In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, 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 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…
Wow. Paolo Bacigalupi has a dark imagination, but–just like with George Orwell–I can’t deny that the world he creates in Ship Breaker is not far from the future we’re headed towards and the world we have today.
I’m impressed by three kinds of books:
- One that can take me completely to another world.
- One that can bring me closer to this one.
- One that has a sort of magic to it that draws me to it and that I can’t quite explain.
For me to give a book five stars, it has to have at least number 3. I call it a book’s charisma. If you’re wondering, no, this book doesn’t have number 3. But it does has number 1. I think that I’ll have to look more into Paolo Bacigalupi’s writing, because I feel like I’m missing something. In this book, the skill Paolo Bacigalupi demonstrates in expressing the dark and very well-formed ideas of what he has thought up for the future and the world he has created inside those ideas are miraculous, remarkable. But he only touches very lightly on them in the voice of his narration. If he just delved a little bit deeper, this book could’ve been so much more than it already is–and believe me, it’s already a lot.
“I’m a chess piece. A pawn,’ she said. ‘I can be sacrificed, but I cannot be captured. To be captured would be the end of the game.”
This passage interested me because I’ve touched base of the reference of chess in my mini stories about Garren and Aelboren vi Kurannia. (Yes, this is the one from my Word Study post). To those of you who haven’t read it so far, Garren and Aen are the orphan twin sons of the High King, the mightiest of the Seven Kings of the Newlands. Because of this, the Newlands are indebted to them and raise them as the heirs of their throne. Garenn, the slightly older brother, appears to be calm and kind, much more merciful than his hot-tempered, distrustful but deeply loyal brother, Aen. In reality, Garenn is a tactful, merciless, clever leader who will do anything to save his people and defeat his enemy. Both brothers are genius strategists, and when both of them ally themselves with the rebels of the kingdom, the Newlands are left to their own devices. The stories chronicle the downfall and rebuilding of the Newlands, but also Garenn’s internal grief and battle with himself as he struggles to find out who exactly he is. In the first story, (link below), Garenn and Aen have a long, drawn out discussion referencing their lives back to chess and the many matches they’ve had over the years.
I was intrigued by these words, more importantly, because Paolo Bacigalupi recognizes the power of the pawn. I believe pawns are important. They’re the kingdom to the king, the people of the city. As said by Garenn in an argument with Aen:
“Let me finish, Aen. But when the king has his pieces all around him, he is strong. He is no longer a king, he is a kingdom. No king is a good king without being a part of the people. The king solely exists to protect the kingdom and the people of that kingdom. With only two kings, the game is boring. Uneventful. The kings are too scared. They only move one square because of this, and it will be one of their dooms. When the king is among his people however, it doesn’t seem like he is scared. Rather, he’s being cautious as to protect the people.”
People will die for their king, their kingdom, they’re pawns, but that’s not really such a bad thing. On the other side of the board, they have the ability to grow strong. And yet they come back after they’ve become strong.
I’d rate this book 4.3 stars. It got along well on my list because, through all the dystopias I’ve read, this book is one of the ones that actually matter. That actually shines through the crowd. It got along worse than it would’ve because of some of the improbabilities and such in it, like how Nailer learns to read so fast after a life of not knowing how to read.
I think this book will be great for tween/teen boys, it’s introduce them to the world of YA dystopia without all that stupid paranormal romance stuff and give them some new things to think about. The romance in this book isn’t overly done at all, but it’s still there in a well-done way, with good technique so I didn’t feel like it was just thrown in there. Nailer is also a great narrator, which I really appreciated. A great read.
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