Date finished: 11 May 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Bought - WH Smith
Genre: Science fiction; Fantasy fiction; Dystopian fiction
Published: by Walker Books in May 2008
The Synopsis (taken from Waterstones.com)
Imagine you're the only boy in a town of men.
And you can hear everything they think.
And they can hear everything you think.
Imagine you don't fit in with their plans...Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run...
I thought I knew what to expect from this novel, having read many a glowing review (and the occasional bad one too!). It turns out I was wrong. I was frequently surprised and had almost no clue where the story was going after each of the revelations and twists that this book has to offer.
I realise that I'm probably re-treading ground here but, in case there are just a couple of you who are as behind as me: the story is told from the perspective of Todd Hewitt who is just a month away from becoming an adult on his thirteenth birthday. Living in Prentisstown with The Noise (the constant sound of other men's thoughts) and where there are no surviving women means that growing up hasn't been easy for Todd.
"The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking"
Todd's experiences are reflected in the fact that Todd isn't a perfect character. He loses his temper (in a realistic way), makes mistakes and struggles in certain social situations. I didn't always like him but I was always rooting for him, which is the mark of a great central character, I think. His relationship with Manchee, his dog, is particularly touching, and I am extremely surprised to write that as not really an 'animal person' myself.
The intrigue surrounding Prentisstown itself is genuine and, although I occasionally thought I was getting close to working it out, I then found myself thrown off again by another event or revelation. The interesting plot was upheld well by a range of superb characters, evil, good and all the blurs in between: Viola features heavily and is heart-warmingly vulnerable while also fiercely loyal and brave; Ben and Cillian are such wonderful father figures and Aaron was one of the more disturbingly unhinged 'bad guys' I've read recently.
I found the combination of Todd's voice, the science-fiction elements and the distinctive characters utterly unique and was enthralled. There were many times I wanted to tear my eyes away but I just couldn't. 'Car crash' literature you might say, if you wanted to use a rather unpleasant but effective phrase...
Overall: A refreshingly offbeat novel that blends the better elements of fantasy with a rather mild brand of science-fiction, I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy fiction fans looking to branch out. It's action-packed, emotional and pensive in turn and I will absolutely be seeking out the remaining two books of the Chaos Walking trilogy.