“The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”
Written by Patrick Ness and originally published in 2008, The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the Chaos Walking young adult trilogy. Set in the near future, the story follows 12-year-old Todd Hewitt, the only boy left in a town called Prentisstown. Todd has been brought up to believe that a pathogen has killed all women in a colony world and that the alien inhabitants unleashed a germ called The Noise, giving everybody the ability to hear everyone else’s thoughts. A month away from becoming a man, Todd comes upon a patch of silence and soon discovers the source: a girl. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two go on the run, along with Todd’s loyal dog, Manchee, and learn more about the true history of the New World a secret about Prentisstown’s past.
Set to be released in 2020 and directed by Doug Liman, the film adaptation and stars Tom Holland as Todd, Daisy Ridley as Viola, and Mads Mikkelsen as the Mayor of Prentisstown.
The following post is a review of the book only, looking at how it is going to be adapted. You can read my review of the film in comparison to the book once it has been released.
Just when you think that the hype of young adult dystopias has run out and the adaptations of franchises such as Divergent, The Hunger Games, and The Maze Runner have all come to end, suddenly you find a trilogy like Patrick Ness‘ Chaos Walking and realise that there’s still a lot more to look forward to.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is set in a world full of dark secrets. What really happened to the women? How did the virus begin? What lies on the other side of the swamp? And why is it so important that Todd reaches his birthday?
You may think that you know what you’re getting into with a story like this. Todd has to become a man so, obviously, his adventure through a world that he has been forbidden to explore will lead to some form of self-discovery. And then there’s a girl, the only girl Todd has ever met. She’s obviously going to get in the way of that. And there’s a virus which has taken the lives of all of the women on this planet. Why did that happen? And let’s not forget the antagonists who are going to slow Todd’s progress down.
It’s a basic premise we’ve seen explored in various different contexts many times before: something altering the world as we know it as a young adult protagonist finds the courage to become a hero and change the world for the better. Okay, so The Knife of Never Letting Go is similar on many of those levels, but it’s also much more than that.
If you’ve read anything by Ness before, you will know that his stories are always much richer and deeper, almost always with a nightmarish quality to them. With underlying themes of dehumanization, colonization, slavery, racism and sexism, this isn’t just about coming-of-age heroism, a first-time romance, and someone’s efforts to defeat the bad and make the world a better place. Todd has a talking dog for one thing, and if that isn’t enough to intrigue you then I don’t know what is.
Although I found the book difficult to get into for the first few chapters because of the use of a broken language, the concept of everything having its own noise really interested me. Manchee the dog doesn’t talk like a human, he communicates just as you would expect a dog to, and the bond between him and Todd is a really lovely one to read. Their adventures alone are worth picking this book up for.
I didn’t know what to expect with this book and there are certainly some shocking twists in store. There’s constantly something new being revealed, the new world setting is unique and interesting to explore, and the characters are all well developed with Todd and Viola’s relationship following a believable path. Their characters are equals which is a great move by Ness, as young adult books too often rely on a blossoming romance over more in-depth developments.
The cliff-hanger at the end is a big one, too. Even if you were unsure about the book beforehand, its ending will definitely encourage you to continue reading the rest of the franchise.
As well as having a host of writers including Charlie Kaufman, Jamie Linden, Lindsey Beer, Gary Spinelli and John Lee Hancock, the author of the book, Patrick Ness, is also amongst the team of writers, so it’s good to know that he has some involvement. Another of his books, A Monster Calls, was adapted in 2016, which is a great adaptation and film, so he has some experience of others working with his books. Let’s hope this adaptation turns out the same so that the franchise will continue and not fall on the first hurdle.
This film is set to be directed by Doug Liman, who is known for films including American Made, The Wall, Edge of Tomorrow, Jumper, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity, Go and Swingers.
It’s definitely a mixed bag of films, mostly consisting of thrillers, but most of them have been successful and all include big names in their casts. They’re all entertaining and action-packed films, nonetheless, so Liman is the ideal director to take on a story like this.
Tom Holland is set to lead the adaptation as Todd Hewitt which is a great place to start. Holland is currently known for playing Peter Park/Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although he has also played Billy Elliot on stage in London’s West End and later had his breakout performance in 2012’s The Impossible. Holland will certainly please younger female fans of the book, but he’s also one of the most exciting young actors to be making his way into more interesting films.
Daisy Ridley is then set to play Viola Eade which is another great casting call. Ridley is most well known for her role as Rey in the recent Star Wars trilogy, although she has also appeared in films such as 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and 2018’s Ophelia. She’s another rising young actress who is certainly going to bring a lot to Viola’s character, suiting her strong personality well.
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is set to play David Prentiss, the cruel Mayor of Prentisstown. He’s had some amazing roles in foreign language roles over the years, but will mostly be known in the UK for his lead role in the Hannibal TV series and for playing Kaecilius in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. He makes a great bad guy so there’s no doubting that he will play the Mayor brilliantly.
Nick Jonas is then set to play his son, Davy Prentiss Jr. Although Jonas is most recognised for his music, with the Jonas Brothers becoming prominent figures on the Disney Channel, he has been taking his acting more seriously recently with roles in 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and 2019’s Midway. I think this is great casting as Davy has an almost comical side to his character, so Jonas will suit him well.
David Oyelowo is set to play Aaron, a violent priest who seeks after Todd and Viola. This is the only bit of casting that I didn’t expect at first as I imagined Aaron to be a lot younger, but Oyelowo is a great actor and the more I think about it the more fitting it sounds. Oyelowo has excelled in films such as Selma and A United Kingdom and suits a very serious and preachy character well.
As for other casting, Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight) and Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) are set to play Ben and Cillian, Todd’s adoptive fathers, Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) is set to play Hildy, the leader of Farbranch, and Óscar Jaenada (The Losers) is set to play Wilf, an excluded drifter.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is out now.