Monday, September 13, 2010

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

This is how it is done people. This is how you write a dysptopia. Just the right amount of world building (what little he does goes a long way. It is remarkable), awesome characterization, tight writing with no padding, and the slang. I LOVE the slang. And I love the names. In fact I think it would be safe to say that I pretty much love everything about this book.

I thought I had written about this before, but I couldn't find my post so I must not have (edited to add: I wrote a lame haiku). I would've liked to compare my first impressions with my second read of the book. I know I really liked it the first time and I think I loved it even more when I finished it for the second time. I couldn't help but compare it to Finnikin which I just wrote about. In every way Ship Breaker put Finnikin to shame (and I say that while still liking Finnikin FYI). The writing in this is really spare and to the point and totally effective. We don't know much about the wider world where this story is set, but we don't need to. We know everything we need to know in order for this story to work, nothing extra. The violence is just as evident and in your face but somehow managed to avoid being graphic and over the top. The dialogue was totally believable and that dang slang...honestly, incredible. I think I'm going to tell people to crew up. We'll see how that goes over at the next staff meeting.

This is a future where people live on beaches making shacks out of anything they can scavenge. Category six hurricanes, or city killers, are common. People's work crews are everything. In Nailer's world you're either small enough for light crew or you better hope you're big enough to fight for a spot on heavy crew. Either way the window for work is small and you better be loyal and reliable and hard working. Trust is everything. Break a blood oath and you'll get a knife through your work tattoos marking you as an oath breaker.

There are environmental themes, this is very much a commentary on where our reliance on oil is going to lead us. Themes of class division, morals and humanity, family, loyalty, and some genetic engineering thrown in to round us out (I am dying to learn more about Tool).


joanna said...

I'm about 1/2 way through and I really do agree with your review so far. I am very impressed with this novel. But seriously, I need a funny book.

And PLEASE say "crew up" in your staff meeting!!

Patti said...

I'm looking forward to hearing what you think at the end!