People dismiss Young Adult books to the teenagers of this world, but if you’re among those that do, you are missing out on some of the best books around. The Chaos Walking Trilogy is a series of books by American born British writer Patrick Ness. I think this trilogy will get the recognition it deserves. After a period of time, I believe it can sit proudly on the same shelf alongside J.R.R Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials. Now, I know readers, especially fans of Tolkein, would say that nothing can compare to the Lord of the Rings–but I believe the Chaos Walking series is similar to protagonists in epic fantasies, in that the protagonist goes on a physical and spiritual journey to save the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the series. It is made up of three books: The Knife of Never Letting Go, the Ask and the Answer and the final book Monsters of Men.
The first book of the trilogy is the best in my opinion. It centers on a boy called Todd Hewitt who grows up in a world where no females exist and everyone can hear each other’s thoughts. Even the animals thoughts can be heard. Todd lives in a dystopia of fear and suppression under the rule of the “Mayor” who is the arch enemy. An incident forces Todd to go on the run from the government and the adventure begins. The fact that everyone can hear each other is a brilliant idea. This made me feel that Ness touches on the fact that, currently, we are all connected, considering that we have no privacy with social media and, therefore, we “hear” each other’s thoughts. I loved the relationship that existed between Todd and his loyal dog Manchee. I also thought one of the many evil characters in the story, Aaron, was a supremely complex and complicated person.
The Ask and the Answer is a very different book. Todd is situated in a town where he must decide which side he must join in the middle of the war. Ness once again makes it very hard for the reader to distinguish what might be the “good” side and what might be the opposing side. I enjoyed this ambiguity since the reader can easily empathize with one army and make an argument for their cause. The ambiguity of empathy also creates an uneasiness to the book, leaving the reader constantly torn between the opposing factions. I felt this book, however, lost the cutting edge and the fast pace feel of the first. The plot meanders along and it is very unclear what the end point might be. The book is merely a prelude to the concluding book where all the questions are answered.
Monster of Men is the final book in the trilogy and is a continuation of the second book. As the war rumbles on, Todd begins to become a man and is forced to make huge decisions as both a leader and as an individual. Todd begins to hone his own mental strength in order to use it against the people and he is faced with many moral decisions. The ending is brilliant to the trilogy and it brought great closure to the story.
Because all of the males from the planet can hear each other, the book is written in a very unusual style where a reader must adjust. The narrative is a running commentary on what Todd is thinking so nothing is left out. We also get to hear what the other characters are thinking which makes the book clear and more focused. The most interesting aspect of the book is its overload of bad grammar and spelling mistakes, specifically when Todd is thinking. This was done to remind the reader that we are reading Todd’s thoughts, and it plays on his accent while also touching on Todd’s illiteracy and lack of spelling skills. This made me empathize with Todd straight away, but I know other readers may find it frustrating and might wish to correct the mistakes while they are reading the story. Ultimately, the trilogy is full of love, misery, cruelty, and above all, suspense.
These three books are some of the best pieces of writing I have read. I encourage you to read the first book and get started. I think they will go down as modern classics. I would argue they are as good as anything Pullman or Tolkein has written. Do you agree? If you don’t, even better! Please leave a comment.
About the Author:
Patrick Ness has written nine books: 2 novels for adults (The Crash of Hennington and The Crane Wife), 1 short story collection for adults (Topics About Which I Know Nothing) and 6 novels for young adults (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men, A Monster Calls, More Than This and The Rest of Us Just Live Here). He currently lives in London, UK.
Patrick Ness, and other fellow YA authors, including John Green, have been fundraising for refugees from Syria. Read more about the fundraising efforts here: Patrick Ness leads fundraising drive to aid refugees
And check out his fundraising page: Patrick Ness’s fundraising page
Text © 2015 LIGHTLIT
Re-print © 2015 The Black Lion Journal
Re-printed with permission.
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