Flashback Review: Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

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I’m currently re-reading Chaos Walking for about the tenth time, but every time I start walking into New World alongside Todd and Viola, I get hit with the same intensity, the same “whoa” forms in my mouth and the same excitement rises. The themes and questions raised by this story already seemed pretty deep to my fourteen-year-old self, but every time I open it, it is like a whole new ocean with enchanting new layers to dive into.

Chaos Walking is a book trilogy by Patrick Ness, following Todd and Viola, two teenagers who stand against their whole world. Todd was born on New World, a planet colonised by a few church settlers who were running away from an overcrowded and sinful Earth. But New World turned out to be quite the opposite of the Paradise they were looking for: all living creatures, animals, humans are affected by the Noise. Imagine all of your thoughts, memories, whatever floats in your head at this very instant being audible by everyone around you, even from several metres away. And everyone’s Noise is joining in an unsufferable choir of despair and lamentation… Well, not exactly everyone: women do not have any Noise.

On his thirteen birthday, Todd will become a man, But when he learns how the people in his town, the womanless and doomed Prentisstown, become men, he has to run. On his way, he meets Viola, a girl his age. She, too, lost everything when she crashed on New World. They have nothing but each other, believe in nothing, not even in the hope the town they’re running to is offering them, but they still have to run, run, run.

Chaos Walking is a breath-taking, heart-breaking series. An incredibly just and contemporary reflection on power, dictatorship, redemption and war between sexes. And above all, the obsessing question of what really defines humanity. The stream of consciousness of the narrator sounds so close, so genuine, that the immersion in this fictional universe is complete and instantaneous. This is why I can relate so much to the topics it deals with. You cannot, for example, picture Mayor Prentiss, without remembering other terrible historical figures, manipulative dictators who fooled entire populations and scarred humanity’s past.

With the rise of massive communication through social media, we can easily imagine the chaos resulting from a world where Noise dominates men’s minds. When you’re constantly being overflowed with images people choose to put forward, faces they put masks on to show the rest of the world, how can you make the difference between truth and lie anymore?

This is what makes Todd and Viola’s relationship so unique, beyond romance, beyond friendship. They represent the ideal of New World, the one the settlers were not even looking for: acceptance of each other as equals, in awareness that the other completes you. To me, Noise represents male energy, action, controlling power; Silence is a symbol of the nurturing power of women, different, but just as strong. They are equals, not because their strengths are identical, but because they need to embrace each other to be truly complete and pure.

Chaos Walking is like a dear old friend to me. I have so many things to tell you about it, so little time, but I can only say this: it is worth knowing, worth carrying in your heart, and whether it is here to stay or to slowly fade from your memory, its acquaintance will certainly not leave your life unchanged.

Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy is being adapted into a film by Lionsgate.

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Marine Bio student, bookworm, storyteller and synchro swimming lover

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