Book Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship BreakerShip Breaker
Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-08168-9
Also available in hardcover and paperback

Nailer is small for his age. He’s a good worker too but time is running out. He’s getting too big for the small crew and his father sinks further into drug fuelled rages with every passing day. One day, the Fates bring a storm into his midst. In the middle of it all is a girl, a girl that will change his world. Will Nailer turn his back on family? But what is family these days? Blood? Loyalty? Only time will tell.

At first glance, this wasn’t the typical type of book that appeals to me. I’m not really that interested in ships and I found the descriptions of the inner workings of them and their components unappealing. But the story is well written with characters that are engaging. You want to find out what happens to this scrawny, abused boy. Is he going to survive his poverty stricken environment? Will he manage to get his lucky break and leave his no good father behind? You’ll find that you’ll keep reading because you really want to know.  The world depicted in the book is one set in the future along the lower east coast of America. Category 6 storms frequent the coast and New Orleans is permanently underwater. Given recent events, it’s a stark warning of what could possibly come to pass. It’s also a world where social class is divided into two sections, the very rich and the very poor. There is no in between. Half men, a genetic mixture of human, dog, tiger and hyena are bought only by the rich due to their hefty price tag. They bring an added element of tension and uneasiness to the book and are so well written that they appear entirely plausible.

I did think that the start of the book was a bit slow but halfway through, it really picked up pace and became much more exciting. There were highs and lows, fights, kidnappings and a great chase, culminating in a dramatic ending for more than one character. I really do think this book will appeal to the young adult audience and it’s one that I will be recommending to those I know. It was an enjoyable read and certainly, any writer that can make me want to read more about ships is a darn good one. Boys in particular should find this a good read, especially any who have an interest in dystopian fiction in general. Much like The Hunger Games, this really is a fight for survival where only the fittest and smartest will win.

A great book that comes highly recommended.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, November 2012.