Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Intense and chilling near-future YA book. Bacigalupi's dark vision of an overheated, flooded world (as in his incredible, mesmerizing The Windup Girl) is especially disturbing when applied to the Gulf Coast.
Teenage Nailer works as a ship breaker, scavenging grounded oil tankers for copper, wire, scrap, dodging his drug addicted brutal father and trying to stay alive, when a storm brings him the scavenge opportunity that changes his life.
The story wasn't as strong as The Windup Girl, but for teens it seems everything is watered down or given a grain of hope, but some scenes were shudderingly well done:

"The great drowned city of New Orleans didn't come all at once, it came in portions: the sagging backs of shacks ripped open by banyan trees and cypress. Crumbling edges of concrete and brick undermined by sinkholes. Kudzu-swamped clusters of old abandoned buildings shadowed under the loom of swamp trees.
...A whole waterlogged world of optimism, torn down by the patient work of changing nature... if Nailer scrutinized the jungle carefully, he could make out the boulevards that had been, before trees punctured their medians and encroached. Now, the roads were more like flat fern and moss-choked paths. You had to imagine none of the trees sprouting up in the center, but they were there.
"Where did they get the petrol?" he asked,
"They got it from everywhere." Nita laughed. "From the far side of the world. From the bottom of the sea." She waved at the drowned ruins, and a flash of ocean. "They used to drill out there, too, in the Gulf. Cut up the islands. It's why the city killers are so bad. There used to be barrier islands, but they cut them up for their drilling."
"Yeah?" Nailer challenged. "How do you know?"
Nita laughed again. "If you went to school, you'd know it too. Orleans city killers are famous."

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