Friday, April 22, 2011

Review of Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

ship breakerI guess Ship Breaker is technically classified as science fiction, because there are creatures called half-men that are engineered to be part human, part tiger and part dog.  Its set in a futuristic world, which, because of its bleakness, seems post-apocalyptic, but I guess that’s just how things turn out to be.  Nailer scavenges copper wiring from wrecked clipper ships, but he knows that as soon as he grows too big to fit into the passages his usefulness will be over.  His father is a foul-tempered bully whose temperament is made worse by the drugs (crystal meth?) he uses.  Nailer thinks he’s found a way out of the poverty and drudgery of his life when he and his crew-mate Pima find a newly wrecked clipper ship.  They plan to take all the salvage and keep it to themselves.  As they’re pawing through the wreckage, they come upon the body of a girl, crushed under the weight of furniture, but as they go to cut off her fingers to get the rings she wears, her black eyes blink.  Pima is all for finishing her off, but somehow Nailer just can’t do it.  His decision to save the girl changes the course of his life, for better or worse it’s hard to tell.  The savagery of Nailer’s world is well told in this story, but there’s plenty of heart, too, and a really interesting rendering of how New Orleans evolves after the hurricane.    Ship Breaker kind of reminds me of Salt by Maurice Gee. It’s pretty clear that Bacigalupi has left the door open for a sequel.  Review by Stacy Church