Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

The thing I really love about dystopian and post apocalyptic fiction is the way the world is revealed.  I love it when the differences and similarities between our world and the future world of the novel are unveiled slowly and seamlessly.  Ship Breaker did that perfectly.  There is that delightful confusion at the beginning, followed by complete understanding of a complex world.  What I loved even more about Ship Breaker was that you were still discovering things about the world by the last page.  There was always more to learn, nothing was told, everything was shown slowly and perfectly.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s dystopian novel is about Nailer, he himself is what is known as a ship breaker, or a worker who goes through the ducts of old oil tankers, now immobile and deteriorating on the beach of the US gulf coast, looking for useful metals to scavenge.  Ship breaker crews live in hope of finding a Lucky Strike, or a hidden collection of oil that can be sold on the black market.  A Lucky Strike could bring in enough money that a ship breaker can buy his or her freedom and be secure for the rest of their life.   When Nailer does get his Lucky Strike, it’s in a way that he doesn’t expect.

I loved pretty much everything about Ship Breaker.  It is original, the characters are believable and sympathetic, the villain is very villainous.  One thing that made me particularly happy was that we never quite learn everything about this world.  There are still more things to discover, explore and understand.  It’s not necessarily that Bacigalupi left things out intentionally for a sequel, it’s just that this world is so rich that there will always be more to flesh out.

This book is made even more poignant by what is happening in the Gulf Coast right now.  To top it all of it is all action, a never ending tour-de-force, without sacrificing emotion.  I can’t wait to read The Wind-Up Girl and whatever else Paolo Bacigalupi writes.

Favorite quotes:

“You think they even know we’re here?” Moon Girl asked.

Pima spat in the sand.  “We’re just flies on garbage to people like that.”

The lights kept moving.  Nailer tried to imagine what it would be like to stand on deck, hurtling across the waves, blasting through spray.  He’d spent evenings staring at images of clippers under sail, pictures that he had stolen from magazines that Bapi kept in a drawer in his supervisor’s shack, but that was as close as he’d ever gotten.  He had spent hours pouring over those sleek predatory lines, studying the sails and hydrofoils, the smooth engineered surfaces so different from the rusting wrecks he worked every day.  Staring at the beautiful people who smiled and drank on the decks.

The ships whispered promises of speed and salt air and open horizons.  Sometimes Nailer wished he could simply step through the pages and escape onto the prow of a clipper.  Sailing away in his imagination from the daily mangle of ship-breaking life.  Other times, he tore the pictures up and threw them away, hating that they made him hungry for things he hadn’t known he’d wanted until he’d seen the sails.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Also reviewed by: Reading Rants!, Presenting Lenore, Fantasy Book Critic, Kids Lit, Becky’s Book Reviews, Wordbird, The YA YA YAs, Charlotte’s Library, Killin’ Time Reading, Sarah’s Random Musings, Bart’s Bookshelf, books i done read, Dreams and Speculation.

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10 thoughts on “Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

  1. Okay so I have a question – this is a dystopia, you say, not just a future world? Nothing you described sounds like it has that ominous undertone of a society gone back while pretending to be a utopia. That makes me wonder if it’s more like when David Levithan just writes about a future world that isn’t dystopia?

    1. I would say it is difficult to define and there might be some aspects of dystopia present in the future installments of the book.

  2. I have never heard of this book before.. mm..

    And sweet! We both changed into the same template. I’m loving it because of the neatness and the freedom it gives concerning images. 😀

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