Science Fiction & Fantasy Award Winning Book Group discussion

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)
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Group Book Discussion > The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (December 2018)

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Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 365 comments Mod
The Knife of Never Letting Go is a multiple award winning book, winning Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, James Tiptree Jr. Award (2008), and Green Mountain Book Award (2012), and was nominated for a host of other awards. It's had some pretty good reviews, although my Goodreads friends have had mixed reactions, so I'm intrigued.

The Independent said it "sets a high standard”; the Chicago Tribune called it “a read-alone, stay-up-way-too-late book”. Others have called it compelling, original, furiously paced, terrifying, exhilarating and heartbreaking. And the Telegraph said it "haunts your imagination". Does it live up to the hype?

This is the spoiler thread for discussing the book - if anybody wants to discuss without spoilers, just let me know and I'll open up another thread.

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Jon | 366 comments Mod
My local library actually had an e-book version available of this one via Overdrive. One of the few so far that we've read. I'll be starting this one soon.

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 365 comments Mod
Wow, that's nice and lucky!

I've tried downloading ebooks from the library, but I found it was more hassle that it was worth trying to get my damn ereader set up to allow the DRM to function properly. And then when the book was returned I would still have the 'cover' in my library which had to be deleted manually. It was a faff.

I'm starting soon too, probably next on my TBR pile.

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Jon | 366 comments Mod
I've never had a problem downloading the rental like I've heard others talk about but I've had that exact same problem with the covers. I'll delete them from my Kindle and from 'Home' and next time I look they're back. It's annoying as hell!

I wasn't sure what to think going into this one. I'm not much of a YA reader and dystopias aren't my favorites either. And a few pages in I really wasn't comfortable in the direkshun that the writing was taking. A little over twenty percent in now and I'm feeling a little better about it. Some interesting things have happened. My problem with dystopias is that they seem to be equal parts depressing and oppressing and so far this one does fit that mold.

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 365 comments Mod
Haha! I didn't mind the direkshun of the writing so much, lots of people complained about it so I was braced and it wasn't so bad. Certainly not as annoying as the cutesy 5-year old in Room, and it didn't impede the reading like trying to plough through Feersum Endjinn.

I was more annoying by the effing swearing. Either swear or don't, but don't try to make me believe that a young boy desperate to be a man would half-arse his profanity to protect the delicate sensibilities of the reader.

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Jon | 366 comments Mod
Hahaha, You're effing right! I didn't catch that but now that you've pointed it out it's bugging me!

I hope Joe reads this one. I keep thinking that I'm reading the YA version of The Road even though I haven't read that one so I can't really make that comparison. But I think Joe has read that one recently.

At this point I can tell that this is going to end up as a fairly average read for me. I don't hate it but that's about it. It is a fast read. And while it does feel YA some of the content (Aaron especially) feels much older.

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 365 comments Mod
Jon wrote: "At this point I can tell that this is going to end up as a fairly average read for meAt this point I can tell that this is going to end up as a fairly average read for me."

Yes, that's my conclusion upon finishing as well. I really enjoyed it, but it is a very template YA adventure story. I actually admired the structure of the writing: the author did an excellent job of building tension and ending each chapter on a cliffhanger.

As with all YA dystopias, I'm always a little disappointed that nobody seems to have given much thought to the practical logistics of the world-building - it's a bit suspicious that the army seems to manage to be always just one step behind the kids even though the kids appear to be running as fast as they can, and the army has to stop and fight battles. Dont' armies need rest, and supply chains, and whatnot?

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Jon | 366 comments Mod
I've read my share of epic fantasy and trilogies/series of other sorts so I'm used to the story not being finished at the end of book one but wow was that one heck of a cliffhanger!

I agree with you Nick. There's no way the army could have kept up with those two. I understand that they were young and Todd was feverish for a while and even laid up in bed for two days. A group can only move at the speed of it's slowest members and there were old men in that army. Maybe it was split up and that will be brought up in the next book?

Do you look at reviews before you read a book? I rarely look at/watch reviews before reading a book. I'll read the synopsis on the back and that's about it.

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 365 comments Mod
I try not to read the reviews in advance generally, but I will if it's by a friend of mine and crosses my dash. Lots of my friends had read this one already so I'd heard a little about it.

Although, I have read a few now, and it surprised me how many people said that they specifically didn't like Todd's voice for being 'hick' or 'backwoods'. I know there's a cliche that Americans hold their rural poor in contempt, but I was surprised to see it so openly on Goodreads. I can't think of many other demographic groups where people openly say, 'Oh yeah, the voice annoyed me because it was the accent of [insert some other type of poor people here].'

message 10: by Nick (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 365 comments Mod
Something else that I've been ruminating about this book:

We're reading it because it won the James Tiptree Jr. Award. The award is given for SF works that 'expands or explores our understanding of gender [...] The Tiptree Award is intended to reward those writers and other creative artists who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any society.'

Did this book explore our understanding of gender? Were there bold shifts in gender roles?

The big 'gender thing' in this book is that men have 'The Noise' and women don't - but the book never explores why. As for explorations of differences between men and women in the text, I don't think there aren't any? The book does a really good job of showing a range of men and women of all kinds: there are strong men and strong women - gentle men and gentle women. Carbonel Downs is male-dominated. Farbranch had female leadership.

If anything, I think 'The Noise' is there, not to ask interesting questions about gender, but as an exagerated dramatisation of being a teenager! When you fall in love for the first time and you feel raw and exposed, like all your thoughts and feelings are falling out of you - and meanwhile the one you love is utterly inscrutable!
Likewise, places like Prentisstown and Carbonel Downs seem to exist so that Todd and Viola can demonstrate that they're good, feisty kids who won't submit to any of that nonsense.

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Jon | 366 comments Mod
I wondered about what the book would say about gender before I read it but then forgot about it while I was reading it. I don't see much there. The only thing that I can think of is Todd growing up without females and his subsequent interactions with one when he meets Viola. But that seems rather thin to me.

message 12: by Nick (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) | 365 comments Mod
Yes - it seems rather thin to me too! Maybe it was a quiet year for books about gender.

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Science Fiction & Fantasy Award Winning Book Group

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The Road (other topics)
Feersum Endjinn (other topics)
Room (other topics)