Thursday, May 23, 2013

Series Review: Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

The Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness 
The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men
Reviewed by Noelle: May 23, 2013
Published by Walker Books, Ltd
Goodreads • Buy at Amazon KindleBook Depository

 I won't go into specific detail in this review as I want it to be safe as possible to read at any point in this series, but just know this: the less you know beforehand, the better. I urge you just to try it out and experience the crazy beautifulness of the series for yourself. 

 To put it in the most mundane way possible, I prepare for Patrick Ness books by making sure I'm stocked up on anguish and crying GIFS for my Goodreads status updates. Pick a page and any of these could be an accurate representation of my emotional state:


Bask in the pain.

Let it all out.

It might seem over the top but it is true.  Reading Chaos Walking is a catharsis, and will leave you feeling raw, but OH is it so worth it. To try and put it more seriously---

Chaos Walking is set on a planet other than Earth and Ness describes the indigenous species' method of communicating like this: 

“I find I am swimming in a river of voices reaching out and touching mine"

“And I realize he ain’t telling me with words. [...] he’s surrounding me with it, letting me sit in the middle of it, knowing it to be true.”
And honestly, that is what reading this series was like for me, complete emotional immersion. Ness continually challenges the reader with his exploration of the moral ambiguity and hypocrisy of human nature. He has readers questioning the characters, their motives, their decisions, and examining their own belief system. He asks the hard questions and demands truthful answers (whether you agree with him or not). It results in a level of emotional investment that in my personal experience, is just about unparalleled.

Each book in the series multiplies in complexity. The first is action-packed, the second is a grind of mind games and moral quandaries and the final is a combination of both---cranked to a million. Each book also adds an additional point of view that fills out the world wonderfully. In Chaos Walking, high-stake dilemmas aren't merely used for suspense value. When Ness puts his characters (and by proxy the readers) in horrific situations and forces them to make impossible choices, those decisions have real consequences and cause actual, sometimes irreparable damage. The repercussions don't just disappear, they alter the world of the characters.

Nearly every character is a complex, three-dimensional person. Both heroes and villains are shown to be capable of good and evil.  Not only did I come up with a curse word in honor of the protagonist (TODDAMMIT), I count the antagonist as one of my favorite characters of all time.  

The themes of the series are explored in devastatingly beautiful and honest ways. Vengeance vs. forgiveness. The power of love to save and destroy. Trust, truth and openness vs. suppression, misdirection and lies. Questioning yourself vs. blind certainty. The meaning of redemption.

It’s not how we fall. It’s how we get back up again.  

I'm so glad I stumbled across Patrick Ness and Chaos WalkingI cannot recommend this series enough. The beauty and emotions Ness can convey in a phrase, scene and story is breath-taking. I know it will stay with me for a long time.

Chaos Walking: 

I've linked to my individual Goodreads reviews below.  Be forewarned, the reviews will contain small spoilers.

The Knife of Never Letting Go: 4.5/5 stars (review)
The Ask and the Answer: 5/5 stars (review)
Monsters of Men: 5/5 stars (review)

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