The Chaos Walking Book Review

The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

This series. This. Series. Chaos Walking was such a defining trilogy of books for me in my high school years. It’s made up of three books: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men, as well as a short prequel story called The New World.

It’s one of those series that I read again. And again. It’s one of my favorite trilogies of all time, and one I feel is still underrated. Also, there’s a shitty Lionsgate film adaptation that came out last year, based on the first book. We don’t talk about that film adaptation. Anyway, before I get into the actual review, here’s the synopsis for book one of the series.

Title & Author: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Series: Chaos Walking

Length: 497 pages

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Mystery

Release Date: May 5, 2008

Book Description

A dystopian thriller follows a boy and girl on the run from a town where all thoughts can be heard – and the passage to manhood embodies a horrible secret.

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World?

Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Doesn’t that sound interesting? It does, doesn’t it? That’s precisely what I thought when I picked it up in the midst of a reading slump, way back in high school. And it was amazing.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.About anything.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Todd’s narration was unique and hilarious. I mean, just look at that quote – that’s the opening line! His narrative voice was very strong, which is something that I really love in books that do that kind of thing properly. He’s one of my favorite protagonists, and is just as compelling to read about a second, or even third, time around. And I can’t forget about Manchee the doggo. He’s the absolute best boy (that can also talk!). His and Todd’s relationship is so sweet, and it makes my heart warm just writing about it right here.

Viola is the dueteragonist of the series (and the mysterious girl mentioned in the synopsis), and I liked her just as much. She and Todd are a perfect team – hers strengths cover his weaknesses, and his strengths cover her weaknesses. In several ways, the two seemed like equals. And their relationship was the central pillar that this trilogy stands on, and I absolutely loved it – it was written so perfectly.

“Here’s what I think,” I say and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my noise like whispers of truth. “I think maybe everybody falls,” I say. “I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking.”

I pull on her arms gently to make sure she’s listening.”I think the asking is whether we get back up again.”

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The plot also moves at a breakneck pace in all three books, but somehow there’s still time for character moments and development. I really don’t know how Ness does it. The secret that Todd’s town is hiding is also bone-chilling, and the plot twists for all three books had me at the edge of my seat.

“War is like a monster,” he says, almost to himself. “War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows.” He’s looking at me now. “And otherwise normal men become monsters, too.”

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The first book probably did everything the best out of the three, but all of the books in the trilogy were honestly all five star reads for me. It’s an absolute understatement to say that I recommend this series.

And by this I mean, don’t just read the first book to give Chaos Walking a shot. Read the whole thing. Not the you’ll need any encouragement from me, though, once you read the ending of The Knife of Never Letting Go. You’ll want to keep going immediately – it’s just that strong of a novel. I’m not gonna spoil it, or any of the second or third books, because this series works best if you go into it blind on a first read through. (Second or third it works even though you know the plot. It’s just that good.) But yeah, I definitely recommend it, so you should definitely read it.

And if you’ve already read it, then you should read it again. And you should absolutely ignore the movie completely and pretend that it doesn’t exist, at all costs. (Someday soon, I’ll probably do a post about how much the movie sucks and why, and how it did everything wrong – down to the freaking casting even – but alas, that day is not today.)

My Star Ratings

The Knife of Never Letting Go: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars
The Ask and the Answer: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars
Monsters of Men: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars
The New World – A Chaos Walking Short Story: ★★★★★ 5 / 5 stars

My Favorite Quotes

And because there’s just so many darn good and quotable lines in this trilogy that I like – and because I have absolutely no restraint – here’s all of my favorites from the series to end off this review. Here I go!

But a knife ain’t just a thing, is it? It’s a choice, it’s something you do. A knife says yes or no, cut or not, die or don’t. A knife takes a decision out of your hand and puts it in the world and it never goes back again.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Men lie, and they lie to theirselves worst of all.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Life equals running and when we stop running maybe that’s how we’ll know life is finally finished.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

It’s not that you should never love something so much that it can control you.

It’s that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled.

It’s not a weakness.

It’s your best strength.

The Ask and the Answer

Faith with proof is no faith at all.

The Ask and the Answer

You’ve never stood on a beach as the waves came crashing in, the water stretching out from you until it’s beyond sight, moving and blue and alive and so much bigger than even the black beyond seems because the ocean hides what it contains.

The Ask and the Answer

To say you have no choice is to relieve yourself of responsibility.

Monsters of Men

A monster, I think, remembering what Ben told me once. War makes monsters of men.

Monsters of Men

“Usually when a man calls a woman a bitch,” a voice calls over from a cart pulling up near us at the edge of camp,”its because she’s doing something right.”

Monsters of Men

“It’s always darkest before the dawn, Todd.”

I look at him, baffled. “No, it ain’t! What kinda stupid saying is that? It’s always lightest before the dawn!”

Monsters of Men

“And you,” he says, “you need to talk to your boy.” He lifts my chin. “And if he needs saving, then you save him. Isn’t that what you told me you did for each other?”

I let go a few more tears but then I nod. “Over and over again.”

Monsters of Men

I’ll find you–

You bet yer life on it–

I’ll find you–

Keep calling for me, Viola–

Cuz here I come.

Monsters of Men