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More Than This

August 3, 2015

I expected More Than This from Patrick Ness to be as interesting as his series that begins with The Knife of Never Letting Go, and I was sorely disappointed, perhaps because the beginning is so promising–a boy wakes up dead. He remembers dying. He can’t figure out why he’s in a deserted house he lived in years ago. He can’t even remember his own name until Chapter Five.

The boy’s name is Seth, and he believes that his dreams, of his former life before he killed himself, are his torment in hell. He begins exploring the neighborhood beyond the deserted house and finds two other children, hiding from a man who cruises by in a black car. Their names are Regine and Tomasz, and they believe that the man will kill them if he catches them.

It really didn’t help my suspension of disbelief that Seth’s younger brother is named Owen. An innocuous-enough name, except that the kids and I made up a fish story once about the size of a blue crab that got away and decorated it with details that eventually included its murder of their made-up younger brother, Owen Mort Griggs (note the initials). There’s a terrible story in More Than This about Seth’s guilt about something he did when he was very young that resulted in his younger brother Owen’s kidnapping. We find out eventually that the kidnapping led to murder.

Here’s the big plot twist, though. In the fictional world that Seth’s parents created for themselves and him, Owen never died. They’ve all been lying near the deserted house where Seth finds himself, plugged into a future, nightmarish version of the internet which can create an entire reality and is branching out to include human reproduction. The three children have woken up from this, and the man in the black car is trying to plug them back in.

The virtual reality is not a paradise, as we know because of the events that led Seth to kill himself. Seth does make a few attempts to discern between appearance and reality. He thinks that
“Tomasz was a lot like Owen, just like a helping figure his brain might have conjured up to help him…accept death or move to a different consciousness or whatever the point of this place was, if it even had a point, then that might have made sense.
But he wouldn’t have made Regine up. She wasn’t like anyone he knew, not anywhere. Not that accent, not that attitude.
No, they were real. Or real enough.”

The three children have to fight to save each other, and to find out what has become of the world, and what their choices are. In the end, Seth decides to try to make his world different.

I think Cory Doctorow would have done the internet parts better, and Patrick Ness could have left the interesting spooky parts alone, without trying to explain everything by calling the alternate reality a virtual one. It struck me as a cheap trick, like having the characters wake up at the end of the story and say oh, it was all a dream.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2015 3:21 pm

    Aw, sad. It’s interesting the complaints you had vs. what I found frustrating about the book. I actually loved the way he dealt with the alternate/virtual reality thing at the end of the book; I thought it was such a lovely expression of optimism in a fairly dark story. I minded that it was so slow to get going, but once Tomasz and Regine turned up, I loved it.

    • August 3, 2015 4:14 pm

      You said that “Because he and his friends are in perpetual danger, he has to act as though the world is real. Still, there are times when he has serious, serious doubts about its reality. The case for what Seth believes is not weak. The case for what Regine and Tomasz believe isn’t weak either. Patrick Ness doesn’t resolve this, and I love him for not resolving it.” But I felt like he did resolve it–he showed that the world with just the three children was the real one and that if Seth wanted to bring others back to it, he had to go into the virtual one.

      • August 3, 2015 9:07 pm

        Well, I’ll have to go back and read it again. I want to start doing more rereads as I exercise (as that is a v. boring time for me, and rereads would brighten it) — my recollection is that Ness gave some evidence suggesting Seth’s first world was the real one, and some suggesting the three-children-world was the real one. But I’ll go back and read it, and see. Sorry it didn’t work for you though! :/

  2. August 3, 2015 7:31 pm

    I had high hopes for this one so I’m sad to see it was disappointing.

    • August 11, 2015 4:54 pm

      There are a number of people whose opinions I respect who liked it better than I did. Jenny, for one.

  3. August 11, 2015 9:51 am

    Patrick Ness is one of those writers who I’ve been meaning to read for years. Well, they are legion that group. But clearly I need to start with his original series. I think the crazy internet virtual reality storyline would annoy me, too.

    • August 11, 2015 4:54 pm

      The Knife of Never Letting Go is as good as the title, and I love that title!

  4. August 24, 2015 9:53 pm

    I’ve never actually loved a Patrick Ness book. A Monster Calls was okay, but nothing life-changing. This one started out very promising. I loved the first half. When it devolved into a Matrix rip-off, I completely lost interest. I still finished it – though I probably shouldn’t have. Seriously. It was just the Matrix. I kept expecting something else to happen to make it NOT like the Matrix.

    • August 24, 2015 10:15 pm

      Good point–it is like The Matrix, in that there’s a lot of hand-waving to make the “we’re just cogs in a computer” plot line work.

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