I would definitely say I’m a fan of Bacigalupi. And not just because his name is fun to say.
I really liked ‘Ship Breaker,’ but it wasn’t as good as either The Wind-Up Girl or the short stories in ‘Pump Six.’
It’s aimed at a more YA audience, which means that the action-adventure takes center stage over the cautionary-disaster stuff, and it actually has some characters who are nice people. Well, one, at least.
Actually, it has quite a lot of cautionary-disaster stuff and a large number of really nasty, self-centered characters.
I felt like it was entirely possible that this book takes place in the same future as The Wind-Up Girl – just in a different part of it. Post-environmental-collapse, ship breakers are working in the Gulf, dismantling the rusting hulks of old tankers. It’s dangerous work, for nearly no money – but there’s nothing better. The work teams are viciously cutthroat to each other.
Our lead, a young man, sees new, solar ships in the distance and dreams of another life. But his life experience is so limited he hardly knows what to dream of. When he and his friend find a wrecked ship – and in it, an injured rich girl who claims to be an heiress, their first instinct is to simply murder her. But, hoping for advantage, they don’t… and adventure ensues.
The adventure was OK. But it wasn’t really what I liked about the book. I really liked how Bacigalupi draws the different worlds that the characters come from, and how he throws their perspectives into conflict. I like how he took the lifestyle that ship breakers elsewhere in the world are really living, right now, and put it in the (former(?)) United States, challenging readers’ perspectives in much the same way as he challenges his characters’ perspectives.
I like his all-too-likely visions of the future, and how he doesn’t shy away from a realistic depiction of the worst aspects of human nature – and how they’re entwined with the best that people are capable of. I very much appreciated that he did this even in a ‘YA’ novel. But… the adventure was just OK.
Still, I’ll definitely read the sequel. I hope he goes back to ‘adult’-oriented books, though.