When I started reading Patrick Ness’s young adult novel More Than This I was more than a little confused. My confusion had nothing to do with the book itself but my own scatter-brain. At the library I made myself choose between two Ness novels, both for young adults, because I already had another two books I wanted to loan and taking more than three books out at a time is essentially hoarding public property. This is a temptation I must control, otherwise libraries everywhere will be empty and I will be smothered by a pile of books I cannot physically read before the due date.
I chose More Than This, except three days later I thought I had chosen The Rest of Us Just Live Here. So, when I turned to the first page, I was expecting a high school drama about the ordinary kids and instead I was confronted with a boy’s final moments as he drowns in the ocean. It goes without saying these are two very different things and I was not emotionally prepared for it.
After reading the blurb and having an ‘ohhh’ moment, I decided to continue reading.
Seth dies in the ocean- except he wakes up semi-naked, essentially dressed like a mummy and thousands of miles away from where he drowned. Did he really die? Is he in hell? Is heaven really dusty? These are all questions that he struggles to answer when confronted with the childhood home in England his family ran from. Seth is completely alone in a world that is completely deserted and has been for some time.
This is a book Dom Cobb from Inception would either love or tear into a million pieces screaming hysterically.
There are dreams, lots of dreams and layers of reality. Every time Seth falls asleep in the empty world he dreams about the months before his death in the real world. Except they don’t feel like dreams, they feel real. Maybe it’s just his mind reflecting on his life in his final moments, or maybe the dystopian world he’s woken up to is the real one. The whole thing would have been much easier to figure out if he had a totem. Rookie mistake.
He doesn’t have a totem though. So he spends a lot of time philosophising on reality in between finding clothes, making friends and running from The Driver. I won’t say more because I’ll give the game away.
In the world that isn’t real but just might be, Seth finds two other people who might be dead too but also might not be. They become friends really because it’s either that or spend the rest of their existences in solitude. Tomasz is a young Polish boy, intelligent and peculiar, who reminds Seth of his younger brother. Regine is a feisty black girl around Seth’s age who calls him out for being a self-involved idiot almost hourly. True, Seth is a little self-centered but if you can’t have a little ‘me time’ in the maybe afterlife when can you?
For a world that’s deserted there’s a surprising amount of action which is why the constant cliff-hangers get a little tiring.
One or two would have built the suspense nicely. It felt a little like Ness didn’t trust the writing to hold the reader on its own, which I honestly think it would have done.
More Than This a really interesting take on the dystopian novel, but I will warn you that I did sit in my room wondering whether the world was real and how I would know for about an hour finishing the book.
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