Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 323 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian, Adventure
Started: May 1, 2011
Finished: May 5, 2011

From the inside cover:
In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life. . . .

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.

This book won the Prinz award and has been on my to-read list for a while (the library finally got a copy in). I gotta give the author some credit where it's due, he does some awesome world-building and has the writing skill to really place readers in that world.

Nailer, a small teenage boy, lives in the Gulf Coast area in a gritty, dystopian future where people depend on the seas and oceans for their livelihood. Since he's so small, Nailer can still work light crew, part of a team that scavenges grounded ships for copper wire and any other small items that can be resold. Between the cutthroat world he lives in where it's rare to find a person who won't screw you over to benefit themselves, and his abusive father, Nailer knows he needs to escape to find a better situation. When he finds a grounded clipper ship after a hurricane with his friend Pima, they find Nita, a swank (aristocratic) girl that is the only survivor. Nita is Nailer's ticket out, but only if he helps her get back to her family. But with Nita being pursued to be ransomed back to her wealthy father, Nailer's visions of a better life is going to be a lot harder to achieve than he first thought.

The author has created a wonderfully unique world here. The ships, the scavenging, the beaches, the shacks, the storms, the atmosphere just comes alive as you're reading. The writing style compliments the tense environment that Nailer experiences, again it just really allows the reader to be fully immersed in Nailer's world. The plot's nothing much to write home about: Boy meets girl, girl needs help, boy helps girl, gets into scrapes along the way etc., it's kind of predictable, but the author handles it well with the details and the whole plot revolving around ships and nautical stuff was unique enough to keep me reading.

The only thing that didn't win me over completely was the characters. Nailer's gone through some tough stuff, and I felt for the guy well enough, but I still didn't see a lot of development to the point where I got emotionally invested in what happened to him. Same with Pima and Nita and the rest. One thing about the characters I did like was the fact that they're multicultural and (I'm presuming) bi-racial: they're all described as having dark skin and dark hair, and Nailer's the odd one out because he has those features as well as blue eyes.

This is a must-read purely for the atmosphere, the author did an amazing job with the world-building. If you're big on character development you might feel something's lacking here.

Thoughts on the cover:
This does a great job of evoking the feel of the environment: the gritty metal, the rust, the colours...makes you feel like you're on a ship with Nailer.

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