Though I've read at least 40 books in the past three months, it's the Chaos Walking trilogy that has me wanting to write about them again. Of all the dystopian/futuristic YA lit flooding the market in recent years, there is just something different about Chaos Walking.
Todd and Viola are the main characters of the series, and both their distinct differences as well as their similarities are what bind the past of the old world to the future of the new world.
Speaking of the new world...it's essential background knowledge that Todd and Viola are one of several thousand inhabitants on a planet called New World. It's also important to know that on New World there is something rather strange about the atmosphere that causes men's thoughts to become audible (and their visual thoughts/memories shared with whoever is near). They refer to it as their Noise.
The Knife of Never Letting Go
It's in this first book that we meet Todd and learn that he is on the verge of becoming a man. It isn't quite clear what "becoming a man" means, though, and Todd is as conflicted as he is eager to join the rest of his community...given that he is the very last boy among them. This community (Prentisstown) is made up entirely of men, and there are both strange and terrible stories about just what exactly has happened to all the women who originally settled here in New World. Prentisstown is filled with men whose Noise is broadcasted throughout the city, which makes for a very odd life indeed.
One day, Todd is out near the swamp and he discovers a "hole" in the Noise. This turns out to be a girl (Viola), the first he's ever met. Todd is completely thrown by her, specifically the fact that she has no Noise. He has never known anyone whose thoughts he could not hear.
When Todd tells his fathers (his real parents died long ago, and Todd has been raised by Ben and Cillian), they spring into action and immediately begin to get Todd out of Prentisstown. Todd has no idea what is going on, but obeys them, taking very light supplies and his mother's diary as he flees. He finds the girl again, and together they take off to escape an army of troops from the city coming to capture and perhaps kill them.
As Todd and Viola run away from Prentisstown, they meet several people along the way who help them learn where they are running TO: Haven. Haven is considered the biggest, safest, most advanced city on New World, and it is there they will find refuge.
That is, IF they aren't killed along the way by the various madmen chasing them or Spackle (natives to New World) who might attack them out in the wilderness.
The Ask and an Answer
The second book in the series opens with Todd and Viola's arrival in Haven, and their subsequent disappointment that the place is not what it's been cracked up to be. Viola is wounded, Todd is out of his mind with fury, and both are separated by the man who they have feared most on New World: Mayor Prentiss of Prentisstown. They spend most of the book separated and concerned about the other, but still maintain a very special connection aligning them with hope for the future.
The Spackle are an important part of this book as well. Native aliens to New World, the Spackle communicate only through their Noise, which Mayor Prentiss does his best to squelch. In hopes of saving Viola, Todd agrees to work with the mayor and his son until he can figure out a way to get to her. It is through this working relationship that Todd learns just how deranged the mayor is...at the same time, Viola is dealing with a madwoman of her own who has her own methods of taking Haven back from the crazy mayor.
Monsters of Men
The last book in the series opens with an all out three-way war between the mayor and his men, Viola's mistress and her army of angry women, and thousands of enraged Spackle. Todd and Viola are completely in love by now but are divided by the sides of men and women who are fighting one another and the Spackle for control of New World. The story is further complicated when a scout ship arrives from another population of new humans hoping to settle on New World. The lines between crazy and redeemable are blurred as Todd begins to hope the mayor can change after all, and as everyone on each side are fighting for their lives as well as for the future of New World.
There were several themes in the trilogy that wholly intrigued me. First, there's the gender separation by the Noise. The men and the women were both equally right and equally wrong in the mistakes they made when pitted against one another, yet there was the perpetual argument of who erred against whom first or worst. It was fascinating to see how the various communities reacted to one another in separation.
I also of course couldn't help but wonder WHAT the Noise is supposed to mean...especially in light of the fact that only men are affected. What is the author saying about men?
It was also interesting that Ness included two separate couples of the same gender in his trilogy. The relationships were not critical to the plot in any manner, other than that they made up half of the only four couples defined at all in the works.
I just haven't been able to get the series out of my head! I haven't found anyone else who has read the books yet, so hopefully spewing it out here will give me some closure.