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)
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.
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.
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.
This is the second book I've listened to from Paolo and even though the description didn't seem up my alley (about people working to dismantle ships) the story and characters sucked me in. Just like Water Knife, don't let the title / summary dissuade you -- the author could make an adventure of sweater knitting!
If you believe in global warming as a man made disaster that is getting worse and worse, then this is your kind of an apocalyptic story. Always keeps you interested with interesting plot twists.
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.
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.
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