Monday, June 20, 2011

Chaos Walking

I just finished the Chaos Walking series, at the suggestion of Rebecca Ryan, who said she'd liked them maybe more than Hunger Games. I started, and sent her a message saying that "I almost quit reading it but then I started again, but I am so bothered by the Junie B. Jones spelling." She told me it made sense later, but now I'm done with all three in the trilogy and I'm still bothered by it. I understand that Todd is barely literate, and I think that's a powerful thread through the story, but I don't understand why that means that "recognize" is spelled "reckernize," when Todd says it, in the sections narrated by him, whether in his speech or in the narration. But there was one part where something was spelled funny when Todd said it, then spelled correctly when said by another character--WHY? Plus why reckernize and formayshun and creacher but not slaughter or immediately or lighted?

This clearly irritated me to distraction. I think my experience of reading the series would have been different if this hadn't been a constant irritation slapping me out of the narrative.

Last week at adult young adult book club (you can come too! the third Thursday of every month at In Other Words--join the Facebook group for more info) we talked about The Hunger Games and Graceling, and while it's been a while since I read the Hunger Games trilogy, it was nice to have a refresher before reading Chaos Walking.

It's always strange to compare fantasy worlds/dystopias, and of course it's somewhat beside the point. But one thing I did appreciate about Chaos Walking was how much the series struggled with how settlers should be dealing with the native population. In that sense, you can't compare the series to Hunger Games, which are set in a post-apocalyptic North America. Chaos Walking takes place on a recently colonized planet known as New World. Chaos Walking approaches New World from an entirely different POV than the Hunger Games approach the insanity of Panem (the country in which the books are set), and the characters in each book have such different roles to play in the futures of their worlds.

Another thing I loved about Chaos Walking was how full of hope the books kept being, in spite of themselves. How determined to make a world work for the natives and the settlers.

I could say more, but instead I'm going to go write more random freewrites, using this prompt from Writer's Digest: "Use the words from your favorite song (or the song that is stuck in your head), mix them up and write a short short story using every word." So far, I've used "Moment 4 Life" by Nicki Minaj, "I'm a Lady" by Santogold, "Coat of Many Colors," by Dolly, and "The District Sleeps Tonight," by the Postal Service, with various results. But it's a fun exercise. Today: "Pokerface," by Lady Gaga, and/or "Jackson" by Johnny Cash and June Carter.


rebeccaryan said...

I understand what you mean about Todd's language in the book--I did a really good job of ignoring it but it pulled me out of the story a few times too. I really really liked the idea of NOISE, and had a fascinating few days wandering around thinking about what it would be like to hear other people's thoughts. And, as a concept I thought it was resolved so well--how do you adapt to something you originally thought would drive you crazy?

Elissa said...

I also loved how certain settlers grew to recognize that NOISE was an intrinsic part of New World, something they had to adapt to and become a part of rather than overcome ("conquer")--this series has so much to say about how we interact with others who hold different beliefs and value different things.