Good Reading : September 2018
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING SEPTEMBER 2018 28 COVERSTORY While occupying the mind of a gigantic sea mammal was certainly a new challenge, Patrick has previoulsy imagined what an animal’s thoughts might sound like in his ‘Chaos Walking’ series, which kicked off with The Knife of Never Letting Go in 2008. The series, which has sold over a million copies and hits screens as a movie in March next year, follows a boy, Todd, living on an alien planet colonised by humans. The world has been ravaged by a virus that killed nearly all of the women and made the thoughts of living creatures audible. That means Todd spends much of his time listening in on the thoughts of his dog, Manchee, which are mainly trained on food and bowel movements. ‘It’s what all fiction is about: imagining others, embodying them, taking parts of yourself but dar ing to stretch what you know to try to accurately make each character and full-embodied,’ says Patrick of crafting non-human characters. ‘What I started with for Bathsheba, my narrator, was her vocabulary; her up and down are different than ours. And it developed from there until she became her own whale.’ While A Monster Calls was written as a novel and released later as an illustrated story with terrifying ink-splattered drawings by Jim Kay (who lent his skill to the illustrated editions of Harry Potter), And the Ocean Was Our Sky was planned as a graphic novel from the start. The illustrations were crafted by Melbourne illustrator Rovina Cai, whose elegant greyscale scenes evoke luminous deep-sea light and dark shadow, the movement of currents and the surging power of the finned hunters. ‘Oh, she’s amazing, isn’t she?’ says Patrick, who admits he can barely draw a stick figure. ‘They’re stunning illustrations, just stunning. It’s when collaboration is at its very best. She brings things I’ve never have thought of – and certainly would never have drawn – and they just elevate the book. Like A Monster Calls, they work in tandem. It’s all one book.’ And the Ocean Was Our Sky begins as Captain Alexandra and her hunting pod encircle a ship they have tracked down with echolocation. As they close in, expecting a fight, they find that their prey is already dead – the bodies of men float face down in the water. But there is one survivor, and he holds the mark of a mythical, demonic enemy. As the war between humans and whales escalates to a climax, our narrator, Bathsheba, warns those listening of the horrors of war. ‘War is ever with us,’ says Patrick. ‘We fight them, vow to never fight them again, then we fight them again. It constantly needs interrogating, what leads us there, why we forget, what choices we make. Unfortunately, war has always been our reality.’ And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness and Rovina Cai is published by Walker Books, rrp $24.99.