The Knife of Never Letting Go
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First edition cover
|Genre||Young-adult, science fiction|
|5 May 2008|
|Followed by||The Ask and the Answer|
The Knife of Never Letting Go is a young-adult science fiction novel written by British-American author Patrick Ness. It was published by Walker Books on 5 May 2008. It is the first book in the Chaos Walking series, followed by The Ask and the Answer. The story follows Todd Hewitt, a 12-year-old boy who runs away from Prentisstown, a town where everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts, after learning of a secret about its past.
The novel was celebrated by critics, and won annual awards including the Booktrust Teenage Prize, the Guardian Award, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. The Knife was Ness's first work for children or young adults. According to The Guardian's coverage of its award, 'He turned to children's fiction after he had the idea for a world where it is impossible to escape information overload, and knew it was right for teenagers.'
Todd Hewitt is the only boy left in Prentisstown, a small settlement on 'New World'--an alien planet only recently colonized by humanity. Todd is within days of his thirteenth birthday, the age in Prentisstown at which all boys 'become men'.
Todd has been told that all the women and nearly all the men on New World were killed in a war with the Spackle that occurred around the time of his birth. The Spackle are New World's native inhabitant and are blamed for the release of the 'germ' that caused the majority of deaths and was particularly fatal to females. The inhabitants of Prentisstown claim that every Spackle was wiped out during the war and Todd has no reason to believe otherwise. As a side effect of the virus, the remaining men in Prentisstown can hear each other's (and animals') thoughts, described as an ever-present cascade of 'Noise'.
The men of Prentisstown make up the last surviving settlement on New World—at least according to Mayor Prentiss, after whom the town is named.
At the beginning of the book, Todd and his dog, Manchee, discover a lone patch of silence (a 'hole in the Noise') in a local swamp. Bewildered, Todd and Manchee make their way back into town.
When Todd explains the silence to Ben and Cillian, his adoptive parents, his Noise accidentally projects the discovery to the entire town. Ben and Cillian mysteriously reveal they have been planning Todd's escape from Prentisstown for nearly his entire life. The two men immediately force him to leave Prentisstown, with just a satchel of supplies and Manchee to accompany him. Todd unwillingly obeys.
Todd escapes into the swamp with Manchee, and discovers the source of the silence - a girl, who lacks Noise. She is the first girl Todd has ever seen, except in videos and photographs. The girl says nothing at all.
The girl silently leads Todd through the swamp to her scout ship, where her parents’ bodies lie dead. She has crash-landed on New World, Todd realizes. With aid from a map inside Todd's mother's diary, the three begin traveling together towards Farbranch, a settlement marked on the map.
Todd realises that he, infected with the germ, might transmit the germ to the girl and kill her. She hears this in his Noise and flees, but he pursues her along with Manchee until they both encounter Aaron and Prentisstown men who are tracking them at a bridge. The girl manages to save the three by soaking part of the bridge in lighter fluid and setting it on fire with her campfire pack. After this incident, she works up the courage—or ability—to speak and finally tells Todd her name: Viola.
Todd and Viola are found by a woman at the nearest town, Farbranch. She tells Todd that the Noise germ is not fatal for women and does not affect them at all - none of the women have Noise. She takes the three to her settlement. At nightfall, an army of men from Prentisstown arrives and burns down the town, killing all those who will not join them. Todd, Viola, and Manchee escape and flee for Haven, where it is rumoured there may be a cure for Noise.
After a few days on the road, Davy Prentiss Jr. finds them. Viola manages to electrocute Davy, and Todd moves to kill him, but finds himself unable to kill. Instead, Todd ties Davy up before heading off for Haven with Viola. During the trip, Todd, Viola and Manchee find a live Spackle. Todd is shocked, believing that all Spackle had been killed in the war. Worried at an attack and frustrated with his 'cowardice' of keeping Davy alive, Todd leaps at the Spackle and kills it, but faces instant regret.
Aaron appears, stabbing Todd, and kidnaps Viola. Todd wakes and hurriedly pursues Aaron, but as his stab wound becomes infected he quickly weakens. Todd finds Viola and Aaron, using Manchee as a distraction while he rescues Viola. When the plan is unsuccessful, Todd and Viola manage to get away but are compelled to leave Manchee behind with Aaron, who kills the dog in a fit of rage. The pair flee on a boat, and Todd passes out from his wounds.
Todd wakes up under a care of a doctor in another settlement. Insisting on a walk, he encounters Ben hiding in the outskirts of town. He reveals that Cillian died in Todd's escape from Prentisstown. The people of the new town label Ben as a murderer due to his Prentisstown origins. However, Ben and Todd convince the townsfolk to help them fight the approaching Prentisstown army. As the army approaches, Ben, Todd, and Viola use the confusion to escape.
After gaining some distance, Ben explains the truth: the Noise germ is a natural contagion of the planet, not an attack by the Spackle. The men of Prentisstown, driven mad by Noise and resenting the women's ability to remain silent, killed all the women and were subsequently banished from the rest of New World for their crimes. The boys were supposed to learn a 'version of the truth' from the Mayor on their thirteenth birthday. This is why Todd has been sent away prior to his 'becoming a man' - he could only be accepted by the rest of the world if his thoughts were wholly innocent.
Ben, Todd, and Viola continue toward Haven, but Davy finds them again. Ben distracts him to allow Todd and Viola to run, but then the two are cornered by the deranged Aaron in a cavern near a waterfall by Haven. Todd suddenly realizes that the boys of Prentisstown become 'men' by killing someone upon turning thirteen. Aaron thinks of himself as a symbolic sacrifice for the 'last boy' in Prentisstown and tries to provoke Todd into killing him. Attempting to stop Aaron from succeeding, Viola grabs the knife and stabs Aaron in the neck. He falls into the waterfall and dies.
Davy again intercepts the pair on their way to Haven, shooting Viola. Todd subdues Davy, escapes, and carries a dying Viola to Haven to get help. However, Mayor Prentiss is already there to greet them. After Haven surrendered without a fight, the Mayor declares himself President of New World. Through his despair, Todd realizes that he can not hear the Mayor's Noise. With no other choice, Todd surrenders to the Mayor to save Viola.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is set on a planet that has been colonized by a small group of Christian settlers from 'Old World', in a town nearby a swamp. Although the settlers have some high technology, they are mostly subsistence farmers. The rural setting has been compared to the worlds of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Night of the Hunter.
The Knife of Never Letting Go has received greatly positive reviews. Ian Chipman from Booklist gave the novel a starred review, praising the 'pure inventiveness and excitement' of Ness’ narrative, and supporting the book’s characters, adding that 'the cliffhanger ending is as effective as a shot to the gut'.
Frank Cottrell-Boyce, writing for The Guardian, praised the novel's opening, and added that the rest of the book 'lives up to the thrill of that first sentence'. The Sunday Telegraph also praised the book, describing it as 'furiously paced, terrifying, exhilarating and heartbreaking' and calling it a book that 'haunts your imagination'. The Times called it 'a stunning debut” and “as compelling as it is original'.
Similarly, Nicholas Tucker of The Independent wrote that The Knife of Never Letting Go 'sets a high standard', while the Chicago Tribune labelled the novel as 'a read-alone, stay-up-way-too-late book'.
- Runners up, etc.
In 2011, Lionsgate Entertainment bought the rights to adapt the Chaos Walking trilogy for film. The president of Lionsgate, Joe Drake, said the decision was made because 'a sense of urgency and momentum permeates these stories- it makes the books ones you can't put down, and will make the movies ones you can't miss on the big screen.'
Chaos Walking: The Knife of Never Letting Go will be produced by Doug Davison while Jamie Linden will be writing and Doug Liman is in negotiations to direct the film. On August 5, 2016 it was announced Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland will both star in the adaptation.
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- Flood, Alison (24 September 2008). "Knife story wins Guardian children's fiction prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "The Knife of Never Letting Go" (review). Frank Cottrell Boyce. The Guardian 13 June 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
- "Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness". Booklist Online. 1 September 2008. Retrieved 2012-07-15.
- "The Knife of Never Letting Go: Book 1 in the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness - Lovereading 4 Kids - book reviews and free opening extracts". Lovereading 4 Kids. 3 November 2008. Retrieved 2012-07-15.
- Tucker, Nicholas (4 April 2008). "Teenage fiction reviewed". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "'The Willoughbys' by Lois Lowry". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-06-25.
- "Booktrust Teenage Prize 2008". Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "Patrick Ness beats established writers to Booktrust teenage prize". Alison Flood. guardian.co.uk 18 November 2008. Retrieved 2012-07-12.
- Tiptree Winners Announced. . Retrieved 2009-04-27.
- 2009 Awards: Carnegie shortlisted books Archived 22 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. CILIP.
- Manchester Book Award Longlist The runners-up (1448 books)
- "Lionsgate Acquires Chaos Walking". ComingSoon.net. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-15.
- Tim Molloy (3 October 2011). "Next 'Twilight'? Lionsgate Nabs Movie Rights to 'Chaos Walking' Young Adult Trilogy". Reuters. Retrieved 30 December 2011.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- "Jamie Linden to Write Lionsgate's 'Chaos Walking'". variety.com.
- "Doug Liman in Talks to Direct Adaptation of YA Novel 'Chaos Walking'". variety.com.
- "Daisy Ridley-Starring 'Chaos Walking' will Shoot in Canada". Backstage.