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Paolo Bacigalupi

  Little, Brown  
Release Date:


  apocalyptic sci-fi  
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Shipbreaker is the second novel by Paolo Bacigalupi (note: i am not responsible for any injuries you undergo while trying to say that last name out loud!). His previous novel was called The Wind-Up Girl and was a fast-paced thriller set in post environmental apocalypse Bangkok. Shipbreaker appears to be set in the same future, only this time on a beach somewhere in, i think, central Mississippi. And yes, in the world Bacigalupi describes, the oceans have risen and there are beaches north of the submerged ruins of old coastal cities.

Bacigalupi's world is dark place. It is a bleak world, long after oil is gone, on a planet warmed up and overheated. His characters live in poverty at the fringes of society. For example, in this book the characters work to break down old oil tankers so that their components can be re-used. It is an unhappy world, and his characters are the down and out. I suppose that gives them more pathos or whatever. I do know that as i read his books, everything seems very possible, and yet not something i want to have to live through. I wonder if in some distant, humid future people look back on Bacigalupi's books and call him a prophet. I hope not...

Shipbreaker tells the story of Nailer Rodriguez, a kid who lives on the beach and works to strip copper wiring from the old tankers. He shares a hut with his father, a meth-addicted psychopath. A hurricane blows through the beach, and in the aftermath Nailer stumbles across the wreckage of an ultramodern hydrofoil boat. If he can strip it of components, he can make some money and perhaps be able to move away from the beach.

The only problem is that there is a girl on the boat who survived the wreck. She, it turns out, is rich, and if he can help her get home, maybe she can pay him some money to get away from the beach. Conflict occurs when Nailer's psycho father and his friends get the same idea, and then the rich girl's father's political enemies come looking for her.

She and Nailer flee to New Orleans 3 (the third city built, further inland than each of the previous two), and eventually find some of her father's political friends. The book moves at a pretty fast pace, especially the last third or so, which one long boat chase and battle scene. Very gripping and entertaining.

However, in looking at this on Amazon, i see that it is a "young adult" novel. I take this to mean that, in the extremely warped values of our society, it does not involve sex. The Wind-Up Girl involved some pretty violent sex, but in this book there is only drug use, depressing poverty, and humans treating each other in a positively Hobbesian manner. I guess that makes it okay for young adults... I honestly had no idea it was a "young adult" novel until i read that on Amazon just now. I am an adult, i suppose, and i enjoyed it thoroughly.

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