Do any of you crave blood, guts, action and sci-fi books all mixed into one best-selling thriller? Well if you do, The Knife of Never Letting Go is the book for you. Winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize as one of the best young adult books in 2009, reading this book will blow your brains out. It’s one of the first books I’ve read by Patrick Ness that have an extremely complex plot written in the most simple context, but I’ve never heard of Patrick Ness until I came across this astounding book.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is about a young boy in Prentisstown on New World named Todd, who in that world, is 30 days from turning 13 and becoming a “man”. In the New World, everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in what they call the “Noise”. In Prentisstown, all the 147 inhabitants are male and there are no females. While Todd and his dog Manchee are hunting in a swamp, they comes across a moment of complete silence, a break in the Noise. He heads back to town, trying not to think of the silence and how suspicious he is of everyone. Todd’s guardians, Ben and Cillian, immediately tell him to run. As Todd heads back out to the swamp, he finds out that the “silence” is a girl.
From then on, Todd (with his dog Manchee) begins his escape from Prentisstown with the girl from different menaces including Mayor Prentiss himself and Aaron, the mayor’s psycho priest. As Todd travels with the girl, he learns that her name is Viola and that she was the survivor of a spaceship crash from the Old World. Viola and her parents were on a scout ship that the motherships sent out when their engine malfunctioned and they crashed, killing Viola’s parents and stranding her on an unknown settler planet (New World). Todd learns from her that almost 5000 settlers will be landing in a few months on the New World, and as Viola has no way of contacting her people aboard the motherships, they cannot be warned to leave.
What I haven’t clearly mentioned so far was what “Noise” really is. “Noise” is basically the thoughts that are in an organism’s head but are broadcasted into words and/or images. The Noise is a natural occurring phenomenon that had always existed on that planet. Apparently for humans it led to wars and distrust. As Noise only occurs in human males, they became jealous of the women being able to hide their thoughts. Although not all females are wiped out, every female in Prentisstown is killed. The Noise is what allows Todd to see what Manchee is thinking and what allows no one to have secrets. In Prentisstown, Todd has often heard from the Mayor’s house chanting that goes like ”I AM THE CIRCLE AND THE CIRCLE IS ME”. This is the Mayor’s way of controlling his Noise which in Books 2 and 3 allows him to use it as a potential weapon and he goes as far as to being able to hide his Noise.
So as Todd, Viola and Manchee continue on their journey to Haven, a mythical town where everyone lives in moderate freedom, they are continually harassed by the mad priest Aaron and the Mayor and his army of men. Aaron has the “supernatural” ability to withstand almost infinite physical injuries and he continues pursuing Todd and his companions even after losing an ear and half a cheek to a croc. In Todd’s travels, we see him gradually maturing as he ventures on. He gets more and more clues that eventually penetrate the Mayor’s lies. We first learn that the Mayor ordered the killing of all the females and disobedient males in Prentisstown. Then we find out that “Noise” wasn’t a virus caused by the Spackle (the indigenous alien species that inhabit the New World) but was a natural way of communication in the New World.
Fueled by the lies Todd was told, when he first meets a Spackle alive, he immediately stabs the Spackle and kills it with his knife. Todd, as was repeated over and over in the story, was a boy who suffered from killing others and he has many nightmares about it soon after. Later, Aaron catches up to Todd and he kidnaps Viola in sadistic hope that he would follow him but not before stabbing Todd with his own hunting knife. Todd, plagued by the diseases wrought from the Spackle blood, has fevers and hallucinations as he desperately chases after Aaron. After finally finding Aaron, Todd sacrifices his beloved dog Manchee to save Viola. This is when we see Todd’s love for Viola and his anger at Aaron for all the pain he had brought upon him.
After Todd is healed of his fever at Carbonel Downs, he meets up with Ben (his guardian) again who then sadly departs from Todd to sacrifice his life by attacking the Mayor’s son, Davy Prentiss Jr. When Todd and Viola finally reach within a few kilometers of Haven, Aaron appears once more chasing them into an underground cathedral where he brutally fights Todd and Viola. This is when the truth is finally uncovered, why boys aren’t true men until they turn 13 and why men never talk to boys after they turn 13. Boys become men by killing another man. Aaron, demented as he is, believes he is Todd’s sacrifice for his becoming of a man. He tells Todd that the Mayor has been chasing him for all that while because once he gets Todd to kill a man, his perfect army will become reality and he (the Mayor) will be God himself. To be able to obliterate Todd’s innocence will be the greatest achievement ever.
This is when the twist comes. It’s not Todd who kills Aaron, it’s Viola. My favorite quotation comes after Viola has stabbed Aaron through the neck with Todd’s knife.
His noise is just wild colors and pictures and things I won’t ever be able to say. He catches my eye. And his Noise stops. Completely stops. At least. And gravity takes his body and he slumps sideways. Away from the pulpit. And over the edge. And disappears under the wall of water. Taking the knife with him.
After Todd and Viola kill Aaron, both their innocences shattered, they meet up once again with Davy Prentiss Jr. who shoots Viola through the stomach with his pistol. Todd, with Viola mortally wounded, struggle into Haven to find… the Mayor waiting for them.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is unique because it ends in a cliffhanger that inevitably makes you want to read more. I would recommend this book to everyone and I don’t think anyone won’t like it a bit. This is probably the longest blog post ever so I think I’m gonna stop here.