Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Premise: In America's Gulf Coast region, grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts by crews of young people. Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota-and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or by chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life....(Amazon)

Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: First of 2 companion novels (including Drowned Cities)
Content appropriate for: Grades 9-12 
 Warning: Some Strong Language                                
                        5 stars
Three Adjectives: gritty, surprising, captivating

This was a novel that I have scoped from many a bookstore shelf. I have even gone so far as to read the description on the back cover, and then quickly put it back. There was definitely what I like to call a long courtship before I finally decided to give this book a try. Why I was so hesitant, I'll never know.

From the very beginning, Paolo Bacigalupi painted a fascinating, futuristic world. I hesitate to call this novel post-apocalyptic because the state of Nailer's world was, in part, the result of long-term environmental abuse and neglect(sound familiar?). Apocalypse just screams zombies, comets and plague viruses to me.  Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that though the geography of this book was hard to imagine (i.e. where and how far the waters had risen), readers of this book will not experience that oh-so-common disconnect from trying to figure the technology and social structure in a science fiction novel.

Though at times very violent and explicit, the likable protagonist and the world-building make this story worthwhile read. Lovers of classic world-gone-wrong science fiction will love the author's not-so-subtle message about environmental reform, and older fans of the Scott Westerfeld series Uglies will enjoy the thematic social interactions between characters.

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