[ Book Review ] Perfectly passable dystopia

Meg’s Review: Ship Breaker by  Paolo Bacigalupi

Audiobook read by Joshua Swanson

At a recent trip to Barnes and Noble, I found a themed display table that proudly declared “IF YOU LIKE HUNGER GAMES.” And I do indeed like Hunger Games, so I moseyed on over to peruse the selection. Most of the books I had read–the I Am Number Four seriesDivergent, Variant–and there, in the corner, was Ship Breaker.

“That’s the one that was billed as sci-fi dystopia. I kept expecting aliens to show up,” I told my shopping partner.

“Looks like it was a National Book Award Finalist,” she said, tracing the embossed award announcement on the cover.

I just sort of blinked at her for a moment before blurting, “But God, that book was so boring.”

And it was. Ship Breaker is written in beautiful prose–no less should be expected from the uber-talented Paolo Bacigalupi. But I almost think it was a case of being too beautiful. I actually listened to the book and found myself phasing out of the narrative for ten minutes at a time only to phase back in and realize that the character hadn’t actually moved at all. The past ten minutes of audio had been scenery description, observation of other character’s actions that had little to do with plot, or a lengthy internal debate. It made for great multi-tasking, but it did not make the text particularly engaging–or memorable.

Ship Breaker follows Nailer, a young-ish boy in a world set in the distant-ish future. His life revolves around stripping the old oil tankers that dot his Gulf of Mexico beach village of all their usable parts. In the aftermath of a hurricane, Nailer finds the boat of a rich girl smashed upon the rocks. Instead of the lucky strike of wealth he is imagining, the discovery of the boat propels him on an adventure that sets him at odds with the greatest villain he knows: his own father. Continue reading