I enjoyed Bacigalupi's "adult" novel, The Windup Girl, but felt that its convoluted plot and lack of easily sympathetic characters made it hard to recommend outside speculative fiction fan circles.
Shipbreaker, however, a young adult novel set in a vividly grimy, frightening future, trades some intellectual complexity for a more accessible, visceral reading experience. Though apocalyptic fiction seems to be all the rage now, even in YA, this book is certainly near the top of the class. From its relatable characters to its convincing scenes of action and danger to its sense of a complex, lived-in world, Shipbreaker offers plenty that will genuinely speak to adolescent readers (though the uncompromising violence, scary adult characters, and modest amount of profanity might be a little too much for children) and grown-up ones, too. Of course, there are "messages" here, as well, in Bacigalupi's vision of a world environmentally and economically decimated by capitalism run amok, but he presents them in a smart, unobtrusive way, without talking down to his audience.
Totally recommended, and a book that puts Bacigalupi into the "young speculative fiction writers with something to say" category. Compared to the Windup Girl, this novel is a bit more conventionally plotted, but perhaps a better intro to Bacigalupi. If his vision draws you in, that book offers a richer experience.
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