Thursday, December 6, 2012

SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi


A young boy works on a salvaging crew on a post-apocalyptic Gulf Coast until he discovers an unusual shipwreck.


Ship Breaker, a young adult post-apocalyptic adventure novel, was part of my self-imposed homework reading during Nanowrimo. Set in a futuristic wasteland, Ship Breaker is the tale of a boy named Nailer who crawls through the wreckage of old tankers looking for scrap metal, wire and oil to sell. He lives on a beach full of territorial ship-breaking crews and desperate, impoverished people. Nailer discovers a wrecked yacht that introduces him to a class of wealthy, warring merchants and a world outside his rough beach home.

Nailer's adventures take him beyond the beach to a drowned New Orleans and onto the high seas. His world is gritty and dangerous. There is no clear explanation for why the country has become the way it is, or if the country as an institution still exists. The story deals with issues of class and inequality through the eyes of a boy who is the lowest of the low, showing mere glimpses of the powerful. Friendship, family and loyalty are what is most important to these characters, and they do whatever they can to help each other survive in a difficult world.

It was refreshing to read a YA book that focuses on friendships rather than romance. There is plenty of action, and the plot clips along at a quick pace, though it founders a bit in the end. Ship Breaker is worth reading just for the world-building in the opening scenes. Bacigalupi's use of metallic, dirty language to create the right atmosphere for the blasted beach is seriously impressive. The reader can feel the grit and danger through the vocabulary. The vivid scenes and stylish dialogue make this a quick, memorable read.


Paolo Bacigalupi's website


$8 for the Kindle edition


A Clockwork Orange is a famous example of a book that uses a unique, stylish vocabulary to create the setting. Can you think of any others that do this?


  1. +JMJ+

    What a great review! I love it when the prose reflects the setting, giving us another layer "to feel" while we read.

    And I do wish we'd get more stories of platonic friendship in YA! I've had to retreat into Middle Grade for a while, because they're all friends there (LOL!), but I do miss the older characters of YA.

    1. Thanks!

      I agree completely. I don't read tons of YA, but it all seems to have gotten so steamy and dramatic lately. This one includes a crush, but that's it.


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