Series: Chaos Walking #1
Author: Patrick Ness
Pages: 479 (paperback)
Published: October 22nd 2008
Published by: Walker
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him -- something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
Todd lives in Prentisstown, the last settlement on a planet colonised by humans only twenty years earlier. Everyone else died in a war with the natives of the land - Spackle. During this time they also released a virus which killed the women and meant that the men could hear each others' thoughts. Todd is counting down the days until his 13th birthday, the day he is counted as a man. He is the only boy left in Prentisstown. When he and his dog Manchee are in the swamp one day, though, they come across something - silence. And the silence turns out to be a girl - Viola. This sends them on a run for their lives across the planet, when Todd has never been further from home than the edge of the swamp.
I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than I was expecting to. The story was intriguing, and there are mysteries surrounding the circumstances so you know there's something missing but not what. There are hints and clues and you kinda have an idea, but you don't get the whole picture. And the ending! You find everything out and there's this huge like bombshell and so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what happens next. I will admit there were a couple of bits which I had issues with believing but for most part it was fine.
You don't see much of the planet which has been colonised, but what you do see is great. Another virus released by the Spackle meant to kill their animals actually means they can talk, and there are a couple of creatures Todd and Viola come across which are wonderful. And Manchee! Manchee is Todd's dog and he is absolutely adorable with his speech. Ness has done a great job of giving just an ordinary dog a voice both in what he says and the way he does it, the repetition and the attention getting, what actually makes up his thoughts.
And similarly with Todd - he hasn't had a proper education and can't read or write with any degree of proficiency so when he comes across big words these are spelt phonetically. While I found this a little distracting at first, you soon get into it and I think it's a great addition to the story and shows Todd really well. The interaction between Todd and Viola is also great. For him this is someone completely new, and the first person he has ever come across who's thoughts he can't know instantly - and loudly. And she has to learn to deal with this, with someone who has no practice at reading body language and getting to know people. The development there was really well - and really believably - done.
When Todd hears the thoughts of others they are done in a different font - more like handwriting, bigger, bolder, showing how much they intrude. I found this a little distracting because I'd see them across the page and my eyes will be drawn to them and distract me from what I should actually be doing.
Interesting concept and looking forward to what the next book has to offer.