Soldier boys emerged from the darkness. Guns gleamed dully. Bullet bandoliers and scars draped their bare chests. Ugly brands scored their faces. She knew why these soldier boys had come. She knew what they sought, and she knew, too, that if they found it, her best friend would surely die.
In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man - a bioengineered war beast named Tool - who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.
This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.
Apocalypse now: also listen to Ship Breaker.
©2012 Paolo Bacigalupi (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Suzanne Collins may have put dystopian literature on the YA map with The Hunger Games... but Bacigalupi is one of the genre's masters, employing inventively terrifying details in equally imaginative story lines." (Los Angeles Times)
"Beautifully written, filled with high-octane action, and featuring badly damaged but fascinating and endearing characters, this fine novel tops its predecessor and can only increase the author's already strong reputation." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
"The novel's greatest success lies in the creation of a world that is so real, the grit and decay of war and ruin will lay thick on the minds of readers long after the final page. The narrative, however, is equally well crafted.... Breathtaking." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
For my money, Paulo Bacigalupi is one of the few writers of dystopian science fiction right now who's not just channeling the social anomie of the moment, but is gazing out over the ramparts towards the approaching dust cloud. He asks a direct and urgent question that other novelists don't: what would happen if our fossil fuel-driven, environmental havok-wreaking global economy broke down? Would human society have to foresight to adapt, or would it just start to cannibalize itself, reverting to ugly old patterns?
Forget the Hunger Games, with its elaborate Big Brother fantasy -- The Drowned Cities (and its companion novel, Ship Breaker) portrays a more immediate kind of dystopia, a "future" that's already arrived in places like Somalia, the Congo, Iraq, or Afghanistan. It's just not a future that's gotten to our shores. Yet.
Just as importantly, Bacigalupi is a visionary who can write. His novels burn with a quiet, measured intensity, the calm of the language bringing the fear and struggle of his world to vivid life. He doesn’t give his characters easy moral choices, but puts them in a position where doing the right thing is often very dangerous, and being less-than-heroic is sometimes the only way to survive.
The Drowned Cities is a page-turningly grim novel, perhaps a shade or two more intense than it’s companion book, Ship Breaker. Here again, we meet two adolescent characters trying to keep their heads down and make it to adulthood, although not the same two characters from that book, and in a new setting -- near the flooded remnants of Washington, DC. We also have a return of the monstrous half-man, Tool, who plays a more prominent role as both a reluctant ally and a knowing but decidedly unsympathetic observer of human affairs, and is perhaps Bacigalupi’s best character to date. Here, the plot puts its protagonists squarely in the middle of a war between vicious militias of mostly-teenage conscripts, who, as we come to see, are as much victims of their circumstances as anyone else, unable to escape what their exploitative warlords have turned them into.
If that sounds like heavy material for a young adult book, it is, and I don’t know that I’d recommend this one for younger readers, given some frightening characters and scenes of brutality, torture, and enslavement. But, it is, like Ship Breaker, a very good book, framing its moral questions in a sober, even-handed way, and keeping the level of action high. I’m pleased to see that the economy required for shorter works has improved Bacigalupi’s chops at plot and characterization, and look forward to seeing him return to writing grown-up novels with those lessons in hand.
PS. If you haven’t read Ship Breaker, it’s not really a prerequisite, but I’d still suggest that one first, since it introduces Tool and is a bit more of an adventure.
In this story, set in the same future earth as P B's earlier novel 'Shipbreaker', the world economy has fractured, the global seat of power shifted to China, and the former US has descended into barbarism, where religious gangs, gathered around warlords, perpetuate unimaginable violence. P B has obviously taken many current events, from global warming to civil wars in Africa and crafted a plausible and intricate future. As in 'Shipbreaker this world is viewed from the eyes of young adults struggling to survive and make sense out of the chaos,brutality and remnants of former greatness. If you enjoy suspenseful journey novels & dystopian novels then you might enjoy this one. I admire the authors ability to project current realities into the future and his ability to create scenarios that are detailed, original and plausible.[ see Greer's 'Ecotechnic Future' where Greer names the next step to be a ' Scavenger society' ]
I am not sure that this is a novel to let younger readers get into though. Again, as in previous novels, the author describes terrible violence in graphic detail. And, though I understand why it needs to be part of this story; I do not like it.
There is something about that novel overall that is a real downer; but then again it is about dystopia. There is a glut of dystopian novels coming on the market right now, many very violent as del. I think that P B is a little ahead of the pack in some ways. He has the stomach, the diligence & the talent to re- package current trends, and current realities and present them to us in an imaginative, exciting and sometimes strangely beautiful way. He tricks us, so that we have to face an aspect of human nature as evidenced in current events. If we let the supporting structure of security and affluence erode through decisions we make , even our own civilized way of live can give way to a brutal, hellish, barbaric scrabbling for survival.
I found Shipbreaker a bit of an anticlimax, but loved this. So did my husband (45), son (18), & daughter (15). Subject matter was gritty but beautifully written with a well-paced plot and engaging characters - didn't feel preachy or too earnest at all, though it did have a social "message" about humanity (& man's inhumanity to man), and the narrator did a fabulous job.
This was a bit different from the way these books flow and the main character wavers between good and bad moral choices constantly but keeps you wanting to listen. The book touches on many different types of issues ranging from moral to political and has a pretty big underdog negative feel to it. You keep rooting for the main characters but bad things just keep on happening to them. It does not make it a bad book but it will bore those that like nothing but action and a certain amount of required architecture to these types of books. If you like end of the world (or at least society as we know it) books and have no problems with explicit violence and cruelty this book is pretty good, but if you are squeamish I would stay away from it.
Though this is listed as a sequel to Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, it feels more like a connected standalone novel than a true sequel. In fact, the only character to carry over is the augmented human, animal hybrid, Tool. The titular Drowned Cities are also a different setting in Bacigalupi’s post-apocalyptic water-logged world. The audio version is narrated by the same performer and he does a wonderful job of reeling the listener in to Mahlia’s story. Tool plays a more prominent role here, but the bulk of the story is Mahlia’s. It’s an engrossing book and its climax is quite riveting! The ending definitely leaves you wanting more! I hope that these characters all - not just Tool - appear in the planned third book in the series!
This YA novel, like its predecessor, crosses the line into preachy at times (though this may be more apparent in the audio format). But this does nothing to dampen the exciting plot. This sequel, too, is much darker than Ship Breaker, but this adds to the book’s overall emotional investment. It’s an enjoyable listen (read) - but its rather cliffhanger ending definitely leaves me anxious for more to the story! I hope that the wait isn’t overly long!
I'm a big fan of SF/F/Horror, and all things in between and out.
In Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Drowned Cities, the American Dream has shifted into an apocalyptic nightmare, and its legacy is a devastating cycle of violence ripping the country into warring factions. The surviving casualties are quickly drafted into the oppressing armies to perpetuate the cycle of violence. Armies made of children.
The Drowned Cities is a story about child soldiers, the seduction of violence, and survival and it’s the most brutal, unrelenting story I’ve read or listened to in a while time. Like Bacigalupi’s other books, it’s drenched with social commentary that manages not to get in the way of the story or come off as preachy. Instead, we see the effects of rhetoric as we’re thrust through a violent, possible future.
I made a conscious decision to listen to this book without listening to Ship Breaker, which shares the same world with this story (though not any characters), and it held up just fine on its own. If anything, it made me very anxious to go listen to Ship Breaker.
We follow several children – a girl named Mahlia who lost one of her arms to a group of soliders and is apprenticed to the town doctor; Mouse – a boy, who knows the swamps and terrain; Ocho – a wounded soldier boy; and a genetically engineered monster named Tool. Mahlia and Mouse discover Tool dying in a swamp after an escape from one of the armies, and do their best to nurse him back to health. Mahlia hopes that Tool might be their ticket out of the war-torn environment of the Drowned Cities. Unfortunately, the half-man’s been a tool of war mongers his whole life, and is violently opposed to being chained again.
At one point, Mouse and Mahlia get split up, and it’s interesting to see how both of them have to accept violence to survive. They both become child soldiers, in a fashion. Something Bacigalupi did incredibly well was give the murderous squad of soldier boys a sense of humanity. It’d be easy to play them as wicked, child-like monsters absent of concsciences, but Bacigalupi captures their lost humanity in painful way, showing us they’re victims as much as anyone else, and I was surprised by how much I ended up caring about their fates, despite all the horrible atrocities they’d helped commit.
This is my first experience with Joshua Swanson as a narrator, and he was more than up to the task. It’s not a flashy narration, and Swanson is smart enough to realize it doesn’t need to be for it to be as compelling as it is.
All in all, The Drowned Cities is a violent, gut-wrenching listen, about how violence and rhetoric effect children. It is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an absorbing listen, and highly recommended.
(Originally posted at the AudioBookaneers)
What I love about the author is that he spends little or no time on exposition. Bacigalupi doesn't spoon feed the reader. Drowned Cities may be a cautionary tale about a future world, where our failure to recognize climate change has led to a drowned and broken America. But that's for the reader to work out. Rather it's a horrifying story about a young girl surviving in a bleak and violent state of anarchy. With Ship Breaker, Bacigalupi took me deep into his nightmare world. And I for one will follow the author where ever he takes me.
Post-Apocalypse future America
I enjoyed the fighting scenes especially with the genetically altered war animal. Creates a very believable future America with it's roots in today's intolerance (both left and right).
Does a good job of separating the characters, given them there own voice
No, but I was constantly thinking about it when I wasn't listening to it.
This is a dystopian tale filled with the strong praying on the weak. The violence and intent of some of the characters is disturbing. Included in the story is a man beast that makes it a little more interesting but really adds little to the final product. I listened to the entire thing but it's not one I'll come back to.
A far reaching dystopia that keeps ones interest throughout. A dark story line that will continue to provide material on many levels. When is the next book expected.
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