More Than This (novel)
|Genre||Young adult novel|
|5 September 2013|
|Media type||Print, ebook|
|Pages||480 pp (first edition)|
More Than This is a young adult novel by Patrick Ness, published by Candlewick Press in 2013. It follows a teenage boy named Seth who, after drowning in the ocean, wakes up alone on a desolate suburban English street in what he believes to be hell.
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The book begins with an account of a 16-year-old boy, Seth Wearing, drowning. Afterwards, he finds himself in what he assumes to be a hell made for him. The place resembles the English town he grew up in before moving to America and is completely abandoned. Whenever he falls asleep, he has flashbacks of events in his life.
Seth remembers that when he was eight, he was left alone in a house with his four-year-old brother, Owen. An escaped convict from a nearby prison kidnapped Owen for three days, leaving him with psychological damage and prompting the family to move to America. The recollections also show that Seth is gay and in a relationship, though he and his boyfriend were forced to break up after being outed.
Seth realizes that the first few moments after he woke up he was lying in front of the house of his childhood. He goes in and finds an open coffin containing bandages and tubes. He believes he woke up in the coffin before fleeing. Seth sees a black van driving through the town but is dragged by a girl and a boy to a cave. They tell him that they must hide from what they call the Driver, the being that drives the van. At first, it is not obvious the Driver is another being, but it becomes later known as the story progresses. They introduce themselves as Regine and Tomasz. They too died and woke up in coffins.
Regine tells Seth her theory that this place is the real world, but people liked being "online" (the Lethe, as they called it) so much that they decided to stay online permanently. The coffins were designed to carry out bodily functions. The reason they woke up in the real world is because all of them died when they hit a particular spot on their head, which disconnected them. Seth further adds to her theory that everybody else's coffins are in the prison near his house, and he is determined to go there. Regine and Tomasz are opposed out of fear of the Driver, but Seth goes on his own.
At the prison, Seth's theory is confirmed: there are thousands of people in coffins, including his parents, but not Owen, which puzzles him. The Driver spots Seth and comes after him, but Tomasz comes to save him. Seth remembers everything the next day. In reality, Owen was found dead three days after being kidnapped. His parents, unable to bear it, voluntarily chose to enter the online world permanently, in a process called Lethe. Although major events like Owen's kidnapping could not be wiped from their memories, his death could be and they could resume their lives believing he was found and living with a fabricated replacement. Soon, however, the entire world collapsed and all of human race entered Lethe. Seth also reveals to the others that his death was not accidental, and that he had committed suicide.
The Driver appears and takes Regine away after nearly killing her. Seth and Tomasz follow him to the prison. The Driver is reconnecting her to her coffin, placing her back in a few minutes before her death so that she can die properly. Seth and Tomasz save her. Once rescued, Regine tells them that she remembered this life when she was back in her online life. Seth theorizes that the gas from a particular tube is Lethe, and if they do not inhale it, they will still remember the real world. If they can choose what time to enter their online life, Seth could get in before his death. That way, he could travel between both worlds and tell people the truth. Although unsure of the plan succeeding, Regine and Tomasz agree to help.
They set out to his coffin, but are stopped by the Driver. A violent fight follows and Seth is stabbed by the Driver. Inexplicably, the Driver himself heals Seth. Tomasz, not realizing this, uses the Driver's baton to kill him. The three return to their plan to put Seth back. Seth takes his coffin, and finally says, "I'm ready."
More Than This was reviewed favorably by critics and readers. Martin Chilton of The Daily Telegraph describes the novel as "an impressively challenging and philosophical book for young adults," capturing "ambiguity and bewilderment of being young and the uncertainty of what will happen to any of us next in life." Tony Bradman of The Guardian concurred, writing: "Seth is a terrific exemplar of the eternal teenage desire for there to be, in the words of the novel's title, "more than this"". As of early March 2015 the book scores 4.04 out of 5 stars on the social reading site Goodreads. John Green's review of More Than This is printed on the front cover of the book. Green comments, "Just read it."