. Either way, the issue is one of difference. People band together against groups that differ in some way.
I'm reminded of this horrible video new employees had to watch at my job. In it, there were penguins and more flashy birds. These two groups didn't like each other, and the more staid, conservative penguins were dominant. --At this point, I thought the video was going to be about diversity being beneficial and people learning how to work together.-- Then the community is threatened by wolves which live in the lands surrounding the birds' area. Of course the penguins and the flashy birds suddenly get along. --In other words, diverse people can learn to get along...as long as there is a third group to band against. What a terrible lesson!
Anyway, this is getting long winded, isn't it?
Icing on the cake
Todd's parents are no longer with him in the story, and he is being raised by Ben and Cillian, two men whom I choose to believe (and I think this is well supported) are in a romantic relationship. Homosexuality is not mentioned anywhere, but the emotion between the two and the familial feel among the three heavily indicates such a relationship. While I appreciate books that directly address the issue, sometimes it is very satisfying to read a story where it is present but never mentioned: it normalizes the relationship, demystifies it, makes it less "important", a non-issue.
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