Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction...take me away!
Although the narration is stilted with odd pauses, the story pulled me in. This post-oil earth is full of haves and have-nots, engineered bodyguards and corporate intrigue.
Big shout out to Paolo Bacigalupi. As in the Windup Girl, Ship Breaker and the companion work, Drowned Cities are futuristic worlds so completely imagined that every detail falls into place. Beautifully written, very well narrated, Ship Breaker will leave you with many questions, but fully satisfied. More please.
This marked the second fictional audiobook that I have listened to. At first, the narrator’s voice felt stiff, and almost computer-ish - but once the story itself became more interesting, the narrator’s voice started to sound more dynamic. Though some of Swanson’s “voices” for the dialogue blended together (causing moments of confusion), the writing itself retained its clarity so I never felt overly lost in Bacigalupi’s dystopian, flooded world.
Though this book would most likely be a one-sitting-read for me, by listening to it only at work, I really drew out the experience and I think savored it a lot more. I could easily see why comparisons were made to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, but this felt like a very different sort of dystopia - and one that answered a lot more of those questions concerning the transition between modern civilization to this fictional breakdown. Bacigalupi strayed a few times onto a soap box (the importance of diversity, global warming, differences between class), but the YA market often leads to those kind of PSA-feeling topics. Overall, those moments don’t detract from the strength of the overall story. A few repetitive phrases (pain always “blossomed” or “exploded”) distracted me a bit - but that might be more due to the audio version than something that I would actively notice in a printed version.
Bacigalupi created likable characters - I especially liked Tool and Nailer. Of all the characters, Tool was felt the most intriguing to me. He was enigmatic and genuinely fascinating. It is mostly due to him that I already purchased to listen the sequel, The Drowned Cities. Tool reminded me a bit of Ron Pearlman’s Beast - at least that was what he looked like in my head, anyways... And this crumbling society and land utterly captivated me, too, so I am also looking forward to hearing more about it as well. It’s dark, but age-appropriate and I think a book that would definitely interest younger, male readers.
The first few chapters of this book had me hanging on every word, but then it quickly went downhill. The book starts off w/ the main character crawling through the carcass of an old freighter, salvaging as much as he can. Outside is an earth that has suffered greatly from climate change. The setting of this book had me imagining modern pirates, dystopian cities and the many events that were to come. Instead it quickly takes a turn for the worse, introducing the same old drunk, abusive father character that's already been done too many times before, and the same old story of boy saves girl. Worst of all are the "dog-men", part man, part dog, part hyena, part tiger, blah blah blah. Reminds me of something a five year old boy would come up with. I almost stopped listening at this point. It completely ruined the book for me. Still I toughed it out to the end, hoping that I might be rewarded w/ a good ending. All I got was a disappointment. This book could have been so good, but was ruined by weak, stereotypical characters that I could care less about.
I'm sorry, but this narrator just did not fit this book. Most of the characters are ethnic, and Joshua Swanson's attempt at accents is just horrible. Half the time listening was spent trying to determine which character was speaking. For instance, one of the main characters is West Indian, but sounds more Scottish than Hindi.
Since it was a short book, I would say that it's worth the time.
I enjoyed Ship Breaker. I was entranced by the milieu, and interesting characters. Sometimes the story sputters, as the author over-explains character motivation, but the tenuous bits of drama are enough to keep me listening. I found the performance good but not excellent. I would listen to the voice actor again. Four stars all around for a listen well worth your time.
Ship Breaker is a solid story with a complex and well described world. Yet oddly enough, this never gripped me - I was reminded so much of authors such as Homer Hickman who write about boys coming of age with good hearts who have to overcome the evil that humans do - and deal with a frustrating, confusing, inscrutable girl as well. It's almost become a cliche and I've read this so much that I never invested in the characters or story of Ship Breaker as a result.
Story: Nailer is a scavenger in the lowest dregs of a weather-ravaged, dystopian gulf area shanty town. He spends his day crawling derelict oil tankers to get enough scrap for a few bites to eat every day, and hopefully avoid his vicious, drugged father. Then, after a category 6 hurricane, a luxury yacht washes up in front of him and he may have the find of his life. But then he finds a girl his age alive inside and everything that seemed so easy just became very difficult.
Certainly, the author doesn't pull punches and shows just how mercenary society can be (or really always is) with the breakdown of order as in a dystopian milieu. And as with so many of Hickman's novels, the boy and his family are virtual slaves of corporations (or mining companies, etc. etc.), given just enough to survive but never enough to break free. This is the gravitas in which the characters find themselves and circumstances will force them to break free in a do or die gambit.
But along with the 'family enslaved' trope, there is always the somewhat upper class girl who drives the boys nuts. We have to go through all the motions of the love/hate relationship, the bickering, and the boy wondering why girls have to be so difficult and opaque. Yes, boys just can't figure out girls and it's because the girls are just weird. At least the authors give the girls backbones. But at the same time, completely and utterly unlikeable. In Ship Breaker, I wish the girl had been quiet and intelligently thoughtful, rather than cagey and unreadable.
The heaviness of the society and dog-eat-dog world are quite depressing. I know many prefer this dose of 'reality' in their books, and as such, I certainly can see why this was so highly rated by so many. Ironically for me, if the boy had actually been more mercenary (i.e., smart) I would have enjoyed this story a bit more. Saving one person's life at the expense of 10 others never makes much sense to me but I leave that for the philosophers; certainly, it means the boy retains his soul intact.
So yes, a solid read with a few problems that I wish an editor had fixed (repeated words and choppy sentence structures became annoying, especially with me listening to the Audible version).
Note that I listened to the Audible version and the narrator did an excellent job.
Paolo's style is fairly superificial and does not go into any depth regarding the characters' real feelings.
Part 2 finished before the story ended!! I downloaded it again but still it finished before the end of the story. In fact at the most exciting part - the boat with the hero trying to avoid capture by ducking over the sunken city.
hard to say when I don't know how it finished
I hope Audible is still not selling this book in its incomplete state.
Reader, writer, teacher, consultant. I read mostly Young Adult and Genre Fiction, especially with a mix of literary style and commercial pacing.
The audio version was a little confusing sometimes. I wasn't sure what the people were saying. It took a while to get into the story.
Deciding whether to kill the girl or not.
It definitely would have helped to listen all in one sitting because if I spent a couple days away, it took me a bit to get back into the rhythm of the language and the slang. It was definitely interesting enough to listen to in one sitting.
I previously read The Windup Girl, and really enjoyed it. He really created a vivid world, realistic characters, and an engaging plot.
The narrator was slightly sub-par. But I was able to listen to the entire audiobook.
The Young Adult fiction genre has changed over the past 15 years or so. Modern YA is currently being enjoyed by many adults. But this novel, is truly written at a much younger level: it's audience is a younger reader, and it written as such. I felt stupid reading it. Like I was reading a Dr Seuss book. It was so much different than Paolo's other novel, The Windup Girl, which was written at the adult level.
Now, sometimes I enjoy reading a simple book, but I guess my expectations were so high after reading Windup Girl. If you enjoyed Windup Girl, be aware, this book is written with much simpler plots and themes. Nothing as complex as Windup Girl.