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Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

in a sentence or so: Nailer knows what's expected of him on light crew. crawl in, get the quota of copper wire, get out. oh yeah, and if you're too big (which Nailer is getting dangerously close to being by the way), you'll get replaced. good luck with that.

Nailer is on light crew. which essentially means Nailer is responsible for stripping the copper wiring off of old tankers in the Gulf of Mexico and getting them to his boss, who then sells them off.  the good thing about being on a crew, however, is the loyalty.  you take an oath to be there for each other and protect each other in the metal hulk of a death chamber you're crawling around in blindly.  the only problem is, not everyone is able to keep that oath. especially over the temptation of the biggest chance at wealth they've ever seen.

the Fates smile upon Nailer by dropping him into an oil pit inside of a tanker. okay, so it might not seem like such a great thing, but he COULD have made a ton of cash off of the deal if he had been able to get it out secretly.  as it was, he almost died. he lives, however, just in time for a city-killer (monster hurricane) to come right towards his beach and wipe out just about everything he owns...which isn't saying much really.  it does provide Nailer the opportunity to realize that he's beginning to outgrow his purpose.  he knows he's getting close to being too big for light crew, but is still too small for heavy crew.  he's also beginning to feel a stirring in his gut that there is something out there, waiting for him to act.  he's outgrown his purpose on light crew, and he's beginning to outgrow his life on the beach.

the city-killer does provide a much needed respite from the light crew grind, and an excellent opportunity for fresh scavenge.  while he's out with Pima, the loyal tomboy, they discover a clipper ship. now - this is a big deal in terms of potential scavenge, but an even bigger deal given Nailer's downright obsession with the sea beauties.  Nailer and Pima are thanking the Fates for their good fortune, yet again, when they stumble upon a dead swank (rich girl) in their plundering. but the worst part is...she's not actually dead.

Nailer, Pima, and Nita (swank girl) are forced to make collective decisions that will impact their immediate future and safety.  they have only each other to rely on, surrounded by a thick cloud of greed and lies.  Nita promises Nailer and Pima a way out of this life...but can she actually deliver?  If Nailer and Pima killed Nita right now, they'd have enough scavenge to buy their way out of the ship breaking business forever...but could they live with their consciences?  as they struggle with what to do, the decision is ripped out of their hands by the scariest, meanest, most drug-rattled man they know - Nailer's dad.

the adventure that ensues from the discovery is pretty darn exciting. i won't give away any spoilers by going into detail, but the author does a nice job of balancing the internal conflict within Nailer with the ongoing fast paced plot.  the characters are forced into making tough decisions over and over and over, without there ever being a clear good option for them.  they must take risks to survive.  Nailer leaves his microcosm of the beach to branch out into the world and to patiently wait for whatever comes next.  living the adventure through Nailer's voice was thoughtful, exciting, and quaint.  i loved his voice, and his dialog was sometimes hilarious, but always sincere and authentic.

there was an ongoing theme of wealth vs. worth.  set in a dystopian future, wealth is hard to come by for Nailer and a majority of the people living in the Gulf Coast area.  wealth is the way out of the slums. wealth is the way to power and respect. slowly but surely, the idea of worth starts to come to focus in Nailer's mind. those he can count on, and those he can't. those who act from what they believe is best, and those who act out of greed.  it's an ugly world that Nailer's living in, and he's in the center of a most ugly mess.

fave quote: "Why did they give up?" Nailer asked. "Sometimes people learn," Tool said. (page 203) (by the way, Tool is a halfman, which means he's part dog, part lion, and part human. they were genetically engineered to protect people or something and they are SO COOL...and scary).

fix er up: the ending, while solid, did feel a bit rushed to me.  i don't mean the events leading up to the ultimate conclusion...but the conclusion itself left me feeling "...oh."

title: Ship Breaker (#1)
author: Paolo Bacigalupi
genre: Dystopian, Coming of Age

Lisa is a gamer, crafter, fangirl, mother, wife and unabashed nerd who is pretty ridiculous and it's best you know that up front. When she's not binge watching Netflix or crafting into the wee hours of the night, you can find her spending a lot of her time on Pinterest and Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this book. It was very dark and suspenseful.


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