Thursday, 9 January 2014

Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

I am not really sure what to write about Shipbreaker. I finished it about a week ago, but have been dawdling on writing the review, as an immediate tack to take failed to present itself. I thought about it. I tried telling my husband about it. And still, nothing. This is not the best sign.

Which is not to say that this is a bad book! I quite enjoyed it. It's young adult, I think. Or at least, all the main characters are nearing their teens, and it has the feel. But it's pretty dark for  young adult, taking place in a post-global warming world, where oil supplies have failed, and city killer storms are frequent.

So, that is to say, it's a Bacigalupi world. He tends to write in this time period after the ice has melted, after the climate has shifted, when the world has run out of easy sources of energy. It is a less stark world than The Wind-Up Girl, which is certainly more adult in its consideration of these issues. But this is a good alternative for younger audiences.

In it, not far from what I think is supposed to be New Orleans (just referred to as Orleans), an industry has sprung up stripping old oil tankers of all their valuable elements. Children are used to crawl through passages and vents to strip out copper wiring. One of these is Nailer, whose father is abusive, but his working life is almost worse.

During one citykiller storm, the yacht of an extraordinarily rich young woman is wrecked, and Nailer and his friend Pima are the first to find it, scavenging a lucky strike until they find Nita, the very rich young lady, alive. Nailer decides to keep Nita alive, and to help reunite her with one of the warring factions of her father's company.

The divides between rich and poor are stark in this world, and neither Nita nor Nailer can really wrap their minds around the other half. Except that Nita has to, as Nailer and she try to evade his father's clutches, with the help of a "half-man," part tiger, dog, and something else. The story from this point is fairly straightforward, which is perhaps why I'm not more enthusiastic.

The world-building is fantastic, but the story seems too simplistic. Nothing that happened from that point on really surprised me or grabbed me. But Bacigalupi is an expert at creating this future world. I just think I like his more adult take on it, as hard as it was to hear about the travails of the eponymous character of The Wind-Up Girl.

But if you're looking for young adult science fiction, you certainly could do worse than this. It's well written, and the world is dark, but not too dark. And the characters are fun. The story feels predictable, but I guess you can't have everything.

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