Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Book Depository | Indie Bound | Goodreads
Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life?
This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.
Sometimes I feel like I give a lot of dystopian YA fiction higher marks because I enjoy the genre so much, but Ship Breaker earns every bit of the high four star rating I've given it.
We're thrown right into this future world alongside Nailer, our hero, who does backbreaking, dangerous work for little gain. He's a fantastic teen to get to know, from his determination and goodness to his worries about becoming as bad a man as his father. Nothing about him is straightforward expect for his growing morality, and it's a joy to watch him navigate the world and to cheer him on from sequence to sequence.
There's plenty of action that, at times, make the book feel like it's moving at breakneck pace. The action is tempered by Nailer's characterization as well as the inclusion of Nita, a rich girl who may be the answer to all his problems. (And what of the inevitable romance, you ask? We go the entire book without one scene of instalove. Miracle of miracles.)
Along with Nailer and Nita are a fantastic cast of secondary characters, from Nailer's horrible father to a half-man (genetically modified human/canine hybrids), a ship's captain, and the crew Nailer works with and sees as family. Even if I didn't enjoy this genre and the constant action sequences, I'd be all over this book for the characters themselves.
Oh, OH, and my favorite part: the last quarter of the book turns into a sea battle like something out of a C.S. Forester novel. I have a great, great love for the Hornblower books, so anything resembling them gives me little thrills of delight.
Ship Breaker was all-around good fun, and if I didn't have a million books on my to-read list, I'd re-read it again right now.