A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{January 12, 2012}   Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Plot: Nailer works on lightcrew in the ship breaking yards, crawling through the ducts of wrecked oil rigs scavanging copper wire just to stay alive. It’s a dangerous life, made worse by the fact that his father, high on amphetamines, takes his money in the best times and beats him whenever his mood shifts. The only way to stay alive is to be loyal to your crew and keep to quota. After a storm, Nailer finds a rich girl in a crashed clipper ship. She and the wealth on her ship make Nailer a target of all fortune-seeking muscle on the beach, his father first among them, but she also offers him the hope of a better life if he can just get her back to her people.

What a page turner! Bacigalupi has written a non-stop adventure in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world. Betrayals, dangerous accidents, deadly fights, flights and daring escapes, this book has them all. I had to stop a couple of times, heart in my throat; I was genuinely worried about the outcome. An adventure story with this much danger can tend toward the ridiculous but Bacigalupi’s excellent pacing and characters keep it from ever becoming so.

Nailer is an interesting hero: loyal, practical, morally conflicted and underneath it all, terrified of becoming like his father. And Nita is not your usual pampered princess. She will lie when necessary and she is not afraid to get her hands dirty. Nailer’s father is, meanwhile, truly terrifying in his pure violence and his unpredictable mood swings. A great vilain: evil, yes, but human. But I haven’t even mentioned the amazing world-building yet! Bacigalupi’s world is truly immersive and believable. And I suspect we have only scratched the surface.

Bacigalupi’s first YA novel well deserves its Printz award.

This spring, he will release a companion novel to Ship Breaker: The Drowned City. It is not a sequel, but stars a character who fascinated me in the first volume. Tool is a genetically engineered dog-man, bred for combat but with a deep desire for freedom. I’m already looking forward to it.

2012 (#6)


[…] you are a huge fan of Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, as I am, you should know that Bacigalupi’s new novel is a bit […]

[…] love Bacigalupi. Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities are favorites of mine so I picked up this book with no idea what it was […]

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