Genres: Young adult, science fiction, dystopia.
We’re transported to a harsh, poverty-stricken world as soon as we turn to the very first page of Ship Breaker. Nailer is struggling to breathe and see ahead as he earns a measly living by salvaging scrap metal from grounded, derelict ships. He is part of a group known as “light crew”. It’s dangerous work, but worth it for the chance to get a Lucky Strike – mainly the discovery of oil, which is extremely scarce and thus will make its discoverer instantly rich.
It is clear that Paolo Bacigalupi focused on building a believable, well thought-out world for his characters. The story is set in a futuristic Gulf Coast of the United States, but it looks nothing like it does today. It is made up of cities like Orleans II and Mississippi Metropolitan, newly created after the original cities were drowned. I appreciated that the mess the world was in wasn’t “just because”. As with all good dystopias, it aims to show what could happen if humans do not change their ways.
Ship Breaker is more of an adventure than other dystopias I’ve read and I think it is a perfect recommendation for fans of Blood Red Road by Moira Young (or vice versa). The adventure begins when Nailer and a member of his crew, Pima, make a Lucky Strike when they come across a ship loaded with silver, and something unexpected that forces them to go on the run. As well as an exhilarating adventure, Ship Breaker also produces an interesting and diverse group of characters such as Tool, a “half-man”. I enjoyed discovering more about the world they were living in and how the division of class had an impact on everyone around them.
Ship Breaker is a refreshing novel about the morality of living in a world that’s collapsed because of climate change, and how good vs. evil isn’t always easy to separate. The sequel, The Drowned Cities, will be released May 2012.