Some may quibble about the definition of the book, it could arguably move quite easily from post apocalyptic to sci-fi, primarily because it is based on another planet. The question of how to define or categorise the trilogy could make a lively book club discussion for any of the healthy book clubs out there willing and able to take on a trilogy to read and discuss!! Within the novel there are also elements of a classical hero´s journey, with Todd the protagonist embarking on a series of adventures in search of redemption, survival and peace.
As discussed in depth on other pages of this blog, the trilogy has a number of shared thematic links with other post apocalyptic fiction. The individual´s moral dilemmas in times of conflict, the power of redemptive love and the hope for future generations encompassed in individuals who sometimes make moral misjudgments but at heart seem to be good people!
The original premise of the book is genius and although it wobbles at times over the course of the trilogy, it undeniably forms one of those fantastic mind bending ideas that stick in the creative part of your brain, whirring and tickling away in the recesses of head. You´ll forget the novel for months on end and then just suddenly think “Now that was a really clever idea”.
The premise is that on the planet where Todd lives, the men can hear each other’s thoughts. There is no privacy, no lying and no polite concealing of reality. All thoughts are shared, whether you want to or not, they are heard by other men.
The opening chapters of first novel “The Knife of never letting go”, begin with Todd trying to escape capture…only it´s difficult to hide from people when they can hear your thoughts! The pace is relentless in the first book and pretty much follows the same pattern in the next two, with Todd running away from his enemies and trying to survive against difficult odds. He picks up a few friends along the way, loses others and makes some enemies too.
The indigenous population of the planet is also an interesting creation, their role develops over the course of the trilogy, finally providing some hope of a solution to the agony of hearing each other’s thoughts for the human inhabitants.
The novel explores gender differences, the guerilla tactics of the ´freedom fighter´ women versus the war obsessed and battle ready army men led by a possibly insane megalomaniac male! Todd provides a counterbalance as a sympathetically drawn, innocent male character. One of the exciting elements of the book is the audience’s wait to see if he will become corrupted by the veniality around him or whether he will retain his innocence and desire for peace and calm imbued through his earlier family life.
The new generation of settlers on to the planet seems to bring a hope of a peaceful resolution in the final novel, but they are quickly embroiled in the political landscape, debating the morality of violent action as the first action on arrival on the planet. For a while it seems that there can be no escape from war. Eventually, however, Todd and his friends do find the redemption that they have been searching for throughout the trilogy. Ness ends the hero´s journey in a classical way, with Todd´s final battle culminating in a sort of ending, an ending for Todd and a hope of some sort of resurrection that may lead to a future elixir of hope for the planet as a whole.