The first time I heard about the Chaos Walking trilogy was when the film trailer was released and as a self-confessed Tom Holland fan, I skimmed the synopsis. I thought - “huh, a dystopian/sci-fi teen book series? Go on then.” Now, before I begin, a disclaimer, I have just finished Monsters of Men, the final book. I read The Knife of Never Letting Go, and The Ask and The Answer, a while ago so this review will be biased towards my thoughts on the final novel.
A bit of an overview - the trilogy by Patrick Ness is set on a planet with two moons where the native species are called the Spackle and humans have settled there. In the first book, we hear about the aftermaths of a war the humans once had with the Spackle and are introduced to for me, the most intriguing part of Ness’ world. Noise. Put simply, all the men on the planet are cursed with the inability to keep their thoughts to themselves. They can hear each other’s thoughts audibly, a scary notion when we consider the things that go through all our heads. The story follows young Todd, who has to escape his home and ends up finding Viola, a girl who has just crashed a new settler’s ship and has lost her parents to that incident. Over the course of the books, Todd and Viola grow in boldness and character, both being together and being apart.
To return to the idea of Noise, I confirm the line in the first book - “The Noise is a man unfiltered and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.” That’s exactly right. Throughout the series, there is chaos after chaos after chaos. To the extent that the plot, especially in the final book, became unfortunately repetitive. There were constant battles and actions that some people like, but I think the final book could have been shorter. Then again, it probably is realistic. We have so much chaos in our world without all thoughts being unfiltered, so just imagine!
What Ness does well is show the unrest and strains Noise puts on people’s relationships, and overall, the characters are solid and well-developed. In the final novel, the ebbs and flows of power, morality, and influence do keep you reading. It throws into question how much we can be influenced by the people around us and how our relationships can define our behaviours. The relationship between Todd and the Mayor, and the one between Viola and Mistress Coyle, show this dramatically. I loved the way Ness set this up and developed their relationships slowly, leaving a strong feeling in the reader of the overall integrity of both Todd and Viola, even when they experience pressure of the fiercest kind. Within that though, they make obvious mistakes driven by their own personal agendas and desires, and that makes them all the more human.
On the whole, I did enjoy the series and would rate it about three stars. It was readable and would be great for teenagers (which makes sense as its primary audience) but for me, the plot did feel repetitive and the same strong messages could have come through without so much action and things blowing up. It's safe to say though that enough people are enjoying it, it's a shame the film didn’t get so strong a reception.