In America's flooded Gulf Coast region, oil is scarce, but loyalty is scarcer. Grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts by crews of young people. Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or by chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life....
In this powerful novel, Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a fast-paced adventure set in the vivid and raw, uncertain future of his companion novels The Drowned Cities and Tool of War.
"Suzanne Collins may have put dystopian literature on the YA map with The Hunger Games...but Bacigalupi is one of the genre's masters, employing inventively terrifying details in equally imaginative story lines." --Los Angeles Times
A New York Times Bestseller
A Michael L. Printz Award Winner
A National Book Award Finalist
A VOYA 2010 Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers Book
A Rolling Stone 40 Best YA Novels Book
About the Author
Paolo Bacigalupi is the New York Times bestselling author of the highly acclaimed The Drowned Cities and Ship Breaker, a Michael L. Printz Award winner and a National Book Award finalist. He is also the author of the Edgar Awards nominee The Doubt Factory; a novel for younger readers, Zombie Baseball Beatdown; and two bestselling adult novels for adults, The Water Knife and The Windup Girl. His first work of collected short fiction was Pump Six and Other Stories. The winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, John W. Campbell Memorial, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he lives in western Colorado with his wife and son. The author invites you to visit his website at windupstories.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Bacigalupi, Paolo
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2010 Bacigalupi, Paolo
All right reserved.
NAILER CLAMBERED THROUGH a service duct, tugging at copper wire and yanking it free. Ancient asbestos fibers and mouse grit puffed up around him as the wire tore loose. He scrambled deeper into the duct, jerking more wire from its aluminum staples. The staples pinged about the cramped metal passage like coins offered to the Scavenge God, and Nailer felt after them eagerly, hunting for their dull gleam and collecting them in a leather bag he kept at his waist. He yanked again at the wiring. A meter’s worth of precious copper tore loose in his hands and dust clouds enveloped him.
The LED glowpaint smeared on Nailer’s forehead gave a dim green phosphorescent view of the service ducts that made up his world. Grime and salt sweat stung his eyes and trickled around the edges of his filter mask. With one scarred hand, he swiped at the salty rivulets, careful to avoid rubbing off the LED paint. The paint itched and drove him crazy, but he didn’t relish finding his way back out of the mazelike ducts in blind blackness, so he let his forehead itch and again surveyed his position.
Rusty pipes ran ahead of him, disappearing into darkness. Some iron, some steel—heavy crew would be the ones to deal with that. Nailer only cared about the light stuff—the copper wiring, the aluminum, the nickel, the steel clips that could be sacked and dragged out through the ducts to his light crew waiting outside.
Nailer turned to continue down the service passage, but as he did he banged his head on the duct ceiling. The noise from his collision echoed loud, as if he were sitting inside a Christian church bell. Dust cascaded into his hair. Despite the filter mask, he started coughing as powder leaked in around the poorly sealed edges. He sneezed, then sneezed again, eyes watering. He pulled the mask away and wiped his face, then pressed it back over his mouth and nose, willing the stickum to seal but not holding out much hope.
The mask was a hand-me-down, given to him by his father. It itched and never sealed quite right because it was the wrong size, but it was all Nailer had. On its side, faded words said: DISCARD AFTER 40 HOURS USE. But Nailer didn’t have another, and no one else did either. He was lucky to have a mask at all, even if the microfibers were beginning to shred from repeated scrubbings in the ocean.
Sloth, his crewgirl, made fun of him whenever he washed the mask, asking why he even bothered. It just made the hellish duct work hotter and more uncomfortable. There was no point, she said. Sometimes he thought she was right. But Pima’s mother told him and Pima to use the masks no matter what, and for sure there was a lot of black grime in the filters when he immersed them in the ocean. That was the black that wasn’t in his lungs, Pima’s mother said, so he kept on with the mask, even though he felt like he was smothering every time he sucked humid tropic air through the clogged breath-wet fibers.
A voice echoed down into the duct. “You got the wire?”
Sloth. Calling in from where she waited outside.
“Almost done!” Nailer scrambled a little farther into the duct, ripping more staples, hurriedly yanking extra copper loose. The duct’s passage went on, but he had enough. He slashed the wire free with the serrated back of his work knife.
“We’re good!” he shouted.
Sloth’s acknowledging shout echoed back. “Clear!”
The wire whipped away from him, slithering through the crawlspaces, raising dust clouds as it moved. Far down the maze of ducts, Sloth was cranking away at a winding drum, sweat bright on her skin, blond hair pasted slick to her face as she sucked the wire out like a rice noodle from a bowl of Chen’s soup ration.
Nailer took his knife and hacked Bapi’s light crew code above the place where he had clipped the wire. The symbol matched the swirling tattoos on Nailer’s cheeks, the labor marks that gave him a right to work the wrecks under Bapi’s supervision. Nailer took out a bit of powdered paint and spit on it, mixing it in his palm, before smearing it over the mark. Now, even from a distance, his scratches gave off an iridescent glow. He used his finger and the remaining paint to write a string of memorized numerals below the symbol: LC57-1844. Bapi’s permit code. No one else was competing for this stretch right now, but it was good to mark the territory.
Nailer gathered the rest of the aluminum staples and scuttled back through the ducting on hands and knees, skirting weak points where the metal wasn’t well supported, listening to his own echoes and thumps and ringing taps against the steel as he hustled out, all his senses testing for signs that the ducts might break.
His little phosphor LED showed the dust snake slither where the copper cables had gone before him. He crawled over desiccated rat bodies and their nests. Even here, in the belly of an old oil tanker, there were rats, but these ones had died a long time ago. He crawled over more bones, small ones that came from cats and bits of birds. Feathers and fluff floated in the air. This close to the outside world, the access ducts were a graveyard for all sorts of lost creatures.
Ahead, sunlight showed, a glaring brightness. Nailer squinted as he clawed toward the light, thinking that this was what rebirth must be like for the Life Cult, this climbing toward blazing clean sunshine, and then he spilled out of the duct and onto hot steel decking.
He tore off his mask, gasping.
Bright tropic sunlight and ocean salt breezes bathed him. All around, sledgehammers rang against iron as swarms of men and women clambered over the ancient oil tanker, tearing it apart. Heavy crews peeled away iron panels with acetylene torches and sent them wafting off the sides like palm leaves, crashing to the beach sands below, where more crews dragged the scavenge above high tide. Light crews like Nailer’s tore at the ship’s small fittings, stripping copper, brass, nickel, aluminum, and stainless steel. Others hunted for hidden petrol and ship oil pockets, bucketing out the valuable fluid. An ant’s nest of activity, all dedicated to rendering this extinct ship’s bones into something usable for a new world.
“Took you long enough,” Sloth said.
She hammered at their spool’s securing clips, releasing it from the winding spindle. Her pale skin gleamed in the sunlight, her own swirling work tattoos almost black against the flush of her cheeks. Sweat ran down her neck. Her blond hair was chopped short, much like his own, to keep it from catching in the thousands of crevices and whirling bits of machinery that studded their work place.
“We’re in deep,” Nailer said. “Plenty of service wiring, but it takes a long time to get to it.”
“You always got an excuse.”
“Quit complaining. We’ll make quota.”
“We better,” Sloth said. “Bapi’s saying there’s another light crew buying scavenge rights.”
Nailer made a face. “Big surprise.”
“Yeah. This was too good to last for long. Gimme a hand.”
Nailer got on the other side of the spool. They lifted it from its spindle, grunting. Together, they tipped the spool sidewise and let it fall to the rusted deck with a clang. Shoulder to shoulder, they leaned into the weight, legs flexing, teeth gritted.
The spool slowly began to roll. Nailer’s bare feet burned against the sun-blasted decking. The cant of the ship made for hard pushing, but under their combined effort, the spool slowly rumbled forward, crunching over blistered preservative paint and loosened metal deck plates.
From the height of the tanker’s deck, Bright Sands Beach stretched into the distance, a tarred expanse of sand and puddled seawater, littered with the savaged bodies of other oil tankers and freighters. Some were completely whole, as if crazy sea captains had simply decided to steer the kilometer-long ships onto the sand and then walked away. Others were flayed and stripped, showing rusty iron girder bones. Hulls lay like chunks of cleavered fish: a conning tower here, a crew quarters there, the prow of an oil tanker pointing straight up to the sky.
It was as if the Scavenge God had come amongst the ships, slashing and chopping, dicing the huge iron vessels into pieces, and then left the corpses scattered carelessly behind. And wherever the huge ships lay, scavenge gangs like Nailer’s swarmed like flies. Chewing away at iron meat and bones. Dragging the old world’s flesh up the beach to the scrap weighing scales and the recycling smelters that burned 24-7 for the profit of Lawson & Carlson, the company that made all the cash from the blood and sweat of the ship breakers.
Nailer and Sloth paused for a moment, breathing hard, leaning against the heavy spool. Nailer wiped the sweat out of his eyes. Far out on the horizon, the oily black of the ocean turned blue, reflecting sky and sun. White caps foamed. The air around Nailer was hazed with the black work of shoreline smelters, but out there, beyond the smoke, he could see sails. The new clipper ships. Replacements for the massive coal- and oil-burning wrecks that he and his crew worked to destroy all day long: gull-white sails, carbon-fiber hulls, and faster than anything except a maglev train.
Nailer’s eyes followed a clipper ship as it sliced across the waters, sleek and fast and completely out of reach. It was possible that some of the copper on his spool would eventually sail away on a ship like that, first hauled by train to the Orleans, then transferred to a clipper’s cargo hold, where it would be carried across the ocean to whatever people or country could afford the scavenge.
Bapi had a poster of a clipper ship from Libeskind, Brown & Mohanraj. It connected to his reusable wall calendar and showed a clipper with high-altitude parasails extended far above it—sails that Bapi said could reach the jet streams and yank a clipper across smooth ocean at more than fifty-five knots, flying above the waves on hydrofoils, tearing through foam and salt water, slicing across the ocean to Africa and India, to the Europeans and the Nipponese.
Nailer stared at the distant sails hungrily, wondering at the places they went, and whether any of them were better than his own.
“Nailer! Sloth! Where the hell have you been?”
Nailer jerked from his reverie. Pima was waving up at them from the tanker’s lower deck, looking annoyed.
“We’re waiting for you, crewboy!”
“Boss girl on the prowl,” Sloth muttered.
Nailer grimaced. Pima was the oldest of them, and it made her bossy. Even his own long friendship with her didn’t shelter him when they were behind quota.
He and Sloth turned their attention back to the spool. With another series of grunts they heaved it over the ship’s warped decking and rolled it to where a rudimentary crane had been set up. They hitched the spool to rusted iron hooks, then grabbed the crane cable and jumped aboard the spool as it descended, swaying and spinning to the lower deck.
Pima and the rest of the light crew swarmed around them as they hit bottom. They unclipped the spool and rolled it over to where they’d set up their stripping operation near the oil tanker’s prow. Lengths of discarded insulation from the electrical wire lay everywhere, along with the gleaming rolls of copper that they’d collected, stacked in careful lines, and marked with Bapi’s light crew claim mark, the same swirled symbol that scarred all their cheeks.
Everyone started unreeling sections of Nailer’s new haul, parting the lengths out amongst themselves. They worked quickly, accustomed to one another and the labor: Pima, their boss girl, taller than the rest and filling out like a woman, black as oil and hard as iron. Sloth, skinny and pale, bones and knots of knees and dirty blond hair, the next candidate for duct-and-scuttle work when Nailer got too big, her pale skin almost permanently sunburned and peeling. Moon Girl, the shade of brown rice, whose nailshed mother had died with the last run of malaria and who worked light crew harder than anyone else because she’d seen the alternative, her ears and lips and nose decorated with scavenged steel wire that she’d driven through her flesh in the hope that no one would ever want her the way they’d wanted her mother. Tick-tock, nearsighted and always squinting at everything around him, almost as black as Pima but nowhere near as smart, fast with his hands as long as you told him what do with them, and he never got bored. Pearly, the Hindu who told them stories about Shiva and Kali and Krishna and who was lucky enough to have both a mother and a father who worked oil scavenge; black hair and dark tropic skin and a hand missing three fingers from an accident with the winding drum.
And then there was Nailer. Some people, like Pearly, knew who they were and where they came from. Pima knew her mother came up from the last of the islands across the Gulf. Pearly told everyone who would listen that he was 100 percent Indian—Hindu Marwari through and through. Even Sloth said that her people were Irish. Nailer was nothing like that. He had no idea what he was. Half of something, a quarter of something else, brown skin and black hair like his dead mother, but with weird pale blue eyes like his father.
Pearly had taken one look at Nailer’s pale eyes and claimed he was spawned by demons. But Pearly made things up all the time. He said Pima was Kali reincarnated—which was why her skin was so black, and why she was so damn mean when they were behind quota. Even so, the truth was that Nailer shared his father’s eyes and his father’s wiry build, and Richard Lopez was a demon for sure. No one could argue that. Sober, the man was scary. Drunk, he was a demon.
Nailer unwound a section of wire and squatted down on the blazing deck. He crimped the wire with his pliers and ripped off a sleeve of insulation, revealing the shining copper core.
Did it again. And again.
Pima squatted beside him with her own length of wire. “Took you long enough to bring out this load.”
Nailer shrugged. “Nothing’s close in anymore. I had to go a long way to find it.”
“That’s what you always say.”
“You want to go into the hole, you can.”
“I’ll go in,” Sloth volunteered.
Nailer gave her a dirty look. Pearly snorted. “You don’t have the sense of a half-man. You’d get lost like Jackson Boy and then we’d get no scavenge at all.”
Sloth made a sharp gesture. “Grind it, Pearly. I never get lost.”
“Even in the dark? When all the ducts look the same?” Pearly spat toward the edge of the ship. Missed and hit the rail instead. “Crews on Deep Blue III heard Jackson Boy calling out for days. Couldn’t find him, though. Little licebiter finally just dried up and died.”
“Bad way to go,” Tick-tock commented. “Thirsty. In the dark. Alone.”
“Shut up, you two,” Moon Girl said. “You want the dead to hear you calling?”
Pearly shrugged. “We’re just saying Nailer always makes quota.”
“Shit.” Sloth ran a hand through sweaty blond hair. “I’d get twenty times the scavenge Nailer gets.”
Nailer laughed. “Go on in, then. We’ll see if you come out alive.”
“You already filled the spool.”
“Tough grind for you, then.”
Pima tapped Nailer’s shoulder. “I’m serious about the scavenge. We had downtime waiting for you.”
Nailer met Pima’s eyes. “I make quota. You don’t like my work, then go in yourself.”
Pima pursed her lips, annoyed. It was an empty suggestion, and they both knew it. She’d gotten too big, and had the scabs and scars on her spine and elbows and knees to prove it. Light crew needed small bodies. Most kids got bounced off the crew by the time they hit their midteens, even if they starved themselves to keep their size down. If Pima weren’t such a good crew boss, she’d already be on the beach, hungry and begging for anything that came her way. Instead, she had another year, maybe, to bulk up enough to compete against hundreds of others for openings in heavy crew. But her time was running out, and everyone knew it.
Pima said, “You wouldn’t be so cocky if your dad wasn’t such a whip-wire. You’d be in the same position as me.”
“Well, that’s one thing I can thank him for, then.”
If his father was any indication, Nailer would never be huge. Fast, maybe, but never big. Tick-tock’s dad claimed that none of them would grow that big anyway, because of the calories they didn’t eat. Said that people up in Seascape Boston were still tall, though. Had plenty of money, and plenty of food. Never went hungry. Got fat and tall…
Nailer had felt his belly up against his spine enough times that he wondered what it would be like to have so much food. Wondered how it would feel to never wake in the middle of the night with his teeth chewing on his lips, fooling himself into thinking that he was about to eat meat. But it was a stupid fantasy. Seascape Boston sounded a little too much like Christian Heaven, or the way the Scavenge God promised a life of ease, if you could just find the right offering to burn with your body when you went to his scales.
Either way, you had to die to get there.
The work went on. Nailer stripped more wire, tossing the junk insulation over the ship’s side. The sun beat down on everyone. Their skins gleamed. Salt sweat jewels soaked their hair and dripped into their eyes. Their hands turned slick with work, and their crew tattoos shone like intricate knots on their flushed faces. For a little while they talked and joked but gradually fell silent, working the rhythm of scavenge, building piles of copper for whoever was rich enough to afford it.
“Boss man coming!”
The warning call came up from the waters below. Everyone hunkered down, looking busy, waiting to see who would appear at the rail. If it was someone else’s boss, they could relax—
Nailer grimaced as their crew boss clambered up over the rail, huffing. His black hair gleamed, and his potbelly made it hard for him to climb, but there was money involved, so the bastard managed.
Bapi leaned against the rail, regaining his breath. Sweat darkened the tank top that he wore for work. Yellow and brown stains of whatever curry or sandwich he’d eaten for lunch dotted the material. It made Nailer hungry just looking at all that food on Bapi’s chest, but there was no meal coming until evening, and there was no point looking at food Bapi would never share.
Bapi’s quick brown eyes studied them, alert for signs that they’d gone lazy and weren’t serious about scavenging for quota. Even though none of them had been idle before, with Bapi watching they all worked faster, trying to demonstrate they were worth keeping. Bapi had been light crew himself once; he knew their ways, knew the tricks of laziness. It made him dangerous.
“What you got?” he asked Pima.
Pima glanced up, squinting into the sun. “Copper. Lots. Nailer found new ducts that Gorgeous’s crew missed.”
Bapi’s teeth flashed white, showing the front gap where a fight had cost him his incisors. “How much?”
Pima jerked her head at Nailer, giving him permission.
“Maybe hundred, hundred and twenty kilos so far,” Nailer estimated. “There’s more down there.”
“Yeah?” Bapi nodded. “Well, hurry and get it out. Don’t worry about stripping it. Just make sure you get it all.” He looked out toward the horizon. “Lawson & Carlson says a storm’s coming. Big one. We’re going to be off the wrecks for a couple days. I want enough wire that you can work it on the sand.”
Nailer stifled his distaste at the thought of going back down into the blackness, but Bapi must have caught something of his expression.
“Got a problem, Nailer? You think a storm means you get to sit on your ass?” Bapi waved toward the work camps strung along the beach’s jungle edge. “You think I can’t get a hundred other licebiters to take your place? There’s kids down there who’d let me cut out an eye if it would get them up on a wreck.”
Pima interceded. “He’s got no problem. You want the wire, we’ll get it. No problem.” She glared at Nailer. “We’re your crew, boss. No problem at all.”
They all nodded emphatically. Nailer got to his feet and handed the rest of his wire over to Tick-tock. “No problem, boss,” he repeated.
Bapi scowled at Nailer. “You sure you vouch for him, Pima? I can put a knife through this one’s crew tats and dump him on the sand.”
“He’s good scavenge,” she said. “We’re ahead on quota ’cause of him.”
“Yeah?” Bapi relented slightly. “Well, you’re boss girl. I don’t interfere.” He eyed Nailer. “You watch it, boy. I know how your kind thinks. Always imagining you’re going to be a Lucky Strike. Pretending you’ll find some big old oil pocket and never work another day in your life. Your old man was a lazy bastard like that. Look how he turned out.”
Nailer felt a rising anger. “I don’t talk about your dad.”
Bapi laughed. “What? You gonna fight me, boy? Try and pigstick me from behind the way your old man would?” Bapi touched his knife. “Pima vouches for you, but I’m wondering if you got the sense to know how much of a favor she’s doing.”
“Let it go, Nailer,” Pima urged. “Your dad’s not worth it.”
Bapi watched, smiling slightly. His hand lingered close to his knife. Bapi had all the cards, and they both knew it. Nailer ducked his head and forced down his anger.
“I’ll get your scavenge, boss. No problem.”
Bapi gave Nailer a sharp nod. “Smarter than your old man, then.” He turned to the rest of the crew. “Listen up, everyone. We don’t have a lot of time. If you get the extra scavenge out before the storm, I’ll bonus you. There’s another light crew coming on soon. We don’t want to leave them any easy pickings, right?”
He grinned, feral, and they all nodded back. “No easy pickings,” they echoed.
Excerpted from Ship Breaker by Bacigalupi, Paolo Copyright © 2010 by Bacigalupi, Paolo. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A lot of teen boys have been looking for a male equivalent to the Hunger Games. This is it. Semi-post-apocalyse seems to be coming into style, and this book could head up that craze. I would not be suprised if this was the hot teen book of the summer. Teens and adults alike can enjoy this gripping and well written novel.
I was intrigued by all the acclaim and attention this book has been getting. The world the author creates is visceral and haunting, especially when you think that it could be our world a few hundred years from now--that might the most powerful thing about the novel. The characters were good and the plot compelling, and there was plenty of action...but somehow when I had gotten to the end of a couple hundred pages, my reaction was--"and that's it?" I enjoyed the novel, yet I wished he had managed a bit more scope for it. Perhaps he's intending a sequel. I would definitely read it if he writes one.
Honestly, I wasn't expecting much from this book, given the author's name. Silly, but true--an author's pen name can make or brake the reception of a book. Anyway, this fantastic little treasure introduces us to a post-apocalyptic/dystopian world in which petrol is all but gone and a good portion of America's south is "swimming with the fishes." Haha. This world is one in which our cars are extreme luxuries, reserved for the "swanks" of the world. Our protagonist definitely does not fit this title. He works as a ship breaker in the light crew, stripping the insides of rusted old buckets, that are our cruise ships and tankers today, of their useful metals. Salvage. After growing too large to navigate the small crevices of the ships, the only hope one has is to grow large enough to make the heavy crew, or make a "Lucky Strike." Nailer, the lead role, lives on a small beach with an abusive father and helpful friend, working day-in and day-out in asbestos, rat droppings, and oil fumes for a meager wage that barely feeds him and pays for his father's addictions. But he's always dreamed of a better world, the world the swanks have on their fast little ships and in their cozy homes. Little does he know, the city-killer (a hurricane of epic proportions) is just the answer to his dreams. Check out this book if you enjoyed the Hunger Games, Battle Royale, Divergent, 1984, or anything of the like!
Action from the get-go, takes a little bit to get to the main story line, but it is truly such a good read. If you're finding yourself disinterested at first, push through it anyway and you'll find yourself loving it.
I totally agree with the professional reviewers who have extremely positive things to say about SHIP BREAKER, and I think the 2 book awards it received were justfied. I am a grandmother in her mid 60s who read this book to determine if it would be exciting and interestng, as well as appropriate, as a gift for two of my grandsons in their teens. I was totally surprised to find that the story and characters gripped me and kept me so interested that I had trouble putting the book down. Needless to say, I purchased 2 copies as Christmas gifts for the boys! Yes, this book is often grim and violent but some of the characters prove that people can transcend their upbringing and environment if they remain true to a worthy moral code, even under difficult, life-threatening circumstances. I'm looking forward to the sequel due out in May 2012. I think this series could be just as good as HUNGER GAMES and would also make a great movie.
Truly incredible book. Lots of action and intrigue make this book one of the must-read books this summer.
READ IT you will not regret it it is a very thrilling book for readers 13 and up
I looooove this book reading for school. Amazing book crazy that he survived the wreakage. Go nailer!
the pacing at first was a little slow but the plot and characters are great and the world that Bacigalupi created is amazing
Excellent, interesting story. Can't wait for the second book in the series. It says its for young readers, but I think it might be too violent for my kids.
Finally, something different. Ship Breaker is great because it's not something that's been done over and over. You've got to give credit to anyone that can come up with an original story. Suspenseful and interesting.
Great adventure story, reminded me of the hunger games by the way of survival. Excellent book couldnt put it done
I really liked the imagination and the composition of Ship Breakers. Bacigalupi has a great vision for the story and I can't wait to see where it goes next. The writing was absorbing, as I was completely lost in the story. If you liked Hunger Games and Incarceron, give this book a try!
I read this in one sitting, which wasn't my intent since I had work to do. Bacigalupi creates a visceral and completely believable future in which oil shortages have changed the world. Nailer, the sixteen year old protagonist, pulled me through the story with him because I was worried about him. He's that real. Shipbreaker is a seriously good book and full of seat of the pants escapes.
Um, wow. This book was just awesome. I mean, there is a lot of great YA out there, but this is some of the best I've read in a while. In a future where the Gulf Coast is characterized by its drowned cities, the divide between rich and poor is wider than ever, and a few powerful trade families control it all, Nailer is at the bottom of the totem pole. Nailer works as a ship breaker on "light crew," stripping grounded oil tankers for copper wiring and brass fittings, anything that will help them fill quota. When he isn't risking his life at work, Nailer must constantly try to keep his abusive, drug-addicted, and very dangerous father happy - not an easy task. He knows when his dad is "sliding high," and knows well enough to avoid him when he can. When Nailer's beach is pounded by a terribly powerful hurricane - what has become known as a "city killer" - he and his friend Pima come across a grounded clipper ship, full of more wealth than they thought possible. It's their ticket to a better life, if only they can keep it a secret for long enough to strip the scavenge from it and claim it as their own. But when they find it has a survivor, the wealthy and beautiful Nita, Nailer has a choice to make. The gold rings on her fingers alone are worth more than any scavenge they could get from the ship - Pima insists that the smart thing to do would be to kill her, and Nailer knows she's right. Yet having had a close brush with death himself only days before, Nailer can't bring himself to let Pima do it. To let her live would be to risk everything - not only the scavenge, but his life as he knows it - and it's the most important choice Nailer will ever make. I just couldn't put this one down. Fast-paced and full of action, it also manages to ponder some serious issues. To make the leap from today's reality to the dystopian society in Ship Breaker isn't all that difficult - in fact, it's probably not that far off from the way thousands live in third-world countries. To see places so familiar to us with those economic and social conditions is what makes it scary. One thing I really liked about the world he's created is that the scope is revealed to us bit by bit, rather than all at once. From revealing the fate of New Orleans to showing just how disparate the distribution of wealth is, the world that Nailer inhabits is always gaining another layer. Speaking of Nailer, he's a great character - over the course of the book, he grapples with the meanings of family, wealth, and humanity itself, adding some real meat to the story. It's a bit dark, but very well written - Bacigalupi has a style that's almost stark, and it worked very well for the book as a whole. I enjoyed every page of this book from the time I was sucked in on the first page, and it's one you should definitely keep on your radar! *Review of ARC
Nailer is a ship breaker on a familiar but altered American coast. In actuality it's all familiar, but altered in this YA adventure that manages an apocalyptic future for younger readers. If your preteen starts asking you why you don't own a EV or when the coast will drown your city they've been reading Paolo's works.
You¿ve got to be both smart and lucky to survive as a ship breaker on Bright Sands Beach. Life is bleak, eking a living by scavenging parts from beached tankers in a world where sea levels have risen dramatically due to climate change and huge hurricanes called City Killers regularly devastate the Gulf Coast.Nailer is a teenager who earns the nickname Lucky Boy after narrowly escaping death when a ship¿s duct collapsed, dropping him into a tank of crude oil. But after the lucky windfall of finding a wrecked clipper ship, why can he not bring himself to make the smart decision and choose riches from scavenging it over rescuing the half dead girl he finds on board? All of his upbringing and family experience say that life is cheap and a Lucky Strike like this is to grabbed with both hands. Perhaps it is his own near-death experience that makes him choose to do the right thing instead of the smart thing.What follows is an action-packed adventure as Nailer and his crew-mate Pima try to protect Nita from Nailer¿s own father and the violence of Bright Sands Beach while seeking to reunite her with her own swank, shipping magnate family. Along the way, Nailer must come to grips with his own identity. Is he really a younger version of his father and, if so, is he destined to act as evilly as his father? What role does his environment play in who he is? He struggles as his personal sense of right is at odds with everything his experience on the light crew has taught him to date. Supported by his crew-mate Pima and her mother, he finds himself at odds with his own father and wonders what makes someone family. Is it blood? Or is it ties of love and loyalty?The character Tool provides a counterpoint to Nailer¿s questions of what determines identity. Tool is a half-man, part human mixed with the genes of animals including dogs and tigers. Half-men are bred to be loyal to the death, supposedly incapable of living independently of their patron. Yet Tool has no patron and chooses for himself how to live his life, in conflict with the genetic engineering that created him. Can Nailer learn to apply such independence to his own life choices?While Bacigalupi explores deeper themes of identity and family relationships, the action and plot never suffer. Nailer is swept along to Orleans, the successor city to flooded New Orleans, and even out to sea. Can he survive as fate drops him into situations for which he has no skills? Is it worth the struggle to try to reunite Nita with her family? And is it possible to escape the life of being a ship breaker? I wholeheartedly endorse the choice of Ship Breaker to receive the Michael L. Printz award for excellence in Young Adult literature.
Nailer Lopez lives on a Gulf Coast beach in a dystopian future. To survive he works on a crew that scavenges beached ships and oil tankers for wire, scrap metal, and fuel. It is a harsh, primitive, and dangerous way of life. Out in the distance Nailer can see the modern clipper ships that fly over the waves, and longs to be on one. In this future world there are also human/dog hybrid slaves, crews who salvage body parts, the very wealthy "swank", and the very poor. At the center of the story is Nailer's love/hate relationship with his abusive drug-addicted father. One day a storm shipwrecks one of the clipper ships. The wreck could be Nailer's "Lucky Strike", however, he discovers the owner, a girl, still alive in the wreck. Thus begins a series of events that require Nailer to make life and death decisions, in this fast paced, gritty, Sci-Fi adventure story.
Ship Breaker is definitely one of those dystopian novels that scares the pants off you. You know, the kind of story that¿s built around a world the reader could actually see becoming a reality. Yea, this book is that type of dystopian.Set in a post apocalyptic Gulf Coast region ¿ New Orleans and surrounding areas have been virtually wiped out by ¿city killers¿. Described as larger than life hurricanes, these storms decimated whole urban areas and swept them under the sea. As a result of the devastation beach dwelling colonies arose to perform the task of salvaging what was left. Most specifically anything and everything that can be removed from old ship wrecks. This is where readers meet Nailer and his crew of scavengers for hire. In Bright Sands Beach they are one of the resident ¿light crews¿ crawling down into a shipwreck¿s smallest and tightest places to retrieve valuables for swanky bigwig¿s.I admit, for awhile I found it difficult to follow who really was who. The introduction of so many characters in a very short period of time had them all sort of bleeding into each other for awhile. This difficulty arose from the fact that most everyone was described the same way. They all had the same job and had many of the same characteristics. Sure, there were some notable differences between each but there wasn¿t a lot to distinguish different characters until some of the larger plot started to play out. I was finally able to wrap my head around it some when they started going their separate ways. I was able to gain much more focus then.The bulk of the plot revolved around Nailer, Pima and Lucky Girl¿s quest to find their way back to the latter¿s family safely. Family being one of the issues delved into as well. It was fast-paced, interesting and filled with a fair amount of intrigue. Don¿t worry, though there were some sparks of romance was in the air it wasn¿t a large part of the story. There were subtle hints here and there that feelings were increasing between Nailer and one of the lovely ladies in his company but it wasn¿t the prevailing point of the story. This worked in its favor as this story really wasn¿t about love, it was about people.The strength of Ship Breaker is in the world that Bacigalupi has built. We can feel the grime and and taste the salt in the water air. I kept envisioning a world that looked like one of those disaster movies where the Statue of Liberty¿s head is sticking out of 400 feet of water. Bright Sands Beach was interesting, one the one hand it was as dark and seedy as the scariest back alley, yet it still had pockets of purity. Then when on the sea and in the Orleans areas I got a very distinct old world vibe. It was, without a doubt, the best part of the book.Ultimately I will say that this wasn¿t my most favorite dystopian, however, it¿s a pretty dang good one. An interesting departure from those that tend to focus a bit more on the more futuristic qualities. It was real (dare I say current), there is no mistaking that. It was compelling, no mistaking that either. Know that if you read Ship Breaker you¿re in for a very distinct and quality read.
Another tale of environmental disaster by Bacigalupi! This book follows a young man named Nailer, who's one of the eponymous ship breakers. These workers break down ships left after the current global economy collapsed, and sell the spare parts to the recycler conglomerates. It's an existence on the edge, showing the desperation of the life and the bonds that form between people when their lives depend on each other - and what happens when those bonds are broken.The plot sets in motion after a storm wrecks the beach shantytown where Nailer lives, and also washes up a cutting-edge ship with one surviving girl (Nita) on it. Against his own material interests, Nailer defends Nita against those who would sell her to the highest bidder, and thus starts their journey to confront her history.The book is a coming-of-age story, so you already know that Nailer will have to confront his own past as well as Nita's. The story overall is well plotted, the end is excitingly written, and while the story reaches a natural stopping point I found myself wishing for a sequel.
Having a maritime background made this book even more thrilling for me. Communities of ship breakers exist in the Indian Ocean and I can imagine that life is similarly dangerous and violent for them as it is portrayed in this book. Nailer is a teenager who works as a scavenger on old oil-powered vessels that are washed up on the shore. He discovers a sailing ship (no more oil in this dystopia) that was caught in a typically violent storm known as a "city killer" and rescues a girl caught in the damage. Trying to stay clear of his drugged up, violent father, Nailer tries to help Nita avoid capture by her father's enemies and reconnect with her father's friends.A real page turner. Lovers of the Hunger Games series should find this book exciting too.
One of the coolest books I've read in a while, think Mad Max meets Huckleberry Finn in a post-apocalyptic world where the ruined hulks of the old world are scavenged down to nothing by Light Crew (kids) and Heavy Crew (adults). Thirteen year-old Nailer is Light Crew (you can tell by the tattoos on his face) and lives in a world of violence, loyalty, discipline and work. After a huge storm almost kills his entire settlement, he finds a wrecked clipper and a half-dead swank. His own near-death experience days before convinces him to help her get to safety--if they can survive the journey. Action-packed, suspenseful and quite dark but heartening.
I never made it through Bacigalupi's Windup Girl, but thought I'd give his YA novel a try and I'm glad I did. Ship Breaker is a clever, though at times slightly harrowing, novel about a young boy trying to survive -- the world at large, his boss and his father. It's a novel about adventure, about the differences between the ship breakers (the people who break down ships and sell what they can) and those who own ships -- aka the upper class. Bacigalupi's novel is exceptionally well written and thrilling throughout.
Nailer is a ship breaker - he crawls through the ductwork of hold oil-burning ships to scavenge copper and other materials for recycling. After a major storm, he and a friend find a wrecked ship - with a living rich girl aboard. Is she worth more dead or alive? and who is she worth the most to?
Personally, I had a hard time getting into this book, but I really loved the adventure of the last 75 pages or so. I was surprised when somebody called it science fiction, because while it takes place in a future Earth, it was a believable one...one that could conceivably happen based on many of the environmental issues and business tactics of today. It doesn't fall into what I typically think of as 'science fiction'...it was more of a fantasy adventure story to me.I don't completely agree with some of the other reviews that Bacigalupi expertly lets the reader in on what's going on in this future world....I felt at times like I was missing some details that I would have liked to have known. On the other hand, for being an uneducated, extremely poor person, Nailer seems to know a heck of a lot about the past and how the 'swank' live. I found that somewhat unbelievable - if they are really at a remote location and stuck in their classes, how does he have all this knowledge? (Yeah, so-and-so told him or he read it in a magazine....even though he can't read....hmmmm.)The story didn't really captivate me until Nailer needs to try to save Lucky Girl from a ship...and the hands of his father. Getting to that point wasn't painful, but I didn't love the setting or the characters. The whole "family is not just blood" concept was too blatantly stated too many times to be the nice sentimental realization that it could have been for Nailer. Could be a good pick for intelligent YA male readers in particular.