Nebula Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi has made a name for himself writing stories set in a bleak near-future following an environmental collapse. A more timely novel could not exist than his latest, Ship Breaker, his first Young Adult offering and possibly his strongest work to date. Narrator Joshua Swanson brings precisely the young, street-wise performance needed to carry this story.
Nailer Lopez is fighting to survive in a devastated world, doing the only work a boy on the verge of manhood can do "light crew" duty as a ship breaker, salvaging copper wire from the rusting hulks of tankers left wrecked on America's Gulf Coast. Every day is a struggle to make quota and find the best salvage to stay in the good graces of his crew. There is always the hope of the big score: a pocket of petroleum, precious fuel in an age of exhausted wells, drowned cities, and risen seas, where any energy source is precious.
When Nailer and his best friend Pima come across the find of a lifetime, a salvage that could buy him freedom not just from the brutality of light crew but from his abusive father as well, there's only one problem it comes with a swank, a rich girl named Nita. Nita has value just like everything else, and Nailer is faced with a choice: keep her ship and buy his independence, or he can go the far more dangerous but possibly more profitable route and help her. Nailer, Pima, and the identity of newly nick-named "Lucky Girl" are always on the edge of discovery by Nailer's drug-addicted father, his crew, and the genetically augmented "half-man", Tool.
Joshua Swanson was well cast. His style is wholly appropriate to a dystopia, and he is completely convincing as he takes us through Nailer's dilemmas and perils. This is a fast-paced story of adventure and suspense, and Swanson's narration while careful and precise carries the tension well. He skillfully handles the voicing of the story's main female characters, Pima and Nita, without slipping into the narrative pitfalls of falsettos or needless breathiness. Bacigalupi's cast is vast and varied, but Swanson manages to keep the listener oriented through adept pitch and passable island dialects here and there.
This is a performance that draws the listener into the dark recesses of a rusted and starving world. Though marketed as Young Adult, there is plenty here for any lover of near-future dystopian literature to enjoy. Christie Yant
In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota - and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.
In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.
©2010 Paolo Bacigalupi (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"Narrator Joshua Swanson makes this harsh dystopian world all too believable. He adjusts the pacing to fit the intensity of the action and gives each character a voice that fits his or her personality. This is superb listening for teens—and adults too—even those who aren’t big fans of science fiction." (AudioFile)
Bacigalupi invents a colorful and detailed future where human and quasi-human toil to survive. Grim but not without hope. The story takes place in a tropical and swampy South Coast and follows the struggle of two teenagers to escape their enemies and survive in a relentless world. The two protagonists come from very different background and yet learn to be with each other. The scenario and story show great inventiveness. Well written and read.
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.
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.
AudioBook Fan Extraordinaire
The author starts the story off with interesting characters that I started connecting with almost immediately. This is a great accomplishment for the author who has to build an entire futuristic world and introduce terms and settings that are not immediately familiar. But it works, and the story just gets more and more interesting with twists and hopes. There is a lot of groundwork at the beginning that pays off in the end, so that the story ties together neatly. There is room for a sequel, but make no mistake, this is a complete story in itself. I saw it recommended on Audible, and took a chance, and I'm glad I did.
I enjoyed this book. It was paced well and kept me listening. A lot of time was spent building Nailer's world, which I really enjoyed. However, I wanted to know more learn more about the "swanks" and the world from their point of view. The end left me a little flat. Big exciting action scene, and then Nailer is dropped back onto the beach.
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