Thursday, November 11, 2010

SHIP BREAKER

So, it’s nearly midnight. I’ve been staring at my screen, trying to figure out how I’m going to write this review for the Bookanistas.

The thing is, I have no idea if I can do a review for SHIP BREAKER that accurately gets across the way I feel about it. Because it’s just. too. good. As cool as the synopsis of SHIP BREAKER is, the even cooler stuff is nowhere to be seen in the book’s summary. And to talk about it would spoil things for those that haven’t read it. Quite a dilemma, that.

But I shall give it my best shot. Hang tight, people. And if I squeal and go all fangurl on you, well, you’ve been warned.

SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker

Goodreads description: Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

My Review

Okay. Yes, this book is dark, sometimes tragic, sometimes take-your-breath-away gritty. The world in which SHIP BREAKER takes place is probably one of the most desolate, most depressing settings known to YA imagination. SHIP BREAKER defines dystopia. And there are moments of tension that had my heart thumping so badly I nearly put the book down.  Nearly. But the descriptions? Freaking gorgeous. You will never know a more vivid setting. And the language? The meaning granted to every line? I can tell you that more than once I sighed from the beauty. But in all my reviews (because I only review books I love), I try to understand why I really LOVE a book—what has MADE that book. And this one was tough.

So, I got to thinking about what made HARRY POTTER for me. I know, we’re talking about SHIP BREAKER, but just bear with me a moment. Aside from the really cool fantasy, the magic, and the fabulous British culture that always gets Americans drooling, what made HARRY POTTER such a brilliant book was the fact that no one ever expected Harry to be a hero. He was this scrawny, geeky little thing. The most unlikely of heroes, right? Well, I LOVE that. Like love love love that. When it works. And let me tell you, it works in SHIP BREAKER. 

Nailer is this shrimpy little guy covered in labor tattoos and scars, illiterate, dirty, and loyal only as far as he needs to be. All he cares about is survival. And when survival is the only goal, things like manners, loyalty, and love are merely…relative. But then something life changing happens to him, and without even realizing it, he begins to question things he always knew as facts. Still. Nobody expects anything more from him than his continued labor stripping copper from wrecked ships on the ironically named Bright Sandy Beach until he can’t physically do it any more (and the options after that are dismal). But the Fates have their way with Nailer, taking him on a wild, scary, gripping adventure where he’s thrown into situations that test his mettle and force him to choose what is right, wrong, and somewhere in between; and in those choices, he knows he will either be killed or reborn. And a rebirth will require him to find an inner strength and core of ethics that defy his genetics (if his drunken, abusive father is anything to go by).

But I won’t tell you the whole plot. You should know, however, even though there’s a girl involved, she’s not the focus. It’s a story of Nailer’s growth—his triumphs and failures and his discovery of self. Yet SHIP BREAKER does more than just tell a story. It questions what it is to be human, to have free will, and to rise above destiny or genetics; it asks readers to consider the true cost of taking—and giving—life; and above all, SHIP BREAKER illustrates the power of choice granted to all human beings, no matter one’s position in life. And in that doubtful space that we inhabit as human beings, it makes us consider what a really “good” choice is. Is it one that leads to survival? Or one in which ethics prevail, no matter the cost?

Now go get SHIP BREAKER, please (It is available). I’m dying to talk about it with someone. There’re these really cool [BLEEP] that [BLEEPED] which had my jaw dropping. So frigging original.

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Be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are recommending today!

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31 comments:

  1. This book has been sitting on my shelf and now I REALLY want to read it. This is just his YA debut. He wrote another book in 2009 that won a bunch of awards, The Windup Girl. I have that book on my shelf too and I have yet to read it. Great review.

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  2. Wow! Thanks for posting your enthusiasm of this book.
    That sounds like a hell of a ride. I think I'll have to take it along with Nailer.Now, if I don't win it at Karen Amanda Hooper's I'll have to go and buy it. :)

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  3. The way you describe the scenery and the protagonist makes me think of John Steinbeck. The beautiful and grounding landscapes and the imperfections of humanity. He is my favourite writer. Yet YA and Spec Fic are my favourite genres.

    So. I'm thinking this is a book for me. Thanks for the review :D

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  4. Wow!! What a great book - it's very philosophical in a readerly (new word I invented!!!) way!!!

    Thanks for the info - take care
    x

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  5. Wanted to read already. Now want to read even more. Excellent review, as usual, m'dear. :)

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  6. How have I not heard of this book before? You have me wanting to run out and buy it! Thanks for the great review!

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  7. I know I've said this before...time and again...like a skipping record (for those too young, this predates CDs and ipods)...BUT, I'll say it again:

    You give THE BEST reviews. You have a unique Carol-style whereby you say so much about a book without giving one damn thing away. I love this about you and your reviews so much.

    But, you already know I loves you (for a million other reasons). It's worth repeating. *hugs*

    Love,
    Lola

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  8. "And Karen Hooper is giving away a signed copy on her blog!"

    (Things you COULD have said but didn't because you don't love me and that's fine cuz I'm sure I'll get over it someday a really long time away from today).

    That is all.

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  9. I have had this book on my shelf and have been wanting to read it. I think your review convinced me that I need to move it to the front of the list! Thanks!

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  10. Thanks for sharing this- sounds like you really put a lot of thought into what made this book for you and it sounds like a great read!

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  11. You convinced me. Adding this book to my TBR list.

    Thanks for following me.

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  12. I first heard about this novel on Karen's blog, and have wanted it since. Now, like what's-his-name Larter (that Scottish whiskey and vodka lover guy) I just want it even more.

    Thanks a lot.

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  13. oooh, i think i need to read this like right now

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  14. Wind Up Girl is available from Night Shade Books, and he has a collection called Pump Six and Other Stories as well. Very good stuff. I might actually read this based on the quality of those stories and your recommendation.

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  15. Freakin' amazing, right?? Also had a hard time putting it into words. LOVED this book. LOVED!!

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  16. I've been wanting to read this for some time. You may have just shot it up to #1 on my TBR list!

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  17. *waves* I skipped your review. Just knowing you felt the urge to go fangurl is enough to put it on my TBR list. I have a weird anti-spoiler radar. Any slight chance and I shut my eyes and start screaming, "NO!NO!NO!" LOL. Told ya I was a freak.

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  18. This sounds like a fantastic book - sometimes, the books I feel most intensely about are those I find hardest to write about. Thanks for the review!

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  19. Okay...you totally convinced me! I'm sold. :-)

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  20. I have this in my TBR pile... I need to read it!

    This isn't a debut though, his first book came out in 2009 and is called The Windup Girl. It won the Hugo and many other awards.

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  21. I really liked this book! So dark--right up there with The Marbury Lens, but wow.

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  22. The title intrigues me! I'd never heard about it before so you're seriously the best!

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  23. Okay, this was an absolutely amazing review Carol. I might not have read this book without it, but you've convinced me that I need to give it a try. Proof once again that you are the master of book recommendations. *bows* :)

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  24. Carol! *HUGS*

    Thanks for dropping by my bloggie! I would read this book alone for the setting descriptions. I would LOVE to learn how to do that without the info dumping bit. I'm not fond of dystopians. I need happiness around me or I'll be a sad little moppet. ;)

    Thanks for this wonderful review!!!:)

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  25. I haven't even heard of this one but it sounds fascinating. Plus, I love books that make you think!

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  26. Wonderful review, Carol! I love your enthusiasum...I haven't heard of Ship Breaker, but I will keep my eyes open for it now...

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  27. This sounds like a really powerful story, Carol. I think you did a great job reviewing this book!

    Jai

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  28. Another awesome review - thanks, Carol! BTW, I ordered The Marbury Lens when I won Shannon O'Donnell's pre-order contest after I read your review and I'm dying to get started on it!

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  29. Whilst reading your post I was reminded of The Road (movie as opposed to the book) and there was one scene in that movie which was a panorama over a devastated sea port, complete with ships sitting idol in the harbor. It was one of the most poignant scenes for me of that movie and it stayed with me long after.

    Now it's back as a result of reading your post, so as a total Carolina Valdez Miller fanboy, I'm gonna have to make a point of putting this on the to read shelf.

    It sounds amazing.

    It leads me to another question I've been pondering of late. Why is that I am so drawn to this dystopian stories? Recently I have devoured films like The Road, The Book Of Eli and I have always been a fan of the Mad Max series. I'm starting to wonder whether I'm kinda addicted to the idea of everything going to crap and society having to start over...

    Am I alone here?

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  30. Seems like meh right kind of book, thanks for the tip Carol! =D

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  31. It sounds like a great book. I'm going to check it out on Goodreads.

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