Chaos Walking is a series of young adult dystopia novels written by award-winning novelist Patrick Ness. The title of the trilogy was derirved the following quote from the novels: "The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking".

The books are centred around a Prentisstown boy, Todd Hewitt, and his companion Viola Eade, with the first volume beginning a month before Todd’s thirteenth birthday. The story follows his journey through New World, where he searches for answers and opposes the plans of Prentisstown’s Mayor, Mayor Prentiss.

The first novel was narrated entirely by Todd. The second has been told through the viewpoints of both Todd and Viola and the third book has been told through the viewpoints of Todd, Viola and 1017 (The Return and later, The Sky).

Books[edit | edit source]

Main Novels[edit | edit source]

The Knife of Never Letting Go[edit | edit source]

The first book in the trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go premises shortly before Todd Hedwitt and Viola Eade first meet. Having been brought up in Old Prentisstown, Todd is unaware of the existence of humans beyond his own town populated by men. When he discovers Viola, who has crash landed on New World, he discovers that his life has been a lie, and is forced on the run as Mayor Prentiss declares war.

The Ask and the Answer[edit | edit source]

Following on from the events of the first book, The Ask and the Answer starts with the capture of Todd and Viola as the Mayor forces them to lead separated lives. Todd is locked up and forced to work with Spackle while Viola undertakes an apprenticeship from renowned healer Mistress Nicola Coyle. However, an organisation, The Answer, forms to retaliate against "President" Prentiss. "President" Prentiss creates his own force to retailiate against the Answer, and he calls it "The Ask".

Monsters of Men[edit | edit source]

The final conclusion to the Chaos Walking series. New World is in chaos as the Spackle and Settlers finally go to war, urged on by Mayor Prentiss and the Return, 1017. Todd and Viola try to bring peace between the two armies, but it proves a hard task as neither side wishes to give up.

Short Stories[edit | edit source]

The New World[edit | edit source]

The prequel short story tells of Viola and her parents on the convoy, leading up to the crash landing of their spaceship on New World. It is avalible for free on Kindle as an e-book.

The Wide, Wide Sea[edit | edit source]

The prequel short story set before the Spackle War.

Snowscape[edit | edit source]

A short story set shortly after the events of Monsters of Men.

New World[edit | edit source]

The books are set on the planet New World, which was colonised by a small group of Christian settlers from Old World (possibly Earth) more than thirteen years prior to the beginning of The Knife of Never Letting Go. New World was originally colonized to make “a new way of life, one clean and simple and honest and good in paticular, the colonists aimed to establish a Church that would leave behind corruption in favor of purity". However, the germ, present in the planet’s atmosphere, has posed several problems that have halted the development of this vision. A second settler ship, under the assumption that the first did not make it, arrives at New World at the end of Monsters of Men.

Prentisstown[edit | edit source]

In the beginning, we are under the assumption that Prentisstown, populated only by men, is the sole human settlement on New World, and that all woman were killed during the war against the resident aliens, called Spackles. However, this is proved false with the revelation of the town's true history. Near the end of book one, we discover that all Prentisstown women had been killed in an act of insanity after the Spackle War, fuelled by the town mayor and corrupt priest.

The Prentisstown population originally aimed to take over New World as revenge for being isolated for their crimes, accepting Mayor Prentiss as their absolute leader. As the series concludes countless of Prentiss' followers are killed, effectively canon fodder in the final apocalyptic war against the Spackles. Countless Spackle, too are killed, though the reader gains far deeper insight into their way of life and organization, mainly thorough the authorial voices of The Sky and The Return. By now war is in Prentiss' hands serving now not so much the aim of revenge for past acts, but the satiation of his megalomaniacal desire for absolute control of the planet. This control, however, comes at the price of absolute knowledge, a Faustian burden that is in the end too great to bear.

Haven/New Prentisstown[edit | edit source]

Being the largest settlement on New World, Haven was the leading developer of technology and research. They had developed a cure for the Noise, and were the last town to be taken over by Prentisstown, to whom they surrendered. The town was renamed New Prentisstown, and Mayor Prentiss quickly assume the role of President.

Prior to this, the residents of Haven had captured and kept Spackle as servants, The Burden, who have all been killed, aside from 1017. This spurred the war that took place in the final book, Monsters of Men.

Characters[edit | edit source]

Todd Hewitt (The Knife)[edit | edit source]

The protagonist of the series, Todd Hewitt is one month shy of turning thirteen when the trilogy begins. (Note that New World follows a thirteen month calendar.) Brought up by guardians Ben and Cillian, Todd was kept unaware of Prentisstown’s history until the end of the first book.

Mayor Prentiss prevented Todd from gaining an education, and consequently, Todd’s narrative is illiterate and unrestricted. He cannot read or write, a problem that has prevented him from reading his mother’s diary and communicating with Viola from the scout ship in book three.

In 'the Ask and the Answer', Todd commits horrible acts of cruelty against Spackle, women, and becomes colder without Viola to help. He is at first forced to do so because Viola is under the Mayor’s control, but as the novel progresses, Todd starts to lose who he really is. It is only until Mayor Prentiss reveals his plans that Todd sees he must fight him to save Viola, and New Prentisstown.

Throughout the novels, Todd is repeatedly pressured to murder another human being in order to fulfil Mayor Prentiss’ plans. However, his character is labelled unable to kill, until the end of The Ask and The Answer, where his noise reveals that he would kill for Viola. This then leads him to participate in war, and he has since killed many Spackle in self defence, though has not killed any men.

In Monsters of Men, Todd’s character is further challenged. When spending time with the Mayor, the two develop a link (denoted by a small humming in their Noise), and begins to both influence and be influenced by him. Todd also learns to refine his ability to control his Noise, thus allowing him to silence it, use it as a weapon, learn with it, and use it to control other people. However, in the end it is revealed that by silencing one’s Noise, the attack power of the Noise is decreased. Todd does, however, inevitably end up trusting the Mayor again, and saves him unconsciously from death several times. However, when Ben shows up, this filial bond breaks. The skills taught to him ultimately allow Todd to defeat the Mayor in a battle using only his Noise.

The Sky, 1017, mortally wounds Todd near the end of Monsters of Men, mistaking Todd for the Mayor, though he admits that he wasn’t sure when he fired his weapon. Todd’s Noise leaves, returning in small bursts, and he remains in a coma-like state at the end of book three. However, the final chapter hints that he will wake so long as Viola keeps ‘calling’ him.

Viola Eade (The Knife's One In Particular)[edit | edit source]

Part of a scouting party sent ahead by a group of new settlers. Viola, thirteen (twelve month calendar), crash-landed on New World with her parents, though she was the only one to survive.

She travelled with Todd to Haven in hopes of finding a communication tower, intent on sending a message back to the settlers’ main ship. She was disappointed to learn that New World lacks this technology, and is later averted from this goal by Mayor Prentiss. Joining the Answer, she learns how to heal, set off bombs, and how to negotiate in war.

In the final book, she comes close to death, infected by the virus Mayor Prentiss placed in all the metal bands. She starts the Spackle war for Todd by launching a missile from the scout ship, and realizes that she will kill for Todd, noting that it is a dangerous thing. She and Todd finally kiss towards the end of the novel, but she is left devastated when Todd "died". At the end, she reads Todd’s mother’s journal to him and waits for him to wake.

Mayor Prentiss/President Prentiss/David Prentiss[edit | edit source]

David Prentiss is the antagonist of the books, mastermind behind the take over, and self proclaimed President of New World. He is the one who forced Prentisstown into War, and the one who plotted the start of the next Spackle war.

In the second book, he creates the Ask, an organization dedicated opposing the Answer and destroying unrest within the population of Haven. He also captures Todd and forces him to work with him. Though he is the father of Davy Prentiss, Jr., Mayor Prentiss dislikes him, and frequently comments on how Todd would make for a better son. At the end of the second book, he kills his Davy with a gun. It is later revealed that he would have sent Davy into war with an empty rifle.

In the third book, Mayor Prentiss continues to try and recruit Todd, but is instead changed by him. He becomes more moral, but cannot ignore the hollow emptiness he feels towards everything in the world. It is revealed that he had surpassed a point in his knowledge of Noise that has left his completely silence and hateful of others’ Noise. In the end, this drives him mad and he walks into the ocean to his death.

1017 (The Sky/The Return)[edit | edit source]

Introduced in book two, this is a Spackle who grew up domesticated in Haven. Forced to work for a violent owner, he falls in love with his ‘one in particular’, the other Spackle in the household. However, he is killed, and 1017 grows angry and vengeful, directing this hate at Todd, because Todd (called the Knife) knows better when he tortures Spackle.

When all of the Burden are killed, 1017 is left and runs to the Land, and is named the Return. He then urges the Sky to kill all humans, and lets his need for revenge control him. However, the Sky leads him to Ben and he learns that he cannot kill.

When he becomes the new Sky, he almost wages war on all settlers, but stops short because he realises he is not doing what is right for the Land. With the knowledge that only peace can bring calamity, he lets the humans go.

At the end of Monsters of Men, he shoots Todd with acid, though he knew he wasn’t sure if it was Todd or the Mayor in front of him. He offers to be killed by Viola as punishment, because he suffers knowing he killed another person, but Viola refuses to kill him as well as denying him forgiveness, so he will regret his action for the rest of his life.

He shelters Todd and offers Viola medicine, in a gesture of peace.

Mistress Nicola Coyle[edit | edit source]

The leader of the Answer, she sets up a camp away from Haven, committed to removing Mayor Prentiss from power. She enlists Viola’s help and shows members of the Answer how to set off homemade bombs, though she is manipulative, and tries to kill the Mayor by setting up Viola with a bomb.

In the end, she kills herself in a final attempt to remove the Mayor from power and to possibly allow Viola to become a leader.

Wilf[edit | edit source]

A strange man who shows up periodically in the books. He has shown himself to be the most peaceful and honest man on New World, incapable of lies, and has been likened to the Sky of the Clearing.

Davy Prentiss, Jr.[edit | edit source]

Davy is the son of Mayor Prentiss. In 'Old' Prentisstown, Davy was the local sheriff. He is ordered to work with Todd during The Ask and The Answer, carrying out tasks while constantly seeking his father’s approval. He is murdered by the end of The Ask and The Answer by his own father when he starts to turn out to be nice and "human".

Manchee[edit | edit source]

Manchee is Todd’s dog. Bought by Cillian for Todd’s twelfth birthday, his thoughts are audible because of the germ. He was Todd’s closest friend in Prentisstown, and follows Todd unconditionally until Aaron kills him. Because of his death, Todd is unable to leave things, as he fears regret. He is a loyal and humble pet who is brutally murdered by Aaron whilst trying to save Todd and Viola.

Aaron[edit | edit source]

The seemingly insane priest selected by Mayor Prentiss to be Todd’s sacrifice. Through several means, Aaron persistently provokes Todd in the hope that Todd will murder him, which will, in Aaron's mind,turn him into a saint. He fails by the end of the first book, when Viola killed him instead.

Ben[edit | edit source]

Ben is Todd's adoptive father who was a friend of his mother's. He and Cillian raised Todd and helped him escape when he discovered that it was possible to escape the Noise. He later rejoined him and told him and Viola the truth about Prentisstown, how the men killed all the women because they couldn't read their thoughts. When they were found by Mayor Prentiss's men, Ben was seemingly killed by Davy Prentiss Jr.

He was revealed to be alive in Monsters of Men and was essential in redeeming the Return from his lust for revenge. Ben was changed from his resurrection and could speak the Spackle language which lead him to prefer to speak through his Noise. His return to Todd was the straw that broke the filial bond that the latter had formed with the Mayor and helped bring his Noise back, healing his broken relationship with Viola. Ben, along with Viola and Bradley, negotiated peace with the new Sky when the Mayor ordered his remaining troops to destroy the Answer.

Ben is the origin of the phrase "War makes monsters out of men" which was taken up several times in the trilogy and was the title base of the third book.

The Land[edit | edit source]

The Land is the Spackle name for all general Spackle. Being a species that evolved with Noise, the entire population acts as one entity.

The Sky[edit | edit source]

The Sky is an appointed head of the Spackle, who has supreme rule over all Spackle affairs. A separate entity to the Land, who is alone, and must do what is right by the Land, not what is right by them. Orders from the Sky are followed unconditionally.

The Burden[edit | edit source]

The Burden is the name for those who were left to become domesticated slaves for the humans after the signing of the first treaty. Often regarded with remorse and guilt when remembered among Spackles.

The Clearing[edit | edit source]

The Clearing is the Spackle name for the settlers (humans).

Reception[edit | edit source]

The novels have gained largely positive reviews.

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.”

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. The book won the 2009 Costa children's fiction prize and was recognised widely for its success.

The third book has recently been released and has received greatly positive reviews thus far.

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