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 am always amazed at Paola stories/tragedies. Most science fiction books come of as formulated. In contrast, Paola's fiction is insightful and imaginative.
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.
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.
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.
While technically a follow-up to "Shipbreaker," this book stood on its own (which I love!). The viewpoint characters in each case were so well-done that I felt sympathy for each, even though many were on "opposite" sides for much of the book. The narration was stunning, keeping even side characters in distinct voices. My only gripe is that sometimes the narrative kept harping on Mahlia's emotions and feelings (especially annoying because she was the only female as well, making me wonder if the author subtly reinforced that even tough girls are by nature whinier?) and sense of powerlessness. If I'd been reading, honestly I'd have skipped over a few paragraphs of this. Still, the book is marketed as YA, so maybe that's a YA kinda thing that I'm not appreciating. Overall, a well-done book, and one that I can fully recommend.
Not impressed with this listen. A lot of violence and mutilation for shock value with out good story and character development to justify. I will not be listening to next installment.
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.
I'm retired, so I have time to read a lot of books. Sometimes the stories and authors kind of run together. Then there's PB (and a few other authors**) whose books and stories are in a whole different class.
I think PB is a genius. I'd bet his IQ is right up there with Einstein's. These days, PB is my favorite author. My only complaint is that I haven't seen any new books from him for a while.
Most of the other "Drowned Cities" reviews nail the specifics of this book. There's no need for me to rehash what they've already written, so I'll just add a few comments:
Great character development and story arcs!
Grabbed me and held me all the way through.
Not always fun to listen to. Some of the suffering is pretty graphic, but it's necessary and makes the rest of the story work.
Tool and Sgt. Ocho were my favorite characters.
I cheered when the bad guys finally got theirs.
It's from Paolo Bacigalupi! Read it!!
P.S. I kept seeing "dystopic" in the other PB reviews. I didn't know what it meant, so I looked it up. It means a society in which there is something frightening or undesirable, like depression, oppression or terror. OK. Now I get it. And I agree. Most of PB's stories are set in dystopic societies, including "Drowned Cities".
** The lists of my other favorite authors are in my reviews of "Tough Sh*t" and "Winter of Frankie Machine".
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