Monday, 18 November 2013

More Than This - Patrick Ness

 
  Imagine waking up in a world you sort of remember, but is not yours. Seth is drowning. He dies. He wakes. And he lies, on the pavement, outside a house he lived in until he was eight. Everything around him is covered in a thick layer of dust; he is naked apart from a few bandage type things wrapped around his trunk and legs, the house looks sort of familiar, but he knows his family emigrated to the US some years previously, so why are things that should be in America in this house? There is no electricity, nothing is working, the tap does not run and he is oh so thirsty - and outside all is silent.

This is the start of Seth's adventure, and the start of a book that hooked me in from the very beginning, for I was as desperate as Seth to find out who? where? why? I felt much empathy towards this 16 year old, alone in a very strange place, with no human contact. It must be what people who are shipwrecked feel like, but with a difference, for here there are clothes shops to pilfer, and some food is still available if you can use a tin opener (for it is obvious that whenever this is happening, its been happening for several years).

To say more about the story itself would give away too much, but imagine what is wrong with the world, imagine things you do every day being the cause of his loneliness, imagine ... well, just imagine what you might think, what you might do.

I first came across Patrick Ness when I read A Monster Calls, a book he finished from the notes of the late Siobhan O'Dowd; a different style to my usual reads, and a clever way of dealing with a tricky subject. What an imagination Ness has. I know, in another book of his (The Knife of Never Letting Go) that there is a talking dog - got to read that one very very soon!

But back to More Than This. First, the cover. My copy is hardback, but I do hope they keep the doorway when this is published in paperback. Yes, there is a doorway cut into the actual cover of this book, which is opening onto the title page. And this should give a new reader a clue, as it is all about opening doorways that might lead you to the answers. The style has good, shocking, stops and starts which make you gasp, make you fearful of turning a page, but definitely make you want to read on. And reading on, you find yourself thinking aloud "oh! yes!.... that is already happening"; and "oh! my goodness that could happen now and if it did....." It's a clever concept, and dystopia is one of those subjects that can conjure up a new world so easily but will not necessarily make a good read. More Than This is more than a good read, it's a scary read but with no zombies or vampire or werwolves; it's a thoughtful read, with the future not the one we expect, and above all it's an exciting read because really, you do want Seth to come out of this OK and above all alive! The ending is open and in this case that's not a bad thing at all. I think that this was aimed at Young Adults - say from 12 onwards, but if you like dystopian tales, your age will not matter a bit.