A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . . .
More Than ThisFeatured
After finally reading Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go a month or so ago, I was very curious to try his forthcoming novel. What I'm sure of more than ever now is that Ness is a massive talent. I am also convinced that his books will not work for everyone, because they are daring and strange and twisty and complex. More Than This is a cinematic, philosophical confusing novel, but one I ultimately found fascinating.
I find myself rather at a loss on how to review this book, given that practically anything would be a spoiler, since this is a book that opens up, revealing new layers. For the first hundred or so pages, all you know is what's revealed in the blurb, and talking about anything past that in any detailed way would be to reveal spoilers best left in the dark. Thus, this will probably be short and vague, but bear with me.
The storytelling of More Than This has a rather unique feel to it. Though told in what might seem like a fairly ordinary third person limited narrative, there's something cinematic about More Than This. The novel unfolds like a movie before the reader's eyes, a twisty movie like Memento or Inception that people need to watch several times over to have any sort of solid understanding of what's happening. Even more fascinating is that Seth seems to have a postmodern awareness of his role in the narrative, often calling situations before they even happened, as though he is the creator of his own story.
Seth dies in the prologue, drowns in icy waters. But then he awakens in his childhood home in England, the one his family moved away from after his brother was kidnapped by an escaped prisoner from the neighboring prison. He's thirsty, hungry, and weak. And dead? Seemingly alone, he gathers what food is unexpired and searches out clothing that fits to replace the bandages that covered his body. Whenever he rests, Seth dreams of his life, of his parents who never forgave him for what happened to his brother, of his friends who abandoned him, and his boyfriend who he maybe loved.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Of course, there's so much more to More Than This, rather appropriate no? Only I can't tell you about it. I could compare it to a particular film, but that would be a spoiler like whoa. Keeping things incredibly simple, I had some questions about the worldbuilding, serious ones, but I loved the message of the story, one of looking at the beauty in life and finding your more. I'm also not convinced it really needed to be quite so long.
The Final Verdict:
For such a massive book, this review feels rather ineffectual book, but the book itself serves as a sort of metaphor for life and how we take it for granted. It's a journey to be undertaken by the reader.