Book: More Than This
My rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 480 pages
A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.
Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive.
How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?
As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?
In the back of my bookstore’s staffroom are ever-growing stacks of books that should have been boxed up and returned to their respective publishers long ago, but we decided to keep them and then just never got around to putting them out on the shelves. The hardcover version of More Than This caught my eye (and how could it not when it looks like this?) and I began the long task of reading it across numerous 30-minute lunch breaks.
For those of you who don’t know me, I have commitment issues. Regarding books, anything longer than 350 pages, will inspire dread and an overwhelming sense of resignation within me. However, I have been trying to get over that (being able to read the Game of Thrones series without bursting into tears every time I pick up the box my set came in is my ultimate goal), and I am pleased to announce that this immersive book was well worth my time and effort. This, as my first Ness book, is the book that started my Patrick Ness fangirl journey, and through More Than This, I discovered many similar books that I also thoroughly enjoyed (some of which I’ll be reviewing).
This is a thought-provoking and well-written story with multiple layers, more twists than a crazy straw and characters that jump right off the page. Shortly after the book’s opening (Here is the boy, drowning–Love it!), we discover that the drowning boy is the teenaged main character, Seth, who is fighting against a cold, tumultuous sea.
After being thrown against some rocks, he dies but then regains consciousness in what he realises is the English town he grew up in (despite moving to America with his family 8 years earlier), which upsets him greatly for reasons we come to find later in the story.
However, the familiarity ends there; he is alone in a barren wasteland where everything is encased in dust and weeds, and he has to forage for food and supplies in deserted shops. Seth’s waking nightmare soon turns into a battle for survival and on the way he meets two fellow young travellers, Regine and Tomasz, who are equally scared and damaged, but also brave and determined in their fight for survival. They wonder if they are in Hell, though the truth is weirder and, I think, scarier.
This is a dark book and Ness really lets the reader have it. The desolation of the setting struck me with a powerful, enveloping sense of loneliness, and I could feel the confusion that Seth experiences, too. Before his death are events that produce a lot of guilt and shame, and his emotions and reflection of his actions leading up to his death are told in vivid, often painful flashbacks. Seth’s adolescent pain mixed with the dystopian setting, the slipping between the past and present realities and a sci-fi edge later on made for a totally engrossing read, especially given its fast pace.
The story moves through several different stages, from Seth waking up alone and testing strange paradoxes within the new world, discovering and developing an unlikely friendship with Regina and Thomasz, contemplating the secrets of the world and encountering the Driver, an ominous figure in a black van. Together, the three friends face the troubles this world presents them with and reveal the incidents behind how they arrived there.
The character development in this book is strong and fluid, letting raw emotion shape them and flesh them out. Seth is a compelling protagonist, well-rounded but emotionally vulnerable, coming of age in the midst of a family tragedy and immense peer pressure. Ness conveys emotion in his simple sentence structure with fluid writing and well-placed words which left me relating and empathising so hard with the characters.
There are several questions asked throughout the book that are ones everyone deals with at some point. “What is reality?” comes up a lot as Seth, Regina, and Thomasz attempt to figure out their purpose and why they are apparently the only ones awake in the world. Seth questions his own existence and happiness on numerous occasions along with his role in an incident involving his little brother.
None of the questions are easy and sometimes are not even really attempted to be answered since the book seems more about the journey to understanding more than finding out why. Ness also leaves elements of his science-fiction slant open-ended, which I know may bother some of you who like everything to be explained and sound.
Throughout the book, the whole story was shrouded with mystery and suspense. On one hand, I wanted to savour the beautiful, lyrical writing in the passages that I was reading, and on the other, I just wanted to know what was going on. I felt the story to be dialogue-heavy and the ending somewhat disappointing, but I was never bored at any point of the book, and I can honestly say that this was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a challenge, especially a solipsism-related one.
This is one of the only books I keep going back to buy for friends, either as a gift or simply because they have to read it.
Check out More Than This and give it a read.
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