Saturday, August 13, 2011
The characters in Ship Breaker are casually diverse and it's probably the thing we have to look forward to most in Paolo Bacigalupi's vision of the future. In the post-apocalyptic Gulf Coast, there is nothing else positive. Nailer is a ship breaker, tearing apart wrecked oil rigs for the valuable copper they contain. It's a brutal life, made even worse by the unpredictability of his drug-addicted, violent father. When a storm strands a ship that could be Nailer's only chance for wealth, he needs to decide if he should try to appease his father with the discovery, or if he should align with the mysterious Nita, a swanky girl who survives the storm.
All of the characters have led difficult lives, displayed by their tattoos, identifying facial scars, and piercings. Their struggles would make for excellent classroom debates: in a world where it's scavenge or starve, why should Nailer help this lost stranger? Setting the novel in the area of Orleans II (the original is underwater) makes this future seem more possible and the consequences more frightening.
In addition to the ominous future it presents, Ship Breaker has some of the most intense action scenes I've encountered since The Hunger Games. Bacigalupi's inclusion of half-men--hybrids of humans, dogs, and hyenas--ups the science fiction quotient and makes the fights more lethal. I wish that there were better descriptions of how the half-men looked; I actually looked them up on google to see if any other fans had drawn them. No luck, but my interest was definitely piqued and I believe there will be a sequel to this novel.
This is not an uplifting novel, but it is addictive and the plot never lets up. I highly recommend it and believe that male students, in particular, are going to be competing to read it next.
Posted by Miss K at 5:31 AM