After having read and enjoyed The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi I quickly moved on to his young adult novel, SHIP BREAKER. Favoring the gritty and in-your-face style of writing that Bacigalupi is known for, SHIP BREAKER, while young adult, didn’t hold back. Bacigalupi thrust you into a very uncomfortable, dystopian world and rubs your face into it repeatedly and if you are anything like me, you’ll love every minute of it.

In the future world of SHIP BREAKER there is a huge economic divide between the poor and the rich, much like you would find in 3rd world countries. The rich live in sickening luxury while the poor destroy themselves to earn pennies and barely survive. The Gulf Coast region of what was once the United States has been devastated by hurricanes, plague and famine. Ragged villages exist upon the coast, their whole existence revolving around scavenging the oil tankers that were left to rot after the decline of the human race. Nailer is our hero of this story, he is a young teenager, still small in frame so he is able to squirrel his way through the ships and scavenge on what is called Light Crew. His existence is horrendous, forced to scavenge in an environment that could kill you at any turn, then only to come home to an abusive father, waiting for that day when his shoulders grow a little too wide and then he won’t be able to crawl through the ships…therefor not able to work any longer.

Change comes to the shores in the form of a terrible hurricane, not uncommon in those parts, but with it comes more scavenge as Nailer and his friend Pima come across a clipper ship, broken and screaming wealth. A lone survivor on the ship puts some serious questions in front of the teens…it would be so much easier just to kill her and take the scavenge then it would be to let her live. Something stops Nailer though and he does the right thing…hoping that his choices, made for the right reasons will lead him to a better life instead of just scraping by in his village.

Bacigalupi (just like writing out his name – saying it is even better) has the voice of a science fiction rock star. His descriptions are so vividly stunning that the world comes alive around you. To describe his book in one adjective it would be “rusty”, it’s just this old world, slightly acidic environment that is portrayed in such naked and viscous detail that it can almost be hard to digest at times. This is a book you don’t want to pass up.

What some readers might find hard to take in: This is a more “boy” oriented story, it’s not romantic with kissing and sobbing and love triangles. This is an adventure story with a girl and a boy, but the theme is triumph over your circumstances, not romance. I highly recommend this one and it’s great for something different, if you are tired of those love triangles…

Recommended for fans of dystopian and gritty science fiction. Recommended for more mature teens 14+ because of some mature and sometimes violent themes, but nothing that is out of line.



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