Chaos Walking — Patrick Ness

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Free Prequel to Chaos Walking Trilogy on Amazon Kindle

We talk a lot about Harry Potter here, Twilight and The Hunger Games get their fair share of posts, and we’re always looking for new titles to discuss. Books in the queue for review here include James Owen’s Imaginarium Geographica (I’ve read the first five… and hope to write something before the sixth is published!), T. M. Doran’s Toward the Gleam, Gary Gregg’s two Sporran novels, Matched by Ally Condie, The Mortal Instruments saga(s), Stephenie Meyer’s Official Illustrated Guide, and Linda Buckley-Archer’s The Gideon Trilogy. Did I mention that Lev Grossman’s sequel to The MagiciansThe Magician Kingcomes out this summer?

We’ll be all over that. I’m also reading the seven Charles Williams novels and the Narniad for alchemical and Ring Composition notes (check out the aside in chapter 9 of Shadows of Ecstasy about Coleridge and Imagination and the multiple circle and center references in the two middle chapters; did the I mention the lead figure draws his power from imagination and the “transmutations of energy”?). Lots to say there. The photo above is of the Philips Exeter Academy Library whose interior has something of a ring composition ‘turtle back’ motif.

Today, though, just a quick note about a book series with all the Potter signatures — literary alchemy, ring composition, soul triptychs, annual sacrifice and resurrection, etc. — with a taste of Hunger Games dystopia, too: Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking. If you enjoyed these disturbing books as much as I did, you’ll want to know a free prequel to the series, ‘The New World,’ a short story Ness for the Book Trust to fill out Viola’s back story, can be downloaded to a Kindle or Kindle app (or free pdf — see comments below!). That’s almost enough to get me to purchase one of the doggone little things. If only I could fold over pages so the corner touches on an important phrase… (H/T to Justine!)

Chaos Walking #3: Todd Hewitt, ‘Hewn Heart’

Life is short, art is long; let’s get right to the alchemy, then, if you don’t mind.

As discussed previously, the books’ penchant for Christian and biblical names makes me think ‘Todd’ is meant to be understood as ‘Thaddeus,’ the Aramaic word for ‘Heart,’ the spiritual faculty of the human person, or “breast,’ as in ‘bosom buddy.’ The last name of our hero, ‘Hewitt,’ is a not especially opaque telling of “hew it,” which translates as “roughly shape or fell the hard object.” Together, I think the Dickensian cryptonym gives us “the stone or wooden heart’s felling” or, better, “the revelation of the heart out of stone.” His story is a postmodern Everyman tale of the spiritual journey to human perfection or apotheosis.

If you’re a newcomer here, that must seem a real stretch. Old hands, however, I’m sure, have already started asking themselves, “If Todd is the Stone/Heart being perfected, are the three books the three alchemical stages of the Philosopher’s Stone?” Indeed, they are. [Read more…]

Chaos Walking #2: The Noise and the Word

Except for the Noise, an “illness” that strikes male Settlers of New World whose chief symptom is the broadcast of every thought and image in one’s mind to the world around you, Chaos Walking, in the words of Elizabeth Baird Hardy is just “Huck Finn on ‘The Planet of the Apes’.” It’s safe to say that, whatever Patrick Ness’ message may be in his dystopian trilogy cum coming of age story, it is wrapped up in the meaning of the Noise.

Today, consequently, after looking yesterday at the curious surface macro-structures of these books, I want to begin discussion of the work with some conversation starters about the Noise. Here is a brief look with more questions than answers at the narrative, moral, allegorical, and anagogical levels for your reflection and comment:

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Chaos Walking #1: How the Story is Told

Welcome to the HogwartsProfessor Book Club’s first official post! After last month’s fun looking at Mockingjay when it first came out (links to those 30+ posts and threads are gathered here), my fellow Professors and Potter Pundits agreed we should try to do this every month. Our first choice has been the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, the last of which novels — Monsters of Men — was published in the US just last week. I wrote reading guides for the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and the second book, The Ask and the Answer, in recent weeks to encourage those of you for whom Chaos Walking was something totally different. I hope you’ve managed to find and read copies of all three Chaos Walking novels; everything from this point forward will assume you have read each book (file that under “Spoiler Warning”).

The purpose of these posts is “bringing up subjects for discussion” not “delivering definitive interpretations.” I’ve only read the books through once and quickly, but, as you know if you’ve read them, even that experience is sufficient for understanding that these are novels of significant, deceptive depth and artistry that merit re-reading both for pleasure and for that close attention on second and third readings which reveals the greater meaning only felt the first time. To encourage that second and third look, let’s start with some curiosities in the surface narrative after the jump.

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