Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown. Prentisstown isn't like anywhere else. It's not on Earth. There's no women. And everyone can hear each other's Noise. Noise is thoughts--words, pictures, feelings. So there's no secrets.
A month from his thirteenth birthday, the date when he will become a man, Todd stumbles across a well of silence, and what he finds there forces him to run.
So, no secrets. Well that's a lie! This novel is one big secret. Keep in mind that when I say this book is strange, I don't mean obtuse or confusing. Rather, The Knife was exceedingly easy to read and understand, which is another reason I'm giving this book a great big recommendation. Three cheers for complex but thoroughly understandable plots!
It's written in Todd's Prentisstown vernacular, all yer dog and desperayshun and effing this and that. It's almost a stream of consciousness, but not quite. The writing is far more grammatical than Todd Hewitt could ever manage, and thank goodness for that because actual stream of consciousness writing drives me nuts. Patrick Ness uses just enough slang and bad spelling to give the impression that we're hearing Todd's thoughts, and that's a magical thing for a writer to be able to do.
It's also rather funny:
The girl just looks at me, her forehead still creased, holding her cut.Oh, the animals can talk too, by the way. But this isn't a fantasy novel. Everything has a scientific basis and the events are set sometime in the future, which makes this a sci-fi novel. A sci-fi novel with a decidedly dystopian flavour. Todd's escaping from one of the most oppressive, religiously fanatical, nutty societies that ever was. And the villain! Oh the villain. He's like one of those horror movie killers that just won't bloody die even though they've been eviscerated and shot and stabbed and beaten to a pulp.
Which is kinda bleeding a lot.
"Stick, Todd!" Manchee barks.
"And where the hell were you?" I say to him.
I make a "Gah!" sound and kick some dirt at him.
By the time the truth is explained to Todd Hewitt, he's already worked the truth out for himself, and so has the reader. But that's okay. It's rather satisfying to able to say smugly, "I know already. Cheers for the update, though."
One little bug-bear: There's this whole big thing about no one being able to hide their thoughts from anyone else because of the Noise. But things are hidden from Todd his whole life, and things happen, big things, that he should hear because no one can keep secrets. But secrets are kept just the same. Which doesn't make a lot of sense. But, again, I'll go along with it. It's the only tiny weakness in a great big wonderful book.
The Knife is a fabulous modern addition to my challenge. As I progress I keep thinking to myself, "this is my favourite of the challenge" ... "no, this is!" I'm going to have to have a good debriefing post to get it all straightened out. But that aside, if I gave ratings The Knife would get 10 out of 10. Five by Five. Gold stars baby.
Book two in this series, The Ask and the Answer, was just released last month. So no agonised wait to see what happens next, yippee!
*Actually, "Finches!" would be a better approximation. Here's a bit of trivia for you: On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. The word dystopia was coined in 1860.