Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Set in a postapocalyptic future, this adventure begins on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, where work crews eke out an existence by salvaging materials from old ships. Nailer Gomez is the smallest member of his crew: he's the one who scrambles through ancient ductwork, scavenging copper wire and metal staples. His crew members dream of finding a pocket of oil - a lucky strike that they would carefully ladle out for sale. Instead, a hurricane brings with it an even greater treasure; one of the sleek new clipper ships has been run aground. The only survivor is a rich girl. She could be Nailer's ticket out of hell... or else the instrument of his death.

I found a lot of similarities to Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, but I liked Ship Breaker better, mostly because the scenario seemed more realistic. Bacigalupi has torn environmental elements from today's headlines: oil tankers in the Gulf; coastal cities drowned by rising sea levels; shipping routes across the ice-free North Pole; New Orleans destroyed by hurricanes several times; and tarsands oil development. There's plenty of action and suspense, but, unlike The Hunger Games, I never found it implausible. Grade 7 - up to adult.

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