Sometimes I wonder if anyone can ever be truly original. It’s almost as if ideas that are out in the ether start soaking into everyone’s skin and it’s only a matter of time before a whole range of creative works start coming to life that draw on the same ideas or link up with each other. I’m not talking about plagarism – an issue which worries young writers often – but synchronicity, where unknowingly and coincidentally events link up and we all move towards the same conclusions.
I’ve resisted reading Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go for quite a while. I first heard about it from another author who was a friend of Ness’ and at that stage it seemed too spookily like the book I was working on at the time, Vulture’s Gate. Now that I’ve read Knife, I can safely say that the two books are not alike in terms of plot or even subject matter, though I think in some ways Ness and I were thinking the same thoughts on various subjects and I’d like to think our books complement each other. Vulture’s Gate won’t be published until August of this year though it’s a book I’ve been cooking for years. As I’ve worked on it, I’ve watched other books about futuristic worlds hit the bookstores and wondered what it is that is drawing so many youth authors towards a dark future. Oh well, that’s zeitgeist for you.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is set on another planet, though like my book, it describes a dystopia – a future world where everything is unravelling. In the past year there have been quite a few of children’s and YA novels being published that are set in dystopias. Why is the future looking so dark? Maybe dystopia’s aren’t so dark – more an inverted way of stating there is still hope – because most of these books are about children or young people who battle the ills of the adult world, who try to make a difference.
The Knife of Never Letting Go tackles its topic brilliantly. It’s a gripping read, though occasionally very violent, and it deserved to win the Guardian prize. You can swallow the story whole in one big gulp though there is a lot to savour in the writing. As Frank Cottrell Boyce said in his review in the Guardian, it would be easy to spoil the story by giving too much of the plot away. But be warned, it’s the first in a series. I hope it’s not too long before the sequel makes its way into the world.