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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

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 This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss.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.


Nailer is an interesting character who shows that your past does not always lead to your future.  You have a choice whether you follow the footsteps of the past or make your own path.  Nailer does not do what is expected of him, but rather makes his own path which leads him down an uncertain road.  He could have certainly taken the easy way out, but he chose to do the right thing rather than the easy thing.

This book is set in a futuristic world where New Orleans (Orleans II, Orleans III, etc.) no longer exist.  The area was hit with devastating hurricanes once a week for a while until the area was ultimately destroyed.  Nailer and those he knows are now living in poverty struggling to get by in this new society.  They are stripping oil tankers for cash and barely making it.  Children are close to starving and the world is a mess.  It is surprising that Nailer is capable of changing his ways during these desperate times, but if anyone is going to change, it is most certainly him.

I didn't enjoy this book very much and it was a struggle to get through.  It was inspiring in terms of the idea of changing who you are for the better, but the concept of the future Bacigalupi created in this novel is difficult to understand.  I couldn't imagine a world like this, although I suppose it is possible.  This new world also created half-men which are tiger/dog/human/etc. mixes who are meant to be loyal to their "owner" until their deaths.  These new breeds are deadly, muscular, and dangerous.  The idea of humans creating these creatures for their personal use is disgusting, but with the way we continue to experiment with various procedures, I can see it happening.  Again, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book, but if you're interested in the dystopia genre you may want to give it a shot.

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