My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book opens with a death. A boy drowns in the ocean, and Ness describes it with disturbing detail. Then the boy wakes up on a concrete path outside a house, naked but for a few strips of cloth, and he(and the reader) is VERY confused.
Where is he? When is he? Why are there no other people around? Is this some kind of Hell, or worse, purgatory – where he is in limbo in some way?
Patrick Ness is my favourite sci-fi/fantasy writer of the moment. I am devouring everything he has written, and when this newest work landed on my desk I was excited – for good reason. After all, any author who uses a Peter Gabriel quote at the beginning of their book has to be taken seriously and given my reading time.
When I began reading, I expected this to be about life after death, reincarnation or reanimation – typical sci-fi fare. I should have known better. Patrick Ness is anything but typical. After the Chaos Walking series, I should have realised that this would have depths to be uncovered.
Seth’s life is shown to us through a number of flashbacks that seem to be dreams. It is revealed that when Seth was eight, a terrible event took place in his family that changed it forever – and Seth feels responsible. It is clear that he carries a lot of guilt, but that is just the beginning of his pain. Just before his death, Seth was in a relationship with the charismatic Gudmund. Someone found a photo of Seth and Gudmund on Gudmund’s phone and sent it to everyone at their school, with devastating consequences.
It is very clear that at the time of his death, Seth was not a happy person.
He is not happy in his new reality either. Making up his mind to kill himself, Seth sets out for a hill with a long drop, to end the loneliness and feeling of emptiness inside. On the way he meets Regine and Tomasz. They have similar experiences of this weird world and Seth begins to wonder if any of it is real – if they are real.
The three form an uneasy alliance and set out to find out the truth of where they are and why. Along the way they learn nothing is as it seems.
To say anymore would be spoiler territory. I really enjoyed this novel. It veered off in a direction I was not expecting and I LOVE that when I read. The fact that Patrick Ness makes it all seem so possible is a testament to his amazing writing talent. Read it. Allow yourself to become immersed in the narrative and burst out at the other end, gasping, much like the drowning boy in the opening pages. You won’t be sorry.
Suitable for ages 14 and above.