Reviews for Ship Breaker
Booklist Reviews 2010 May #2
*Starred Review* This YA debut by Bacigalupi, a rising star in adult science fiction, presents a dystopian future like so many YA sf novels. What is uncommon, though, is that although Bacigalupi's future earth is brilliantly imagined and its genesis anchored in contemporary issues, it is secondary to the memorable characters. In a world in which society has stratified, fossil fuels have been consumed, and the seas have risen and drowned coastal cities, Nailer, 17, scavenges beached tankers for scrap metals on the Gulf Coast. Every day, he tries to "make quota" and avoid his violent, drug-addicted father. After he discovers a modern clipper ship washed up on the beach, Nailer thinks his fortune is made, but then he discovers a survivor trapped in the wreckage--the "swank" daughter of a shipping-company owner. Should he slit the girl's throat and sell her for parts or take a chance and help her? Clearly respecting his audience, Bacigalupi skillfully integrates his world building into the compelling narrative, threading the backstory into the pulsing action. The characters are layered and complex, and their almost unthinkable actions and choices seem totally credible. Vivid, brutal, and thematically rich, this captivating title is sure to win teen fans for the award-winning Bacigalupi. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
BookPage Reviews 2010 May
Boy's adventure in a frightening near-future
Ship Breaker, the new novel from highly acclaimed author Paolo Bacigalupi, poses a challenge to critics: How do you explain how good it is without a dozen “spoiler alerts”? One of science fiction’s pleasures is the dislocation it confronts readers with, sometimes from page one. Reading along and finding yourself in outer space, under water or in a future you never envisioned creates the sense of wonder the best sci-fi inspires. To give away too much would be cruel, but here are the basics:
The story follows Nailer, a teenage boy and one of the “ship breakers” of the title, as he scavenges for copper wire inside the ductwork of grounded oil tankers, off the Gulf Coast of an America sometime in our future. He has cruel bosses, difficult quotas and a dangerous job which he’ll soon grow too big to do anymore. So when he stumbles upon a clipper ship washed ashore in a hurricane, it seems as though he’s hit the jackpot. Instead, what he finds inside the ship forces him to reconsider his life so far—and his chances for a better, and happier, future.
The novel has surprises in store, not least among them the juxtaposition of a bleak landscape (including forced labor, grinding poverty and drug addiction) with a nautical adventure story, and ultimately a touching discussion about the families we surround ourselves with for comfort and survival, whose ties run deeper than blood. Bacigalupi’s seeming ease in tying these themes together, and interweaving them with a dark take on the consequences of oil scarcity, is evidence of his talent. He paints a vivid portrait of the scavengers’ culture with perfectly chosen details: Facial tattoos that serve as work permits, glowing LED face paint to illuminate the darkened ducts, the luxury of rat on a stick and the scary amphetamine-like drug “crystal slide” all bring their world to life. Ship Breaker is definitely worth exploring, and offers much for readers to take away.
Heather Seggel reads and writes in Ukiah, California. Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
In a dystopian future America, "ship breaker" Nailer discovers a wrecked clipper ship and its sole survivor, Nita. Nailer chooses to protect Nita and help find her family. Bacigalupi's novel vividly depicts a bleak vision: a "whole waterlogged world...torn down by the patient work of changing nature." This thriller will grab readers' attentions as Nailer and Nita "crew up" to survive. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #4
Teenaged Nailer is living in a dystopian future America where climate change and humankind have wreaked havoc on the land and society. Nailer works as a ship breaker, scavenging copper wiring from the insides of abandoned oil tankers being disassembled along the Gulf Coast. A life-altering, near-death experience-he gets trapped in a chamber filled with oil ("I'm going to drown in goddamn money")-is just the beginning of Nailer's adventures as he survives a hurricane and then discovers a wrecked clipper ship and its sole survivor, a rich girl named Nita. Nailer chooses to protect her from harm and help her find her family even though it means leaving behind the only home-and means of survival-he's ever known. With Nailer's menacing and abusive father, vicious half-men, and a corrupt shipping company all after them, Nailer and Nita journey to the drowned city of Orleans in the hope of rescue. Nebula Award winner Bacigalupi's debut YA novel vividly depicts a bleak vision: a "whole waterlogged world...torn down by the patient work of changing nature." It is difficult for characters to know who to trust as money and greed separate the haves from the have-nots and dictate loyalty. This thriller will grab and keep readers' attentions as Nailer and Nita "crew up" in their fight to survive. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2010 April #1
A gritty teen betrays his father and flees his grim existence in a post-global-warming Gulf Coast village to protect a young woman he barely knows in this gripping futuristic thriller. Fifteen-year-old Nailer works on the "light crew" as a ship breaker, salvaging metals from abandoned oil tankers. Nailer's vicious father routinely beats him. In this violent world where people do anything for money, Nailer's future seems bleak until he discovers Nina, the wealthy, attractive survivor of a shipwreck. Rather than kill Nina and steal the salvage, Nailer opts to save her, triggering a harrowing journey to the submerged cities of Orleans to find people loyal to Nina. As Nailer experiences brutal betrayals, he relies on his wits and learns the people worth calling family are the ones who "[cover] your back.... Everything else [is] just so much smoke and lies." In Bacigalupi's defiled, depressing landscape populated by mercenary humans and mechanical dog-men, Nailer's loyalty offers hope. Told in the third person, this stark, surreal story sends an alarm to heed the warning signs of climate change or suffer a similar fate. (Science fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 August/September
In the near future, the environmental impact of the Accelerated Age batters the globe. New Orleans II has been destroyed by a Category 6 hurricane and Nailer works doing salvage on the ships stranded by the storms in the Gulf of Mexico. One day an expensive yacht runs aground in a storm, which is a real prize for Nailer and his friend Pima. But the wreck yields another surprise?the daughter of a wealthy family. As they try to cash in, it becomes apparent that Lucky Girl?s upper-class world may have as many dangers as the salvage yard. Nailer and Lucky Girl will need to outrun his father and the genetically engineered protectors working for Lucky Girl?s enemies. Author Paolo Bacigalupi?s future world is vivid and scary, but perhaps the scariest aspects are the most commonplace such as Nailer?s abusive father and the betrayal within Lucky Girl?s family. The story is gritty with strong language and violent situations, but the adventure is compelling. While slightly post-apocalyptic, this title is still very realistic and will have cross- over appeal for both science fiction readers and adventure readers. Highly Recommended. Melissa Bergin, NBCT Library Media Specialist, Niskayuna (New York) High School ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 April #3
SF novelist Bacigalupi (The Windup Girl) makes a stellar YA debut with this futuristic tale of class imbalance on the Gulf Coast. Teenage Nailer scavenges ships with his crewmates, eking out a poverty-filled existence while avoiding dangers that range from giant "city killer" hurricanes to his vicious, drug-addicted father. When a storm strands a beautiful shipping heiress on the beach (earning her the nickname "Lucky Girl"), Nailer manages both to infuriate members of his camp (including his father) and to become embroiled in upper-class trade disputes that he barely comprehends. As Nailer and Lucky Girl escape toward the drowned ruins of New Orleans, they witness rampant class disparity on individual and international levels (tribes whose lands were flooded have taken to the seas as pirates, attacking multinational shipping firms). Bacigalupi's cast is ethnically and morally diverse, and the book's message never overshadows the storytelling, action-packed pacing, or intricate world-building. At its core, the novel is an exploration of Nailer's discovery of the nature of the world around him and his ability to transcend that world's expectations. Ages 12-up. (May) [Page 54]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2010 June
Gr 7 Up--A fast-paced postapocalyptic adventure set on the American Gulf Coast. Nailer works light crew; his dirty, dangerous job is to crawl deep into the wrecks of the ancient oil tankers that line the beach, scavenging copper wire and turning it over to his crew boss. After a brutal hurricane passes over, Nailer and his friend Pima stumble upon the wreck of a luxurious clipper ship. It's filled with valuable goods--a "Lucky Strike" that could make them rich, if only they can find a safe way to cash it in. Amid the wreckage, a girl barely clings to life. If they help her, she tells them, she can show them a world of privilege that they have never known. But can they trust her? And if so, can they keep the girl safe from Nailer's drug-addicted father? Exciting and sometimes violent, this book will appeal to older fans of Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" series (S & S) and similar action-oriented science fiction.--Hayden Bass, Seattle Public Library, WA [Page 94]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2010 August
Nailer, a teenager living in the American gulf coast in the distant future, has a dangerous, low-paying job as a ship breaker. Small and nimble, he puts his life on the line daily while scavenging ships for copper wiring from oil tankers to fuel corporate greed, while Nailer and his gang struggle to afford food, shelter, and clothing, not to mention sufficient protective work gear Nailer's home life is bleak: his mother is dead and his father is addicted to crystal slide and abusing his son. When Nailer and his friend Pima discover an abandoned ship filled with valuables, it seems they have found an escape route. But Nailer's conscience gets in the way when he realizes that the ship's owner, a beautiful teenage girl, is still alive and needs his help. In his first book for young adults, Bacigalupi, an award-winning novelist, has created a dystopia where loyalty, integrity, and warmth seem to be slipping away, but class consciousness is still prevalent. From the very beginning, there is trouble, warning readers to hold on because scene after scene will be filled with adventure, fighting, murder, and desperation. Librarians should definitely add this book to science fiction collections. Teens will not be disappointed.--KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2010 Voya Reviews.