Saturday, April 9, 2011
"Ship Breaker" by Paolo Bacigalupi
Musings: I enjoyed Bacigalupi's recent adult novel The Windup Girl and was especially impressed with his strong world building. Bacigalupi does not disappoint in The Ship Breaker, where he creates not only a believable post-apocalyptic New Orleans, but he also utilizes interesting characters and a fast storyline.
Nailer's difficult life is fully detailed, from his work in ship breaking to his bond with his crew and his conflicted feelings about his abusive father. Nailer is an excellent protagonist--he's good at heart, but he's not an angel, and he struggles with mixed and contradictory feelings. The secondary characters like Nita, Pima, and Tool are also fascinating but are given less attention, and I did almost want more from them (particularly Tool).
Although the novel is set in the future, it does a good job of straddling the line between the recognizable and familiar (the degradation of poverty; unsafe working conditions) to the new and fantastic (half-men half-dog creatures). There are aspects that are only partially explained (such as the myriad new religions or cults like the Harvesters), but that doesn't get in the way of enjoying Ship Breaker.
In the end, what won me over most was the fast-paced action and sympathetic characters. I don't know whether Bacigalupi intends to write more about this world, but he's created an interesting enough set-up and characters to certainly warrant a return.
***Though Ship Breaker does not qualify, for me, for the POC Reading Challenge because Bacigalupi is white, the main characters of the novel are all characters of color from a variety of backgrounds.