Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker
By: Paolo Bacigalupi
336 pages
Will be released May 1, 2010

Nailer is a teenaged boy of about fourteen or fifteen who is part of a ship breaking crew.  He lives somewhere around a fictional New Orleans, where the city has been flooded.  He climbs down into small ducts in search of copper wires and other valuable salvage.  One day a duct that he's working in collapses, dropping Nailer into a pit of oil.  He calls for help, but the young girl, Sloth, who comes in looking for him, realizes that she has the opportunity to take his place and possibly get rich from his find.  Oil is like gold to their people.  Everybody hopes to be the next Lucky Strike, a fellow worker who now has his own crew and  loads of influence in the community ever since he found a valuable salvage that he claimed for himself.  Nailer keeps pushing himself and finally finds a way out of the pit by releasing a door, allowing him and the oil to flow out into the ocean.  His friends nickname him Lucky Boy and give him gifts.  The next day, a huge storm demolishes shacks and kills several crew workers.  In the aftermath of the storm, Nailer and his friend and co-worker Pima are out scavenging when they come upon a broken clipper ship.  The contents are luxurious and they both excitedly believe that they have found their way out of their miserable lives.  Everybody aboard is dead, with the exception of a beautiful young girl named Nita.  Nita claims that her family will pay even more than what her ship is worth for her safe return.  Nailer must defend Nita against his abusive, alcoholic father who wants to sell Nita to her father's enemies.  The pair escape to the city along with a half-dog, half-man creature named Tool in search of those loyal to Nita and her father.  They settle into a routine of work and exploration while they stay on the lookout for Nita's people.  It's difficult to know who they can and cannot trust and what lies in store for them.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  The reference to New Orleans being flooded and rebuilt several times is interesting.  You have to wonder if the world will see something like this one day.  Our poor children of today, if they ever had to work like Nailer and his crew, then surely they wouldn't survive.  Ship Breaker held my interest though it was a little slow to start.  It is definitely a unique read and should appeal to both adult and YA readers.

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