Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publication Date: 5/1/10
Publisher: Little Brown
Blurb (GR): In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.…
In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.
So, a reread after a dystopia-overstaffed year, and Ship Breaker still stands out. Actually, this novel has by far the best conceived vision of our future in terms of realism. Nothing much far-fetched or impossible here.
This future is grim and rusty. The planet's natural resources are exhausted, the global warming is happening, Antarctica is gone, cities drowned. Nailer, the main character, makes his living stripping old ships off of their metals which will be then sold to big corporations to be recycled over and over again. His life takes a turn when he comes across a wrecked ship whose only survivor is a girl who is the heir to one of the biggest corporation in the world. Nailor has to decide what to do about this girl - to help her or take advantage of her strained circumstances...
However, the reread highlighted the fact that, compared to Bacigalupi's adult works (pretty much all of which I devoured after reading Ship Breaker), this book is a tad juvenile, middle grade almost, and it touches only the surface of the issues the author explores so well and so thoughtfully in his adult fiction. Reading Ship Breaker for the second time, I just wanted more, because I knew how much more there was to this world Bacigalupi imagined.
I am not trying to dismiss Ship Breaker's accomplishments. Judged on its own, this novel is one of the strongest in the genre of dystopian YA. But if you are first a fan of Bacigalupi's adult work, I am afraid this book might just not be enough.
If you are new to Bacigalupi, go ahead, take a gentle dip into his dark imagination, Ship Breaker is a good primer. What he offers in his adult fiction is much uglier and more terrifying.