The Knife of Never Letting Go – Chaos Walking #1 by Patrick Ness

51NcMaqTCsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

My first encounter with Patrick Ness was from reading A Monster Calls, which I got on my Kindle and absolutely LOVED, but I had no idea that the printed version had illustrations, so then I had to get that, too. then I realised how extensive his bibliography is, and since I love dystopias, especially when they’re a part of a series, I thought I’d give Chaos Walking a go.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a Dystopia set on an unspecified planet at an unspecified point in the future. It begins with Todd, a young boy living in a small village called Prentisstown, where there are no women, where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts which they call ‘noise’. We quickly learn that Todd is the youngest boy in the village, and is about to go through the villages ritual of becoming a man. But before he has the opportunity, Todd and his dog Manchee (who also shares his thoughts with Todd, which is hilarious if you don’t mind constantly hearing about his toilet habits) discover a spot out in the swamp where there is no noise at all and before they know it Todd and Manchee are thrust out into the wider world beyond their village, pursued by an army who mean to bring them back, discovering a world filled with violence, tragedy and absolute wonder.

Patrick Ness knows how to write a story no matter what scale it’s being told on. He understands his audience, his characters, their voices and how to commit to them. He knows how to build worlds, and create monsters, and reveal secrets just slowly enough to keep you guessing and reading, but without boring his audience by dangling unattainable information over they heads for the whole series. And so much happens! Every time I planned to put the book down after one more chapter so that I could go and live my life, something would happen and I’d have to keep reading.

Todd’s character is so sympathetic, constantly torn between his head and his heart in the way that only a child can be, but in the face of incredibly adult decisions and situations. There are so many books about girls now, and what it means to be a woman, which is fantastic, but rarely do we get to see stories about what it means to grow up into a man in a way that’s realistic. Often male characters are confident to begin with, and assured in their identities and abilities, but Todd is growing up in a world that tells him that the only way to become a man is to commit violence, to go against every instinct that he has and we get to see him struggle with that. I thought Viola’s character made a wonderful contrast to this, as with many of the other female characters, she even as a young girl knows who she is and what she’s doing. She isn’t there only as someone for Todd to save or to seem strong by comparison to, they are both as capable as one another.

I do think the story was limited somewhat by being told strictly in Todd’s perspective, we can only know what he knows, can only understand what he understands, and for much of the novel he didn’t know very much at all and while this adds authenticity to Todd’s narrative it left me wanting a lot of the time as I wanted to know more about particular side stories and histories of the other villages and their inhabitants. As Todd passes by the various neighbouring towns he encounters so many interesting ways of life, creatures and people that are well thought out, but pass us by rather hurriedly and it is a shame because Ness has created a fascinating world, and I’d like to read about more of it.

Luckily those sequels mean that I can!

4/5

Advertisements

Halloween Reads: Natural Born Killers

The scariest villains, are the ones who totally believe what they’re doing is okay.

41Y7vDhX5bL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

The Dumb House by John Burnside

The Dumb House is an experiment inspired by our leading psychopath’s mother when she tells him as a child a story about a house where children are raised from infancy, never exposed to speech in the hope that they will just start speaking in their mother tongue of their own accord. He becomes fixated with this idea, first exploring the origins of the soul as a youth by cutting open animals and trying to some physical sign of a soul, and then as an adult where he sets up his own dumb house experiment. Psychopaths have been studied and written about a lot, so it’s always interesting when the author gives the voice to them, because to write convincingly from the point to view of someone who is by definition unable to empathize with others means that they can’t be writing from experience (thankfully). The Dumb House does this particularly well, providing us with a narrator who not only doesn’t see a problem with any of the atrocities that he commits in the name of ‘science’, but speaks of them as if the audience is okay with it too.

perfume

Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Similar to the Dumb House, this is about a psychopath with a mission. In this, our guy has an almost super human sense of smell, and decides he’d quite like to become a perfumer, creating essential oils out of people. More specifically, young prostitutes that he kills on the streets of France and then stores in a huge vat of oil until he can distill their scent. It’s F**ked up. Seriously.

200px-Stephen_King_Misery_cover
Misery by Stephen King

I’ve saved the best til last, as Annie Wilkes is the greatest, all time crazy in fiction. But Annie is no psychopath, she is capable of love so intense that it inspires her to kidnap her favourite author Paul Sheldon and force him to re-write her favourite novel because she doesn’t like the way he ended it. And lets be honest, we’re all readers here, who can’t sympathise with that?  Annie Wilkes is terrifying because she’s so ambiguous and ambiguity makes us uncomfortable. She loves the author because he’s created a work of fiction that has become a big part of her life, she saves his life, she wants to impress him with her candle lit dinners and her flattery, but she’s willing to do great violence to him if he doesn’t do what she asks, and does, often. She’s a woman, a nurse no less, a voluptuous single lady who likes reading romance novels, and yet, you can’t categorize her as feminine even when she does have her girlish moments, because she isn’t, or at least not in the traditional eyelash batting sense of the word. She’s capable and lives alone in the middle of nowhere confident enough to driving through snowstorms on her own and strong enough to wade through snowdrifts and carry wounded novelists back to her car. She can be incredibly tender, but just so easily ice cold and while she’s managed to live her life as a rather peaceable member of her small community on her little patch of farm land, she’s more than willing to murder any member of that community that gets in her way. She’s awesome, and she’s my favourite. I guess you could even say that I’m her number one fan. Ha!

tumblr_mpvwn1JXdV1r1k2zzo4_500

Happy Halloween everyone!

Halloween Reads : YA

When I was just a little creep with a big fascination for all things morbid, I, like most of my peers sought out the films with the highest age ratings, naively believing that they’d be the most frightening. But experience has taught me that books and films are judged by their violence, their sex and their gore, not their ability to disturb, and so any horror story that doesn’t rely on that, must use more psychological tactics, more primitive fears to make you squirm and generally, that’s far more unsettling, especially once all of those cinematic scare tactics stop working. Scream with it’s 18 rating might give you the odd nightmare if you watch it while you’re still young enough to not see it as a comedy, but Jaws (a meager 12 rating) will make you cautious of swimming in the sea for the rest of your days.

Coraline_Paperback_1185750231
Coraline

Total YA horror classic about a young girl who finds a secret door in her new house that leads to an alternate universe populated by alternate versions of her family and neighbors. A pretty typical take on the old ‘the grass is always greener’ adage, but also teaches a really powerful message about what it really means to be brave. Its a great little book for both adults, kids and all those in between and told in an incredibly scary manner and featuring an even scarier monster ‘the other mother’.

monster-calls

A Monster Calls

This one isn’t strictly horror, it’s more of a metaphor for a young boys emotional struggle with the diagnosis of his mother’s cancer, but, the tone of the book as well as it’s illustrations are disturbing, and very well suited for Halloween, if you don’t mind getting a bit tearful about it.

missperegrine_334x518
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar children

Again this one is more creepy than scary, but this one is illustrated with really unsettling photographs. It’s about a kind of orphanage meets Xaviers school for kids with unusual abilities, which is awesome, though the story does sort of get a bit over the top, action-y towards the end which I got a bit fed up of. It’s the first of a really popular series though, and like I said, the images are cool!

October Book Haul

image

I very nearly didn’t make a haul post this month, because I’ve been so good and have done most of my hauling at the library so I didn’t think I’d actually brought that many books. But it seems I’ve been lying to myself about that…

The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

I have the second part of this set of books and found the first in a charity shop for next to nothing. I’m not even sure I’ll like the books, but it was so cheap it seemed silly not to buy it.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

This one has been on my list of books I want to read for so long that I can’t even remember what it’s about, only that I’ve been searching for it forever!

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

I don’t know much about this one, only that it’s deep and over the last few months I’ve begun to find more enjoyment in great writing more so than fast plots, so hopefully this will be a good one.

Perfume by Peter Suskind

I read this about 10 years ago after my collage tutor recommended it to me and lent me his copy. I remember reading it, wondering what the hell impression I must give off to people for him to assume I’d like a book about a psychopath who likes to turn women into perfume. But then I actually really did enjoy it, as well as all the other dark as hell stuff he recommended to me and I figured that even though I must come off as a total weirdo, at least it was an accurate representation of who I actually was. So anyway, I found this copy and since I don’t actually have it myself, I thought I’d grab it for old time’s sake.

By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente

There’s been a bit of hype from the booktubers I follow about this, and I’m trying not to be swayed so easily by that as I end up buying far too many books, far quicker than I can read them. However, this one sounds like a great collection of short stories.

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by J.K Rowling (Illustrated edition)

A few months ago it occurred to me that while I love Harry Potter, I haven’t read it in over 10 years and the only copies I have of the books are on my ereader, so I decided to get myself a printed set. But then I discovered that there are so many editions, and all of the ones I wanted were crazy expensive, until, as if by magic I just so happened to find out that an illustrated edition of the first book was being released (YAY!) and that the illustrations were being done by Jim Kay (double yay!) so the decision was made for me. And while having the whole set (as long as they release them all, which if they don’t will ruin my life) will be pretty expensive, there’s more than enough time between releases for me not to feel like I just dropped £100 on a book series all at once when I should have been feeding my kid or something.

Library:

The Small Hand by Susan Hill

I’d just returned ‘Woman in Black’ and found that they had this one other book by the same author. It has very similar vibes as WIB, the same slow, creepy sense of foreboding, the same spookiness and it was a really quick read.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Oh this book is so big. I’ve been avoiding it because of it’s bigness, but it was staring me at the library so it’s worth a try, right? If I don’t finish it, I’ll just have to renew it.

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck

Set in Nazi Germany about a house and all of the different people that have lived in it over time. I haven’t read it yet but the idea of it sounds really intriguing.

Halloween Reads: Skeletons in the Closet

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_2pryc152oveogwokgs04ks008_640Every family has them, or at least every family in fiction does, and in horror, they’re always the best, especially when set within the walls of huge Gothic mansions surrounded by fog and despair. All of these books are ghost stories, but not all ghost wear chains. So for those of your who like your horror without all of the gore, these ones will be sure to put a chill in your bones without putting you off your dinner.

200px-ThirteenthtaleThirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Margaret Lea is employed to visit with a legendary author Vida Winter to write up her biography before she dies. Her story is an age old tale of twin sisters born of incest left to raise themselves in their families huge but crumbling estate. The sisters are wild, and extremely co-dependent, but under the watch of the house’s only two remaining employees, a gardener and a maid, they manage to get by until their mother/aunt is taken off to a sanitarium and their farther/uncle goes mad with the loss of her and as the years go by, and more people begin to invade the sisters small world things begin to fall apart until their story reaches a tragic crescendo and Lea can finally solve the mystery of Winter’s thirteenth tale.

rebecca
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The unnamed narrator of this classic novel is swept off her feet by a dashing widower and quickly moves to his home, the infamously decadent estate of Manderly. But upon their arrival, she is constantly haunted by the memory of Mr De Winter’s first wife Rebecca that she left behind in every detail of the house and in the minds of all those she encountered, and we find out that even just the memory that remains of someone in the minds of the living, in the footprint their actions leave behind on the lives of those they knew, can inflict just as much damage, can be just as terrible as any phantom.

9780141040387

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I know what you’re thinking, Jane Eyre is a love story, and you’d be right. But it’s also a gothic masterpiece riddled with spontaneous fires, unexplained pasts, mansions, dreary landscapes, and most unsettling of all, a mysterious laughter coming from the attic that either nobody but Jane can hear, or wishes to acknowledge. It’s definitely not a horror story, but contains so many tropes from the genre that it’s just a perfect book to read at this time of year.

Halloween Reads: Ghost stories

giphy3Because sometimes the dead just don’t stay dead.

516PXf-niYL

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Jude is, an aging rock star who’s popularity within the occult scene is yet to fade even after his love of the music has. After the breakdown of his marriage and the ending of his band, Jude has become jaded with the industry that gave him his fame, but still likes to keep the odd groupie around and occasionally adds to his collection of macabre artifacts. His most recent acquisition being the suit of an old, deceased gentleman who’s spirit is said to haunt that of his stepdaughter and her child. Bad move.

It’s a rare book that can make me reserve it specifically for daytime reading, rather than spend all night reliving its imagery in my dreams, but Hill’s very graphic detailing of Jude’s poltergeist, and the horror he inflicts upon Jude and his girlfriend were just terrifying. And those squiggly ghost eyes! Just, no. Not only was the horror of the book well carried out but the story was actually interesting, I cared for the characters, and enjoyed seeing them change and evolve throughout the book.

12355467
The Turn of the Screw

A governess is hired to look after a brother and sister and upon the arrival at their grand home, believes that she can see dead people and that the kids can too. It’s a pretty simple story, but interestingly offers up alternative ways of interpreting the events that take place, without explicitly saying which one is the correct reading. Either you can believe that the governess is simply mad and seeing things that aren’t there, or that the spirits of Miss Jessel, the previous governess and Peter Quint really are haunting herself and the children.

51cxm9AmChL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

A young solicitor is hired to settle the estate of a recently deceased old lady who lived alone in the middle of some marshes that flood at various times of the day, completely cutting the house off from the village mainland and providing a perfectly isolated environment for a good haunting. Throughout the community there have been sightings of a ghoulish woman dressed all in black, her appearance an omen of a horror that nobody wishes to discuss. But when Arthur begins to see her too, rather than hiding and ignoring her like the fraidy cats in the village, he takes it upon himself to find out what it is that her restless spirit wants and what it is that stops her from moving on. Another regrettable decision on his part.

Halloween Reads: Small town horror

giphy2There’s nothing like an angry mob, is there? Grab your pitchforks!

the_lottery
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

If you’ve never read The Lottery, go and google it, there are a tonne of places to read it online and it will take you no time at all to read through it.
The Lottery is named after a ceremomy that takes place every year in a small, rural village in America in order to keep the crops growing well. The tradition is generations old, and although some of the village members believe it to be a bit old hat, and other villages have even ceased taking part at all, this village keep the tradition going, because tradition is tradition, right? even if it’s pointless. It’s a really clever little story, and horrifying because these things happen all the time, numerous atrocities are carried out in the name of tradition, everyday. Good people stand by and let them happen because there is often no power to be seen in a single voice, or because they don’t wish to cast the light of controversy onto themselves, or maybe they are just too blinkered to see the bad in what they do until they fall victim of it personally.

wpid-wp-1428436901225.jpeg
The Auctioneer by Joan Samson

Once again, the horror of the auctioneer comes about from no one individual’s willingness to stand out from their peers. But unlike Jackson’s story wherein people are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions, Samson’s characters know that they are being taken advantage of, but are too gullible to do anything about it until it’s too late because they don’t want to be spoken badly of to or by their neighbours. Even if the cost of doin so means to lose everything.

51EyOCl2dfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson really knows how to make a hero of an outcast, and that’s why I love her so much. While I’m sure we’d all like to think of ourselves as brave enough to side with the misunderstood family portrayed in this, or at least to let them live their lives in peace, I’m not sure that it’s as easy as that in reality. People are quick to judge and slow to understand, and like the torch wielding villagers of this novel, once you’ve made a villain of a person it’s difficult to see them in any other light. But I do love that these people come to feel remorse at the end of the book, and even try to make amends in their own small way.