Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee – whose thoughts Todd can hear, too, whether he wants to or not – stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden – a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives. But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought.
Escaping the problems of the old world, the pioneers of New World had hoped to carve out a new, simpler, idyllic existence for themselves and their families by farming the land and practicing their faith. Twenty years later, their numbers decimated as a result of the violent war with the natives, the Spacks , the last remaining human settlers of New World cling to survival in their swamp encircled village – Prentistown.
Fatal to all but a few men, The Germ, a weapon deployed by the Spacks, has left the survivors of Prentistown afflicted with The Noise – the audible expression of their every thought, memory and emotion.
“The noise is a man unfiltered and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking”
I was quickly gripped by Todd’s first person account, written as Todd would speak, I found myself floating along with the cadence of Todd’s voice. Filled with spelling mistakes and at times, limited punctuation, you really get a feel for Todd’s limited education, necessitated by the need to survive, and the presence of a new accent amongst the settlers, indicating their separateness from ourselves. Todd is a complex character, at times cruel, thoughtless and proud and yet his also amazingly loyal and brave in the face of his fears.
The animal characterisation was fantastic. Stealing the show from the first page Manchee the dog grew on me in much the same way he did for Todd, at first an amusing diversion, an unavoidable irritation then becoming a valued companion, guide and protector. Ness really captured the enthusiasm, energy and loyalty of man’s best friend. I also enjoyed the comfort and safety of belonging to a herd with The Noise of the giant ox and their song of here, the stupidity of sheep and the general chattering of all the creatures.
I loved the concept of The Noise and I thought that it was an amazingly original idea. The presence of The Noise made for an uncomfortable read and ramped up the tension. You know that Todd and his companions are in a no- win situation. They are unable to out run the army they can hear gaining on them, and it’s impossible to hide with Todd’s noise announcing his position. Yet you are sat heart in mouth, rooting for a solution. The way noise was expressed on the page, as a jumble of different thoughts in different sized texts and fonts, gave a taste of the distracting, ugly chaos of Todd’s world.
While I understand that a cliff hanger is an important tool to wet your interest and ensure you will check out the next instalment of a series, there are times when it feels like you have been sucker punched. You’ve invested in these characters for the duration of the novel and BOOM! everything is left up in the air. This is definitely one of those times. Ordinarily I would find this immensely frustrating and feel hacked off, however the advantage of reading an older book is that the series is complete and I can feel smug in the knowledge that I have the rest of the trilogy sat on my book case.
Verdict: Reserve, borrow or buy the entire trilogy before you even think about starting The Knife Of Never Letting Go.