Chaos Walking Trilogy, Book One. Unabridged audiobook on 10 compact discs, 12 hours. Narrated by Nick Podehl. Brilliance Audio, 2009. (Borrowed from the public library.)
Twelve-year-old Todd Hewett is counting the days to his thirteenth birthday. He is the last boy in Prentisstown and sure is tired of being reminded of that fact. He lives on another world, in a settlement where all the women were killed off by a germ introduced by the indigenous alien race called the spackle, who were essentially killed off in a war. The men survived, but all their thoughts are accessible to everyone. This is called the Noise; and their is no lying or hiding. Todd tries to escape the noise by heading into the swamp to pick swamp apples. He's usually accompanied by his dog, Manchee, a hound about whom his feelings are decidedly mixed and whose thoughts are broadcast as well.
Todd discovers something unsettling in the swamp: an area of silence and Aaron, the preacher, who is seeming increasingly unhinged and menacing. Todd tries to hide his discovery in his Noise, but suddenly, the men of Prentisstown are after him. His foster fathers, Ben and Cillian, had been planning for Todd's escape, unbeknownst to him for years. They hustle him out and stand agains the Mayor of Prentisstown and his men. Hurt and baffled over being turned out, Todd heads back to the swamp with Manchee and discovers Aaron about to attack the cause of the silence in the swamp - a girl. He rescues the girl, but can't bring himself to kill Aaron. The two flee and the rest of the book is one, relentless chase scene.
I had been wanting to read this since its publication. I followed all the chatter on the various lists at the time, but, I didn't buy it for TOM. I had intended on borrowing it from the library once I finally got around to it. Then, The Ask and the Answer was released. Again, lots of chatter on the lists, still no closer to reading it. The third book was released. No closer. Then the audio won an Odyssey Honor and happened to be narrated by my new "voice of choice," Nick Podehl. I figured that I would read it with my ears. That was in January. Come June, I haven't given it a second thought...until the Odyssey Awards. Once I listened to Podehl read a scene from the book, I ordered it asap.
His performance was amazing. Perfect timing, perfect accent, I was completely drawn in and lost in a totally alien world. And Manchee. Oh Manchee.
Part of the reason why I never bought the book had to do with the fact that all reviews put the book at a high school level. I mostly agree with the age recommendation, although I do believe a mature seventh or eighth grader reader or lover of fantasy or sci/fi fiction would get into it. Certainly, a reader who wants a read alike for Hunger Games or The Maze Runner. It's intense, fast-paced and oh, so violent. The cliffhanger ending would've killed me had I read the book in a timely fashion. One advantage to waiting to read these series, is the fact that there is no agony of waiting between installments.