Chaos Walking: The Anti Hunger Games

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1)
The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3)
By: Patrick Ness
Best for: 16 and up

I bet Patrick Ness really hates Suzanne Collins…

March 2023
Whelp. Turns out 10 years is the perfect gap to re-read my favorite books. I remember enough to know WHY I liked a book, but it might as well be the first time when it comes to remember the details!

Everything I said back in 2013 about Chaos Walking remains true: I loved reading it. The characters are fantastic. The story and world are epic. Future space pilgrims land on a new world to start over–only to discover on this world, men’s (but not women’s) thoughts can be heard by everyone. All the time. With no way to turn it off.

That sounds noisy.

Would that be enough to drive you…crazy?

Here are some new thoughts for a new decade.

The story is much more tragic than I remember. The good guys work really hard to be good guys but terrible things happen, over and over. The tragic was relentless, and you have to read through all three books PLUS the concluding short story, “Snowscape,” before you learn all the hard (finally) ends with happy.

There was a lot more strong violence than I remember, too. I had labeled Chaos Walking best for 14 and up…but 10 years ago I wasn’t Dad to a 14 year old. Now that I’ve been dad to 3 of them (with 3 more on deck), I’m moving my rating to 16 and up.

Read on to see my original review!

April 2013
Patrick Ness must hate Suzanne Collins.


Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of The Hunger Games Trilogy. Now raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Chaos Walking Trilogy?

That’s why.

But I can’t figure out why. Both are series about dystopian futures staring young people trying to overthrow oppressive leaders. Both were published at the same time. Both sold film rights to Lions Gate Entertainment. Both are great.

The biggest difference? Chaos Walking is better—much better.

So why hasn’t anyone heard of Chaos Walking? I don’t know, but I’m about to do my part to correct this gross injustice.

For starters, check out what Wikipedia has to say for Chas Walking:

On the overall series, the Costa Prize Judges said that they were “convinced that this is a major achievement in the making,” while the Guardian stated that “I would press Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy urgently on anyone, anyone at all. It is extraordinary.” In their review of the final book, Publisher’s Weekly called the series “one of the most important works of young adult science fiction in recent years.” Robert Dunbar wrote in The Guardian that the series “will almost certainly come to be seen as one of the outstanding literary achievements of the present century, whether viewed as fiction for the young or for a wider readership.”

The Knife of Never Letting Go was received with near universal praise for its originality and narration from critics such as Ian Chipman from Booklist and Megan Honig from The School Library Journal. It went on to win several awards and recognitions, including the Guardian Award, and the 2008 James Tiptree, Jr. Award.

The second book was also received well, with praise from Publishers Weekly, Children’s Literature and Kirkus Reviews, all noting the excellent plot and cast. It was named as one of “the best YA science fiction novels of the year” by Publisher’s Weekly while Kirkus called the characters “heartbreakingly real” and praised the questions brought up about “the meaning of war and the price of peace.” The book won the 2009 Costa children’s fiction prize and was recognized widely for its success.

The third book, Monsters of Men, has received greatly positive reviews and won the 2011 Carnegie Medal. It was also nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award for best science fiction novel, only the second time that a young adult novel made it on to the shortlist.

All three books have been shortlisted for the Carnegie Book Award.

Convinced yet? Let’s ask Wikipedia what it thinks of The Hunger Games:
Praise has focused on the addictive quality of especially the first book, and the action. John Green of The New York Times compared The Hunger Games with Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Catching Fire was praised for improving upon the first book. Mockingjay was praised for its portrayal of violence, world building, and romantic intrigue.

Not exactly gushing, is it.

The Chaos Walking Trilogy makes people gush.

How about some of my favorite quotes?

“We are the choices we make.”
― Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go

“Faith with proof is no faith at all.”
― Patrick Ness, The Ask and the Answer

“Choices may be unbelievably hard but they’re never impossible. To say you have no choice is to release yourself from responsibility and that’s not how a person with integrity acts.”
― Patrick Ness, Monsters of Men

“It’s not how we fall. It’s how we get back up again.”
― Patrick Ness, Monsters of Men

Ready to give it a try? I’m not going to recap the synopsis, you can read that anywhere. Here’s what you need to know from me that you can’t get anywhere else:

Don’t give up if you feel frustrated at the writing style after the first few pages. Patrick Ness uses his words as part of the story, and so his style feels a bit awkward at first. For example, some words are spelled fonetiklee because Todd can’t read. Also the books are full of stream of consciousness sentences that would earn you an “F” if you tried to use them in English class. But it’s intentional. The author’s use of words adds to the feeling of the story and endures you to the characters.

And speaking of the characters . . .

The characters in Chaos Walking are some of the best I’ve ever read. Every character—from Todd and Viola even down to the horses they ride—is powerful and flawed and full of meaning. Todd, Viola, the Mayor are the major players, but there are no minor players. Everyone is important. Many times I’ll describe a book as “character driven” or “plot driven.” These books are both—enduring characters living through a powerful story.

And speaking of the story . . .

I typically don’t like 1st person narration because it’s so hard to get it right. The Chaos Walking Trilogy is written entirely 1st person—and it couldn’t be any other way. It’s what makes the story work, and I’m extremely impressed. Todd narrates the first book, Todd and Viola narrate the second, and the third book is narrated by Todd and Viola and one other special guest who I don’t think I’ll divulge . . . but just know that it works great.

And speaking of great . . .

Read Chaos Walking.

For you parents out there, here’s what else you need to know. Chaos Walking has the same level of violence and death as that other trilogy. Also, there is some PG-13 language. I rate all three books 16+.

Happy Reading!

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