Jan 26, 2011 Comments Off
Lately when people ask me what I’ve been reading, I tell them not much. It’s perplexing that owning a small, independent bookstore doesn’t free your time for reading the way working a straight 40 at McDonald’s leaves you able to spend the other 128 hours in the week as you wish. Of course, neither the task of balancing the books on your nose nor flipping burgers and having impatient, arrogant, self-important customers angry at you for a 3 minute delay in getting their heart-attack in a bag is really conducive to the sort of mental state I require for reading. Or at least for serious reading. I will freely admit it takes little effort to unlock the best escapist fantasy even though the same book may have a great deal to unlock. Certainly my favourite in this genre for 2010 was Patrick Ness series Chaos Walking. The final book in the trilogy just came out this September past, so for those who need to be certain they can finish what they start there will be no disappointment.
In the past few months, I have recommended this series to dozens of readers, both young adults and those who enjoy excellent science fiction and fantasy. So far, I’ve gotten no complaints and plenty of raves. The problem I’ve been having is how to adequately represent the series without giving away key details about the books. So far, I mainly tell people the books are about a young man whose coming of age puts him on a suspenseful path of exodus and discovery. It’s set in a world colonized by people who sought a return to mid 19th century farming type communities but have encountered a series of adaptive disruptions, the most crucial, a virus which has apparently killed all the women and made men able to hear each others thoughts.
This is probably, to me, one of the crucial selling points. Patrick Ness has made telepathy a real burden, a far cry from the traditional scifi view of telepathy as gift. When I say men can hear each others thoughts, I’m not talking about hearing thoughts like one hears speech. Though our brains do interpret thoughts into speech and images as one would expect, the trick is you hear ALL the thoughts. Every thought comes flowing out in a see of what Ness’s character Todd calls Noise. For a moment, just imagine all the thoughts you have in a given moment. Not just the ones that form the words you speak, but all the thoughts that go into crafting that speech. And add in all the motive thoughts, those underlying desires keeping your brain at work thinking. Now imagine those thoughts broadcast out for a whole world to hear. While there are proximal limits to this broadcast, imagine a town where fifty or a hundred souls are all proximate and broadcasting. This is the horror of Todd’s world. And the secrets behind it are the driving forces of the story. So now, I feel I’ve told you nearly all that can be safely told besides a few final tidbits: Animals thoughts can also be heard. A great deal of what Todd knows about his world is based on lies. And once you start reading, you won’t want to put this down until you’ve uncovered the ever difficult to deal with truth.
The series is fairly morally complex and is quite violent so I recommend only mature young adults be entrusted with it. While its not filled with the sex occupying the pages of so many young adult novels these days, the emotive elements are powerful and I highly encourage parents to read it along with any children given the books. Besides, it will be just as fulfilling and entertaining for you as for them.