A dystopian thriller follows a boy and girl on the run from a town where all thoughts can be heard – and the passage to manhood embodies a horrible secret.
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him -- something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
About the Author
I was born on an army base called Fort Belvoir, near Alexandria, Virginia. But I only stayed there for the first four months of my life and have never even been back to the East Coast of America. Since then, I’ve lived in Hawaii, Washington, California, and England.
I’ve only ever really wanted to be a writer. I studied English Literature at the University of Southern California, and when I graduated, I got a job as a corporate writer at a cable company in Los Angeles, writing manuals and speeches and once even an advertisement for the Gilroy, California, Garlic Festival. I got my first story published in Genre magazine in 1997 and was working on my first novel when I moved to London in 1999. I’ve lived here ever since. I taught Creative Writing at Oxford University for three years, usually to students older than I was. I write for one of the U.K. national papers, and I’ve also been writer in residence for Booktrust. Anything and everything to do with writing, that’s how I want to make my life.
I made up stories all the time when I was young, though I was usually too embarrassed to show them to anybody. That’s okay if you do that; when you’re ready, you’re ready. The important thing is to keep writing.
For young adults, I’ve written A Monster Calls, More Than This, and the Chaos Walking trilogy: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and The Answer, and Monsters of Men. I’ve also written two books for adults, a novel called The Crash of Hennington and a short story collection called Topics About Which I Know Nothing, a title that seemed funny at the time but less so 10,000 mentions later.
Here’s a helpful hint if you want to be a writer: When I’m working on a first draft, all I write is 1,000 words a day, which isn’t that much (I started out with 300, then moved up to 500, now I can do 1,000 easy). And if I write my 1,000 words, I’m done for the day, even if it only took an hour (it usually takes more, of course, but not always). Novels are anywhere from 60,000 words on up, so it’s possible that just sixty days later you might have a whole first draft. The Knife of Never Letting Go is 112,900 words and took about seven months to get a good first draft. Lots of rewrites followed. That’s the fun part, where the book really starts to come together just exactly how you see it, the part where you feel like a real writer.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I have a tattoo of a rhinoceros.
2. I’ve run three marathons.
3. Under no circumstances will I eat onions.
Read an Excerpt
THE FIRST THING you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.
"Need a poo, Todd."
"Shut up, Manchee."
"Poo. Poo, Todd."
"I said shut it."
We’re walking across the wild fields southeast of town, those ones that slope down to the river and head on toward the swamp. Ben’s sent me to pick him some swamp apples and he’s made me take Manchee with me, even tho we all know Cillian only bought him to stay on Mayor Prentiss’sgood side and so suddenly here’s this brand-new dog as a present for my birthday last year when I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn’t have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, no, happy birthday, Todd, here’s a brand-new puppy, Todd, and even tho you don’t want him, even tho you never asked for him, guess who has to feed him and train him and wash him and take him for walks and listen to him jabber now he’s got old enough for the talking germ to set his mouth moving? Guess who?
"Poo," Manchee barks quietly to himself. "Poo, poo, poo."
"Just have yer stupid poo and quit yapping about it."
I take a switch of grass from beside the trail and I swat after him with it. I don’t reach him, I don’t mean to reach him, but he just laughs his little barking laugh and carries on down the trail. I follow after him, switching the switch against the grass on either side, squinting from the sun, tryingnot to think about nothing at all.
We don’t need apples from the swamp, truth be told. Ben can buy them at Mr. Phelps’s store if he really wants them. Also true: going to the swamp to pick a few apples is not a job for a man cuz men are never allowed to be so idle. Now, I won’t officially become a man for thirty more days. I’ve lived twelve years of thirteen long months each and another twelve months besides, all of which living means I’m still one month away from the big birthday. The plans are being planned, the preparayshuns prepared, it will be a party, I guess, tho I’m starting to get some strange pictures about it, all dark and too bright at the same time, but neverthelessI will become a man and picking apples in the swamp is not a job for a man or even an almost-man.
But Ben knows he can ask me to go and he knows I’ll say yes to going because the swamp is the only place anywhere near Prentisstown where you can have half a break from all the Noise that men spill outta theirselves, all their clamor and clatter that never lets up, even when they sleep, men and the thoughts they don’t know they think even when everyone can hear. Men and their Noise. I don’t know how they do it, how they stand each other.
Men are Noisy creachers.
"Squirrel!" Manchee shouts and off he goes, jumping off the trail, no matter how loud I yell after him, and off I have to go, too, across the (I look round to make sure I’m alone) goddam fields cuz Cillian’ll have a fit if Manchee falls down some goddam snake hole and of course it’ll be my own goddam fault even tho I never wanted the goddam dog in thegoddam first place.
"Manchee! Get back here!"
I have to kick my way thru the grass, getting grublets stuck to my shoes. One smashes as I kick it off, leaving a green smear across my sneakers, which I know from experience ain’t coming out. "Manchee!" I rage.
"Squirrel! Squirrel! Squirrel!"
He’s barking round the tree and the squirrel’s skittering back and forth on the tree trunk, taunting him. Come on, Whirler dog, says its Noise. Comeon, come get, come on, come get. Whirler, Whirler, Whirler.
"Squirrel, Todd! Squirrel!"
Goddam, animals are stupid.
I grab Manchee by the collar and hit him hard across his back leg. "Ow, Todd? Ow?" I hit him again. And again. "Ow? Todd?"
"Come on," I say, my own Noise raging so loud I can barely hear myself think, which is something I’m about to regret, you watch.
Whirler boy, Whirler boy, thinks the squirrel at me. Come get, Whirler boy.
"You can eff off, too," I say, except I don’t say "eff ", I say what "eff" stands for.
And I really, really shoulda looked round again.