Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee – whose thoughts Todd can hear, too, whether he wants to or not – stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden – a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.
But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?
It took me a while to warm up to this novel. Ness writes such… I don’t even have a word for the language and vernacular he writes. Well, I do, but it’s a Finnish word and I can’t find a good translation for it. None of the dictionary suggestions fit. It’s a bit like this book: It doesn’t quite fit but it works anyway.
The story is told in first person voice from Todd’s point of view. He’s almost thirteen years old and the last boy to turn a man in Prentisstown. On a new planet far, far away from Old World. There noise, which is every thought of every man in Prentisstown shouted out in the open with no privacy for anyone. There are ways to hide from and in the noise but as Todd is the youngest he’s also the most unskilled at it.
Then he finds a hole in the noise. A silence that scares him to death and that’s the beginning of his escape from Prentisstown and discovery of old truths long since hidden. With him, on this journey, Todd takes his speaking dog Manchee.
Todd isn’t a nice kid. He’s cruel and he kicks and hits Manchee, who loves him anyway. As the story progresses it’s revealed why Todd is the way he is and some of it makes his behaviour understandable even if not excusable. He makes quite a few wrong choices, but that’s part of growing up, and it’s always a nice to read about a character who isn’t perfect and who makes real mistakes.
There were things I thought bizarre, like a certain someone who refused to die, but the world building wasn’t one of them. Apart from the mandatory infodumping at the beginning most of the New World was sketched quite well throughout the book. Somehow I feel like there weren’t that many details given, but it didn’t bother me because the narrator is learning with the reader.
A couple of warnings:
First, the fonts. The noise of everyone’s thoughts is illustrated with huge blocks of overlapping lines written in different fonts and on occasion a single thought is highlighted with a different font choice. I honestly don’t know how this works in the ebook, but good luck to anyone trying it.
Secondly, animal cruelty. If this is a trigger for you I suggest you skip the book. It isn’t graphic and none of the animals are tortured for prolonged periods of time, but it is present and the casual kicking and hitting was enough to bother me. I’m a cat person, but nope. Just no.
I’m aware that it’s a sketchy review with few if any details in it but that’s all I’ve got. Sorry.