The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

Mahalia and Mouse are “war maggots,” children orphaned by the violent and ever changing civil war that has ravaged the bleak futuristic landscape of the United States eastern coast, and caused the Chinese peacekeepers to cut their losses and flee. They find temporary safety and shelter with Doctor Mahfouz, a kind physician who works hard helping their small village of civilian survivors stay alive. But when the United Patriot Front, a ragged gang of young men and child soldiers, invade Banyan Town while on the hunt for an escaped genetically engineered canine soldier named Tool (one of my all-time favorite characters), Mahalia and Mouse are dragged back into the danger and chaos of the civil war that destroyed their families and took Mahalia’s hand. In this dark companion novel to the Printz award- winning Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi paints a terrifying picture of a future that looks frighteningly similar to recent conflicts involving child soldiers in countries like Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Though Bacigalupi’s precise, crisp prose and masterful plotting was as excellent as expected, I had a very hard time finishing this book because Mahalia and Mouse’s situation is so grim, the violence they endure is so pervasive, and any hope they find is brutally snatched away. But I know my reaction is no doubt what the author intended. Because if the readers of this book, and others that chronicle the real lives of child soldiers, are inspired to take action as a result of what they have read, then maybe someday the global epidemic of war and violence against children will end.  A piercing, powerful book that will sear itself on your heart and soul.

7 thoughts on “The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

  1. Piercing, powerful, and emotionally intense? I shall brace myself before reading, but read it I shall. LOVED Ship Breaker and found parts of that to be almost too intense to continue.

  2. Ah! I JUST wrote this down to check out. Sounds so interesting and exactly up my alley. Super pumped! Thank you for all the book suggestions! I now have about two and half pages of books to buy and/or look up thanks to this site. My parents won’t thank you due to all my money being spent on books in the near future, but I most certainly do.

    [Lisa, thanks to you, I will now look up Ship Breaker as well. I’ve heard great things about it!]

  3. Xander – ask your librarian if he/she can get it for you through “Interlibrary Loan”. It very often works!!

  4. Hi Jen, I will be posting my review on Goodreads and yes I loved this book but I found the torture and the horrors of war so unnerving!

  5. Hi,

    I’m reading The Drowned Cities at the moment but being a non-native speaker of English I can’t understand what is meant by “nailshed girls”. I looked the phrase up in several dictionaries but couldn’t find a clue. It’s obviously a prostitute of a kind but for me it’s interesting to get the exact meaning. Can anybody help? Thanks….

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