Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

This is the second work I've read from Colorado writer Paolo Bacigalupi, and I'm happy to say his intense style and voice are consistent in this work as well. This dystopian, young adult novel is set in the post-oil Gulf Coast region, where Nailer, a boy of indeterminate age, makes his "living" scavenging wrecked and abandoned oil tankers. His abusive, drug addicted father is the only "family" that Nailer has, and even a close brush with death does little to stir any real compassion in this man. Yet when a hurricane tears through the beach settlement Nailer calls home, he  remains loyal to his father and saves his father's life. The hurricane also brings with it a shipwrecked pleasure craft, and with it, the potential for Nailer's life to change for the better.

A story that examines loyalty, family, and the wide gap between the haves and have-nots, Bacigalupi ably demonstrates that he is able to write equally well for both an adult as well as a young adult audience (something not every author is able to do successfully). The characters are very believable, and Nailer's longing for family and desire to remain loyal even when it seems hopeless belie the seemingly tough shell he presents to the world, and make him only more likable and relatable. From Little, Brown & Co. and available from your local, independent bookstore. (Make a difference: shop local & independent!)

Book review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

 Cherie Priest's Boneshaker is her award winning steampunk story of Ezekiel "Zeke" Wilkes, the son of Leviticus Blue, who singlehandedly destroyed 1800s Seattle. Zeke's father invented the "Boneshaker," a large drill engine designed to mine gold from the frozen lands of Alaska. While testing his machine, Blue unleashed a gas on the city, turning those exposed to it into "rotters" (zombies) and causing a major portion of the city to be walled off in order to contain both the gas and the rotters. In an attempt to clear his father's name, Zeke sneaks back into the walled off section of Seattle. Knowing that her son will be facing not only zombies, but criminals and the desperate, Zeke's mother, Briar, goes in to retrieve her son before the unthinkable happens.

This is a very good young adult novel, with the only real flaw being that the dialogue is at times rather stilted; the reunion between Zeke and his mother is particularly difficult and awkward, and I can't help but think perhaps it could have been expressed a bit more smoothly. This is a flaw that can be overlooked in favor of the overall story, however, and it doesn't really diminish from the narrative. A good, entertaining read. I'm looking forward to reading Dreadnought, the second book in her Clockwork Century series.

From Tor Books and available from your local, independent bookstore. (Want to make a difference? Shop local and buy independent!)