In a dirty near future where children risk their lives scavenging scrap metal in order eat one more day, Nailer is a ship breaker. He and his crew swarm over long abandoned rusted oil tankers hunting for copper wiring and hidden caches of black gold. His life is mean, hard and cheap and every day that he dives back into the depths of the old ships, he knows he may not make it back. But what is his alternative? His mother is a distant memory, while his sociopathic, drug addicted father is so terrifying Nailer would rather spend the night in a pitch-black hold than go back to their shabby little beach shack. Ship breakers pray for that one big lucky break, and one day, Nailer gets his. A devastating hurricane, a “city killer” levels the beach where he lives and works, bringing with it a marooned clipper ship full of valuable salvage. On board, he discovers a “swank,” a rich, beautiful teenage girl who is dripping with gold and nearly dead. His decision to save her instead of murder her for her jewels changes his life irreparably. Suddenly he is thrust into a bewildering world of corporate corruption, high-speed chases and brutal violence. But his hard upbringing serves him well–if Nailer knows one thing, it’s how to survive. It is only when his murderous father appears seeking revenge for what he believes is Nailer’s betrayal does the intrepid man-boy falter. His father is worse than any monster Nailer has faced so far. Does he have the courage to fight the one person faster and smarter than himself? This dystopian environmental thriller is magnificent in its pacing, characterization and world building. When Nailer arrived in the drowned city of Orleans, I got a shiver down my spine imagining that rich metropolis abandoned to hurricanes and left to turn into a rotting hulk. While the action is fast and furious, sci-fi master Paolo Bacigalupi doesn’t sacrifice an iota of characterization. Nailer and his supporting cast of canine half-men, courageous ship captains and crafty orphan naïfs come to life on the page—I felt as though I were reading about a present that was instead of a future that may be. Imagine all that in a book that clocks in under 350 pages. I’m getting pretty tired of big books that seem bloated with unnecessary detail, but no worries here, THIS Ship is t-i-g-h-t. Batten down the hatches, lift anchor and prepare to set sail with Nailer on a gritty adventure of a lifetime!
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi