[Book Review] Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
I think I’m oddly attracted to dystopian novels. The Chaos Walking trilogy falls right into that category. I borrowed this book in e-format from my local library. I got it in the compiled trilogy format so I wouldn’t have two extra books taking up the maximum of six ebook slots that the library allows. Of course, that meant I had to make sure I finished this book quickly before its deadline date hit, because once that were to happen, the book would automatically return itself. Normally that isn’t a problem; I’m usually a quick reader. In this case though, I found this set of books a little difficult to get through.
One of my more immediate thoughts after getting even just a couple sentences into the book was that the author gave the series a very appropriate title. I found a majority of the descriptions and dialogue to be so chaotic there were times my brain was kind of spinning from it.
There have been a few classic books where I have been frustrated because the language was outdated enough that it didn’t resonate with me as a reader, or the writing style (I’m looking at you, William Faulkner), but never have I wanted to chuck a book at a wall so hard since the latter half of the Harry Potter series. I mention those because after book four, I had felt like the quality of J.K. Rowling’s writing dropped some, and emo Harry just wasn’t working for me.
I’m all for the underdog. I don’t mind weak and flawed protagonists at all, so long as they improve. In the case of Todd Hewitt, however, who is one of two main characters of the Chaos Walking trilogy, he just doesn’t grow enough. He is the perfect example of that phrase, “pride comes before a fall.” He’s not arrogant, but he’s so childishly stubborn about certain things that he really makes his life much harder than it has to be, and he constantly puts those around him that he supposedly loves and values dearly in grave danger. For him to be like that in one book, I gave the character the benefit of the doubt. To read that he remains like that pretty much all the way up until the end of the series completely drove me crazy. There were also about two other characters that reminded me of characters I’ve seen in movies; both seem to have nine lives and you wonder why they either refuse to die or how they keep coming back from the dead.
As much as I disliked the main male lead, I can’t say that the book was poorly written. I can at least see why the novels have been gaining some positive buzz. It’s an interesting idea, speculating what it would be like if people could read the thoughts of others much like a radio talk show, only there isn’t really any off switch, so you’re basically listening to endless chatter of the world around you all the time, 24/7. From the descriptions in the books, the experience seems comparable to that one scene in Jim Carey’s Bruce Almighty (2003) movie where he hears prayers simultaneously invading his thoughts from all over the world. Aside from the lack of development in certain characters though, the plot itself progressed at a believable pace.
I don’t like to post reviews on things I haven’t sat all the way through, mostly to try and be fair. As a result, this book was considerably tough to stick to. There are times where the books got so repetitive I sometimes lost track of which book I was actually in. In my opinion, this is a series that demands a lot of patience from the reader. If you’re the type, then you might want to give this book a try. Perhaps you will have a different and much more positive reading experience.
FINAL VERDICT: D+