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Ship Breaker

Paulo Bacigalupi
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: ATOM (7 July 2011)
ISBN-10: 1907411100
ISBN-13: 978-1907411106
ē Sam Hawksmoor

Nailer is tough, like his name, wiry and small, which is lucky, it means Nailer gets to work on the lite crew thatís stripping the innards of a beached oil tanker on Bright Beach in the Gulf of Mexico.† Heís sweating in as he's stripping out copper wire because itís so valuable and this is the Ďbestí job a kid can get if you are lucky enough to be malnurished and undersized.

Ship Breaker (shortlisted for the National Book Prize) is set in our very likely post-oil future in an impoverished and mostly illiterate America.† Great white sailing hi-tech clippers reign on the high seas but they arenít America but Indian or Chinese Ė wealth and power has shifted globally and the post-industrial US is an economic backwater with little influence in the world.† The rich are different now and human rights are not exactly a priority.† If you donít belong to the new clans running the world you are truly worthless and expendable.

Nailerís world is the beach of wrecks and scrap metal. Pima, his immediate crew leader is his friend, but even so works him hard.† Then thereís Sloth who wants Nailerís job and will do anything to get it.† Nailerís Pa is a vicious drunk, his mother dead.† Nailer dreads going home where he gets beaten for nothing most nights.

Itís Nailerís bad luck that he gets trapped in the entrails of the tanker, left to drown in a pocket of valuable oil by Sloth who wants to claim it for herself.

Slothís bad luck too when Nailer finds an escape hatch and is drained out of the ship onto the beach. Sloth is run out of the crew and banned from ever working on the beach.† She has no place to go except the men who only want one thingÖ

Nailer and Pima are scavenging crabs after a storm when they come across a wrecked Clipper on the rocks and inside it they find one survivor, a girl, barely alive with gold on her fingers and toes.

Pima is all for cutting off her hand to take the rings, they could live well for years onthe gold, but Nailer doesnít think itís right and makes Pima somewhat reluctantly save the girl.† They know they canít keep this secret long and Nailerís father will turn up looking for him and then seize this valuable prize for himself.

This is when they discover the girl Nita is the daughter of one of the richest men on earth.

Nailerís life is about to change forever.† Ordinarily youíd expect a reward and youíd be set up for life, but Nita is a fugitive and there are a great many people want her captured or dead, including Nailerís evil father who intends to make a killing of his own.

Nailer escapes with Nita, joined by Tool, a half-man, half-dog, a renegade genetic mutant worker/soldier as they make their way to the great clipper port of Orleans.†

This is a terrific, nail-biting adventure for any reader in a post-climate change world by the Hugo winning author of The Wind-Up Girl. Bacigalupi writes with a great sensitivity and insight into where we are all headed in this world of 7 Billion people and he knows, more than most Americans that he's on the wrong side of history. Ship Breaker is a stunning YA debut, read it and see the world as it will surely become.

© Sam Hawksmoor July 2011

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