Chaos Walking is the prequel to the hugely successful movie series, The Matrix. In the movie, Neo was just a young boy when he teamed up with Morgellons to fight the Machines. While this may seem like a simple storyline, it is not. In the book, Neo was a child before he discovered the existence of The Matrix. The novel includes a short description about how Neo came to live with Morgellons. Additionally, it explains why Neo and Morgellons are linked as well as provide some insight into why the two actually became friends.
In Chaos Walking, Thomas M. Disch gives us a glimpse of what Neo might have been like if he had remained a child during the attack on The Matrix. As a child, Neo was orphaned and was not exposed to the Matrix until he was nine years old. Although he was not in the water or stuck inside the Matrix for long, Neo would have been severely impacted by the events that transpired during the movie. As a result, the short stories that are interspersed throughout the book draw heavily on events from The Matrix and other movies. The resulting novel is much like a modern take on the classic story and gives readers a view of Neo's childhood while also allowing them to examine the relationships that existed between the various characters.
Also in Chaos Walking, Thomas M. Disch delves deeper into the minds of the various characters who make up the main cast. Through the first four books, readers had already seen Neo's journey through the Matrix and this third book focuses back on Neo and traces the paths of those who did go through the Matrix. The short stories that follow, while quite entertaining, do provide an insight into the minds and mindsets of some of the other characters in the story as well. There is a particular piece in particular that really takes the cake, however. In the last pages of the book, when Neo finally confronts Oracle at the end of their third journey through the Matrix, there is a shocking reveal...
While it may seem like a small thing, the revelation in this book is incredibly important and it ties in with the theme of the series as a whole. The short story "The Wounded Healer" actually takes place entirely in Neo's head, even going so far as to describe his childhood in full detail. It is after all, his subconscious mind looking out for him, trying to help him deal with the weight of everything that is happening around him. This all comes together in the final scenes of the third book of Chaos Walking and it provides the perfect hook for the film adaptation. After all, why wouldn't the movie want to maintain the same tone as the book? That makes a lot of sense.
The short stories also provide an excellent view into Neo's thoughts and motivations as he begins to enter the strange new world created by the chaos. We see him slowly become more fascinated by it and as his interest grows, so does his knowledge about what is really going on. Finally, after investigating the nature of the Viron Corporation and the nature of time and the flow of it, Neo discovers that the short stories are essentially the key to understanding the Matrix and that what is actually motivating Neo are the basic fundamental principles of our everyday lives. While not everything within the novel is new and exciting, I think it's safe to say that the overall theme of these three short stories tie into the central idea of Chaos Walking and it helps make the movie as well as the book a better overall work.
All of this just goes to show why The Warded Man should definitely be considered among the better books on the market. The visual design and storyline are both engaging and well told. The action is intense without being over the top and some of the twists and turns may leave you wanting more. In a world where so many teen flicks are slotted together in random order, The Warded Man stands apart from the crowd in that it is a story told in three short stories that make for an excellent young adult science fiction thriller.