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September 9, 2012

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Here's a quick review of Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi that I wrote on holiday in my notebook:

"Lean, succinct, yet full of ideas and characters and people you can believe in. Full of choices. And trouble and cliffhanger chapters. Great resolution. Great fun. Great Science fiction ideas."

To elaborate... 

Ship Breaker is marketed as YA SF, that nebulous category that's hard to pin down. In Ship Breaker the Young Adult category manifests itself as a lean Science Fiction story with a young protagonist. Lean because there are no digressions or tangents or flowery passages, everything is pared down to moving the plot and the characters forward. That's not to say it is shallow, just really focused.  

The story is set in a post oil world, perhaps the same as the Windup Girls, it's not clear, or important. The hero Nailer works on a beach reclaiming ships, breaking down the old hulks, stripping the copper. It's hard, desperate work but the kids there have no choice, they're the poor kids hoping to strike a lucky hoard. But of course something changes Nailer's life.

The novel deals brilliantly with the division of wealth, showing the have and have-nots, each oblivious to the lives of the others, each with a different set of problems. Happiness isn't achieved with a dump of wealth. And wealth is relative anyway.

The world is beautifully rich, the details coming not from exposition but action and the path our heroes take through it. Full of ideas as to how our world would deal with the shock that no oil and rising sea levels would bring. On top of this the plot careers through action and thrills and dangers.

Forget how it's marketed, whether you're young or old, it's good Science Fiction. Highly recommended.