Book Review: Ship Breaker

Ship Wreck on a BeachNailer is little more than a slave. He spends his days crawling through the rusty carcasses of ancient oil tankers, hoping he can salvage enough copper wire to meet quota. Being small for his age has allowed him to work “light crew” longer than most kids, but the ducts have begun to groan beneath his weight and press against his shoulders. He won’t be able to work light crew much longer, and he doesn’t have the strength to handle scrap iron with heavy crew, which means he’ll soon be out of work. Without a job, Nailer faces a life of begging, theft, or worse in order to survive.

Luck seems to be on his side when a hurricane leaves a broken luxury ship along the shore. If he’s quick enough, he can salvage some of the ship’s valuables before anyone else discovers the wreckage, but Nailer finds more than he expected on the ship. There’s a survivor. Nailer can leave her to die and take what he wants, or he can try to save her.

In the award-winning Ship Breaker, author Paolo Bacigalupi creates a believable future of drowned cities and a world surviving on the decay of the past. With the first paragraph, we’re drawn in to the cramped, suffocating walls of a service duct where we meet Nailer, a complex character caught between the need for self-preservation and the fear of losing what’s good about himself. We feel his struggle as he’s forced to choose again and again between doing the smart thing and doing what his heart says is right. Loyalty plays against betrayal throughout the book, adding to the tension. Ship Breaker offers the perfect balance of character, plot, and setting, and it has the great writing to go with them.

A second novel, The Drowned Cities, is set in the same story world as Ship Breaker but features a pair of protagonists named Mahlia and Mouse.

©2013 Kim Vandel

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