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

About anything.

"Need a poo, Todd."

"Shut up, Manchee."

"Poo. Poo, Todd."

"I said shut it."

We're walking across the wild fields south-east of town, those ones that slope down to the river and head on towards the swamp. Ben's sent me to pick him some swamp apples and he's made me take Manchee with me, even tho we all know Cillian only bought him to stay on Mayor Prentiss's good side and so suddenly here's this brand new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn't have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, no, happy birthday, Todd, here's a brand new puppy, Todd, and even tho you don't want him, even tho you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he's got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?

"Poo," Manchee barks quietly to himself. "Poo, poo, poo."


If that doesn't make you want to read the book, I feel for you as I do for the sad people who do not like molten chocolate cake.

This is a novel best read knowing nothing about it beyond what is revealed in the first chapter: on a planet where germ warfare with the now-extinct indigenous species wiped out the female human settlers, and made the men and animals involuntary projecting telepaths, the last boy in the last settlement, 13-year-old Todd Hewitt, is about to legally become a man. In a maelstrom of telepathic Noise, Todd is about to discover something amazing: silence.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, in addition to its distinctive but easily read voice and clever take on telepathy, is most notable for incredible narrative drive. It is genuinely difficult to put down, once picked up. I suggest that you don't start reading it late at night.

Though my overall impression was genius! oh hell it's a series! dammit, I have to wait a year for the next one! I do have some caveats.

1. It ends on a truly impressive cliffhanger.

2. While major themes of the book are the difficulty of knowing the truth even in a world of telepaths, the secrets adults keep from children, and the painful courage it takes to break through denial and lies that are more comforting than the truth... Ness still overuses the device of having characters know information they don't tell the other characters, the narrator knowing things he doesn't tell the reader, and important information that doesn't get revealed because someone suddenly attacks at the crucial moment.

3. The shocking reveals would have actually been more shocking if they'd been put earlier. They were put off so long and so artificially that I accurately figured out all of them, and even the details of all but one, by the time they were revealed. (I guessed the general outline of how boys become men in Prentisstown, but not the specifics.)

4. Aaron seemed to have wandered in from Friday the Thirteenth.

That being said, this was one of the best and probably the most gripping book I've read all year. It's funny, it's dark, it's a lesson in suspense. I came to love all the main characters, even Manchee the poo-obsessed dog. Maybe especially Manchee.

Feel free to put spoilers in comments.

There's a longer extract from the first chapter here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/sep/06/childrensprize.patrickness
The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.

About anything.

"Need a poo, Todd."

"Shut up, Manchee."

"Poo. Poo, Todd."

"I said shut it."

We're walking across the wild fields south-east of town, those ones that slope down to the river and head on towards the swamp. Ben's sent me to pick him some swamp apples and he's made me take Manchee with me, even tho we all know Cillian only bought him to stay on Mayor Prentiss's good side and so suddenly here's this brand new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn't have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, no, happy birthday, Todd, here's a brand new puppy, Todd, and even tho you don't want him, even tho you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he's got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?

"Poo," Manchee barks quietly to himself. "Poo, poo, poo."


If that doesn't make you want to read the book, I feel for you as I do for the sad people who do not like molten chocolate cake.

This is a novel best read knowing nothing about it beyond what is revealed in the first chapter: on a planet where germ warfare with the now-extinct indigenous species wiped out the female human settlers, and made the men and animals involuntary projecting telepaths, the last boy in the last settlement, 13-year-old Todd Hewitt, is about to legally become a man. In a maelstrom of telepathic Noise, Todd is about to discover something amazing: silence.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, in addition to its distinctive but easily read voice and clever take on telepathy, is most notable for incredible narrative drive. It is genuinely difficult to put down, once picked up. I suggest that you don't start reading it late at night.

Though my overall impression was genius! oh hell it's a series! dammit, I have to wait a year for the next one! I do have some caveats.

1. It ends on a truly impressive cliffhanger.

2. While major themes of the book are the difficulty of knowing the truth even in a world of telepaths, the secrets adults keep from children, and the painful courage it takes to break through denial and lies that are more comforting than the truth... Ness still overuses the device of having characters know information they don't tell the other characters, the narrator knowing things he doesn't tell the reader, and important information that doesn't get revealed because someone suddenly attacks at the crucial moment.

3. The shocking reveals would have actually been more shocking if they'd been put earlier. They were put off so long and so artificially that I accurately figured out all of them, and even the details of all but one, by the time they were revealed. (I guessed the general outline of how boys become men in Prentisstown, but not the specifics.)

4. Aaron seemed to have wandered in from Friday the Thirteenth.

That being said, this was one of the best and probably the most gripping book I've read all year. It's funny, it's dark, it's a lesson in suspense. I came to love all the main characters, even Manchee the poo-obsessed dog. Maybe especially Manchee.

Feel free to put spoilers in comments.

There's a longer extract from the first chapter here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/sep/06/childrensprize.patrickness
.

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