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SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi

Posted in reviewku: pirate (all)


Grounded tankers. Ice

melt. Violent father. Cruel world.

Scavenge. Scrounge. Survive.


Nitty Gritty:

YA (grades 8-12)

Science fiction / fantasy fiction / dystopian novel

Third person close POV

World building

Main character – Nailer – 17 years old

Themes – scavenging, surviving, drug-addicted father, family violence, coastal cities, fossil fuels, post-apocalyptic world, survivor trapped in ship’s wreckage

Secondary character – swanky rich girl plucked out of broken ship by hero

Adventure, action, excitement, rollicking ride through oceans and underwater lands

Backstory sprinkled throughout – interspersed with dialogue and action rather than being dropped in chunks

Scrounging for existence, salvaging scrap metal to survive

Reminiscent of orphaned and abandoned children working in crews to make money and survive under the steely hand of a slightly shady older man in classic Dickens stories

Hero’s journey – inner and outer – Nailer leaves his ordinary world (of ship breaking) to journey across high seas, meeting mentors and foes before finally returning to his ordinary world a changed boy and harbinger of change for his community.

Some elements feel forced — i.e. dire references to New Orleans as a doomed underwater city

Final points feel a bit hammered/heavy handed — Nailer is the key to saving himself, his ship and his world

Rocking rhythms of the prose echo movements of a ship at sea

Increasingly stormy seas of tension and adventure also echo waters

Rising and falling pace carries feeling of heavy gusts and light breezes blowing in and all around