“The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that they don’t got nothing much to say. About anything”.
That first line kicks off one of the best young adult / sci-fi stories I’ve ever read. It seems almost criminally unfair that a debut novel should be so good.
The set-up for the story needs a bit of explaining. Thirteen year old Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown, a month away from some mysterious activity which will make him a man. Prentisstown town is a human colony on an alien world. A world where men broadcast every thought in their head for the entire world to hear. If you think the “Noise” would drive everyone a little mad… well, you’d be right. And I did a mention there are no women left in Prentisstown?
Then an advanced scout ship from the next wave of colonists due to arrive on the plan crash lands near Prentisstown. The only survivor from the crash is a girl Todd’s age called Viola, who broadcasts no noise at all.
The first book chronicles Todd and Viola’s escape from Prentisstown and the scheming Mayor Prentiss, and things just keep escalating over the remaining books. Mayor Prentiss is leading an army to take the rest of the colonist settlements. A terrorist organisation of women forms to oppose him. The next wave of colonists are on their way. And the indigenous population of sentient humanoids, the Spackle, might have their own ideas about the proper order of things on the planet.
The first book is told from Todd’s point of view. The second book alternates between Tood’s voice and Viola’s. And the final book in the series adds a third voice into the mix.
The tension in the books just keeps ratcheting up and up and up throughout the series, driven mainly by Mayor Prentiss, who in my humble opinion, is one of the great literary villains of all time. Time and time again it looks his plans have been thwarted, only for him to be one step ahead every time. He’s a master at manipulating people, and does some pretty hideous things without remorse.
“Your noise betrays you Todd Hewitt!”
The story builds to a truly shattering conclusion. The books get my highest recommendation.
Oh, and some of the most memorable lines come from the horses.