Book Review: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Drowned CitiesThe Drowned Cities
Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown and Company, May 2012
ISBN: 978-0-316-20261-9
Also available in print editions

Mahlia is just another casualty of war. Left behind by her Peacekeeper father and alone since the death of her mother she has to make do with only one hand. The other taken from her by warring factions. Her only friend, Mouse, is her one source of comfort until the day they find the half-man. Now, she has to make the hard decisions by herself if she has any chance of getting Mouse back and stop him becoming yet another war maggot in this never-ending war. Will they make it out of the Drowned City alive?

This is another title following up from Bacigalupi’s prize winning Shipbreaker set in a future world where cities have been flooded and society has taken a big step backwards. The main character, Mahlia, is a feisty teenager who has been taken in by a kindly doctor and is trying to live as best she can. But it’s hard when everyone looks on her as a bad curse, something to be cast out and thrown away. Her hasty actions have caused untold damage and now she battles to save her friend from the United Patriot Front who have recruited him by force. Only she knows how to get into the Drowned Cities and somehow, this half-man is willing to follow her there. After all, he has unfinished business there.

This is another well written book with a great storyline. After reading Shipbreaker and enjoying it, this title looks at life within a city that is now underwater and where civil unrest is rife. The story follows Mahlia and Mouse respectively with a fantastic pace and great level of detail until the point of convergence where everything just explodes in action, drama and intensity. Yet again, Bacigalupi has written and developed characters that have depth, history and who appeal to the reader. I’m now interested to find out if any further titles in the series will begin to cross over to create one large story-arc since I think this is a format that would certainly work. One to recommend, especially to teenage readers.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, April 2013.