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Chaos Walking

January 9, 2012

I’ve been hearing so much about Patrick Ness and his YA trilogy Chaos Walking that I finally had to read the first one, The Knife of Never Letting Go, over the holidays–and once I did, I had to gulp down the second, The Ask and the Answer, and the third, Monsters of Men, double-quick.

Ness does some interesting world-creation and sets a good pace with the plot, although it falters a bit in the second and third books when he repeats certain specific themes endlessly, as though they’ll be forgotten if he doesn’t literally YELL them every few pages.

The title of the series comes from the way men (but not women) can hear each other’s thoughts on the planet where the action of the novels takes place. They call the sounds of another man’s thoughts “noise” and the narrator, Todd Hewitt, tells us “the Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.” Todd can’t read, and so he spells some words phonetically and tries to sound out others so that you and I know what is happening before he does, like when he reads in his dead mother’s journal “you moosed warren them.” Along with a girl, Viola, who is from the second wave of colonists and whose scout ship has crash-landed on the planet, Todd makes his way out of the town where he grew up and through other little towns to the biggest city on his side of the planet. There he is captured and used by a ruthless dictator who spends most of the second book thinking up ways to torture and control the planet’s native alien population, all the women, and some of the men.

In the third book, we see how war makes “monsters of men” and women, and how difficult it is to try to work towards peace when everybody is talking and few are even trying to listen. There is a terrifying and dramatic conclusion, and a hard-won ending to the entire series. If you like to read fast, be tremendously entertained, and can stomach a certain amount of bloodshed (although not without hand-wringing), this is a good series to pick up.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2012 7:40 am

    I was conflicted about the first book, and I’m glad that the second two weren’t out when I read it. I know I would have gone right on without processing my feelings on the first book. By the time the second book came out, I knew I didn’t want to read it. I just didn’t like Knife very much…

    • January 10, 2012 7:14 am

      Interesting you call Todd by that name, since it isn’t until the end of the second book you find out why one character thinks of him that way.

  2. January 9, 2012 7:46 am

    Hooray! So glad you read this and liked it! I love what you said about few even trying to listen. He did such a good job of capturing the complexities of conflicts.

    • January 10, 2012 7:15 am

      I liked the conflict was between the alien and the human culture, but not so much when it was sort of a “mom against dad” conflict with women vs men.

  3. January 9, 2012 11:22 am

    You lost me at “second wave of colonists and whose scout ship has crash-landed”.

    • January 10, 2012 7:17 am

      Yes, it’s set as science fiction, but focuses on why the human characters act as they do in this situation.

  4. January 9, 2012 12:26 pm

    Sounds like a Doctor Who spin-off

    • January 10, 2012 7:17 am

      But then, everything set on a different world can.

  5. January 9, 2012 3:00 pm

    I’m glad you liked them too. I had my issues with the books, but you can’t deny the compulsive need to finish the series once you’ve started it.

  6. January 9, 2012 3:42 pm

    I just got the first book recently and I’d heard how compulsively readable the series is. Glad to hear you enjoyed it! (Didn’t want to read too much of your review before I read the series myself!)

    • January 10, 2012 7:19 am

      “compulsively readable” is a great phrase for these books!

  7. January 9, 2012 6:29 pm

    Glad you liked them (even if with reservations). I had reservations about the first one, and even about the second one, but then I had a good year and a bit to think about both of the first two books and decide I loved them, before the third one came out. Something about anticipating a not-out-yet book makes a girl get over her reservations! Plus in the meantime I discovered what a really lovely person Patrick Ness seems to be.

    • January 10, 2012 7:22 am

      After years of reading the first in a series and waiting for the next ones to come out, I decided not to do that anymore if I can help it. Now, if I know there are subsequent books, I make myself wait until they’re all out. It was Westerfeld’s Leviathan that was the last straw for me. I still haven’t read the two follow-up books, because I haven’t found an occasion to read straight through for a couple of days.

  8. January 9, 2012 9:12 pm

    I thought this series was really well done and one of the best YA dystopia series out there. I plan to check out his latest book, which everyone is raving about.

    • January 10, 2012 7:24 am

      It’s interesting to call this one a dystopia, which is certainly is, because the colonists have come to the planet for a fresh start. So many dystopias in the last 60 years have been set on post-apocalyptic Earth.

  9. January 16, 2012 5:17 pm

    I had mixed feelings about this trilogy. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I am glad that I did read it, though.

    • January 29, 2012 8:18 am

      I went over to The Written World (2012 version) to see if you’d said why you’re glad you read it, but you must have read it a while back?

  10. January 29, 2012 12:38 am

    I want to read this series, but fear what you described-that I won’t be able to stop with one!

    • January 29, 2012 8:19 am

      Baby, don’t fear the page-turner…you can be like we are.

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