Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review- Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi’s first YA novel, Ship Breaker, takes place in the Gulf Coast region of the future. Nailer, a teenage grunt on a scavenge crew, strips wiring out of oil tankers, beached due to hurricanes and no more oil available. He looks to make quota while trying to avoid his violent and drug-addicted father, Richard, and while dreaming of a better life. When a “city killer” (a previously undefined category 6 hurricane) tears through Bright Sands Beach, Nailer and a friend from the scavenge crew find in the aftermath a clipper ship dashed on the rocks. They see their chance to make enough cash to buy their freedom from the crews. The dead girl in the wreckage is draped in enough gold to last them a lifetime. When her rings won’t slide off her water-logged fingers, Nailer gets out his knife and presses it against a joint, drawing blood.

And then the girl’s eyes blink…

I don’t want to give any more away, because that would spoil the suspense. In a world where everyone has a set worth—what they own, how much quota they can make—even what their body is worth in parts—the desperation of the characters in this book means anything can happen. But it’s not as grim as you think: this desperation shows how characters stand together, and support each other if they’ve sworn to it. Nailer is a quickly likeable character that you’ll find yourself rooting for. And while the half-men—a hybrid of man, dog and tiger— that serve as loyal muscle to those who can afford it may seem far-fetched; the scenario of a New Orleans completely underwater, replaced by Orleans II further inland, is not. Early on, an incident earns Nailer the nickname “Lucky Boy.” Just how lucky he is, and where this luck takes him, will keep readers’ eyes glued to the page—I know mine were.

-Reviewed by Debra B. at CCL

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