Sunday, August 11, 2013

Paddy Ness

I started a post when I was in the middle of More Than This by Patrick Ness, then finished it in one quick burst.  I really want to talk about it, but I'm not sure how to, since there are a lot of twists and turns to the plot, and the uncertainty is a big part of the point of the whole thing, bot from a narrative perspective and thematically.

So hm, what can I say about this?  This was not a mediocre book--it had some really great stuff and some unimpressive stuff.  The first thing I can safely say without spoilers is that it starts off with a strong mystery and then starts to drag.  Seth dies--he drowns--and wakes up in an abandoned town.  Houses are empty, weeds have grown up in the streets.  This is not the town he lives in, but it's the town he grew up in until he was about 9.  He explores the town, finds food--all the basic survivor stuff.  Pretty good.

Then this goes on.  And on.  And you get some flashbacks into his life before he died, which provide good character insight, but the abandoned town thing started to drag for me.  I was 40% into the book and just about to give up with the situation changed--and given that I was enjoying it, that says something about how little forward motion there was in that section.

I can tell you that the change involved other people, it involved a few answers and a lot more questions about why things are abandoned, what he needs to do, and how he got where he is.  The answers are very much like a very famous movie that you've seen and that I can't mention because of spoilers--if you've read the book you know what movie I'm talking about.  You've already thought of it, compared the two.  Fortunately, while the premise is almost identical, the plot and themes and characterizations and everything else are entirely different.

So here's the part where I can't tell you much, because wondering about it is a lot of what's driving the book.  But some of the major questions here are about what is real, and what it means to be real.  And you know, I think Ness said a lot of things that I think make sense here--things that seem so intuitive to me that they don't need to be said, but things that most fiction addressing the issue of reality don't actually admit.  It's very much like a late night freshman year discussion that I actually had about how maybe we're all just brains in jars, and does that make reality any less real?  Dude, my mind was blown.

I think that at the beginning of the book, I thought the premise was strong but the plot was weak.  By the end, the plot was much stronger, but some of the fleshing out of the premise was less impressive.  And I'm not going to spoil the book by going into detail, but if you've read it and would like to discuss, please let me know.  Please, actually.  Really--I have questions I want to ask you.

The only other book I've read by Ness was The Knife of Never Letting Go, which I appear never to have reviewed on this blog, which is a crying shame.  But while the books were very, very different, my feelings can be summed up similarly: this was a very good story that pushed too hard on one element (in More it was building on the themes, in Knife it was the relentlessness of violence).  That too-muchness weakened what was otherwise a very strong and in many ways original story.

(Note: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.)

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