Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tantalizing Tuesday: SHIP BREAKER



So I've been very lame lately on Tuesdays. I know I have been, you don't need to make excuses for me. I do enough of that myself. ;)

Mostly I've been falling back on WIP Wednesdays, and I'm getting kind of bored with that, especially since I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things with my WiP after spending so long in revision-land with EVANGELINE. So today I want to talk about books. Specifically a book that I just learned about, but already has me intrigued: Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Here's the blurb from Publisher's Weekly:

SF novelist Bacigalupi (The Windup Girl) makes a stellar YA debut with this futuristic tale of class imbalance on the Gulf Coast. Teenage Nailer scavenges ships with his crewmates, eking out a poverty-filled existence while avoiding dangers that range from giant “city killer” hurricanes to his vicious, drug-addicted father. When a storm strands a beautiful shipping heiress on the beach (earning her the nickname “Lucky Girl”), Nailer manages both to infuriate members of his camp (including his father) and to become embroiled in upper-class trade disputes that he barely comprehends. As Nailer and Lucky Girl escape toward the drowned ruins of New Orleans, they witness rampant class disparity on individual and international levels (tribes whose lands were flooded have taken to the seas as pirates, attacking multinational shipping firms). Bacigalupi's cast is ethnically and morally diverse, and the book's message never overshadows the storytelling, action-packed pacing, or intricate world-building. At its core, the novel is an exploration of Nailer's discovery of the nature of the world around him and his ability to transcend that world's expectations. Ages 12-up. (May, 2010)

First off, I love the cover. Second, when I read this synopsis I thought it sounded like nothing I'd ever read, yet at the same time, familiar—a boy meets girl story set in a not-too-distant future. And it's been a while since I read any YA with a MALE lead, so it's got that going for it.

I've never read any of Bacigalupi's adult sci-fi novels, so I'm hoping that the themes of poverty and class imbalance are treated as carefully and thoughtfully as the PW synopsis claims, but what I really want is a wild ride, an adventure that will take me to another world, and to discover new characters I care about. Hopefully, Ship Breaker will fit the bill.

This is the kind of smart, cynical book I wish I could write, like Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion, or Pam Bachorz's Candor (which I still haven't read. Shhhh!) I love being able to immerse myself in world that is both foreign and familiar, and that's what I like the most about dystopian serial novels like The Hunger Games and Uglies. It gives authors an arena to emphasize the problems our current society faces (or ignores) and speculate on what might happen if we keep ignoring those problems. Sounds like Ship Breaker does all that and then some, which is part of the reason I'm so intrigued.

Want an excerpt? Yeah, I thought so. ;) Luckily my Barnes and Noble e-reader makes it easy to copy and paste chunks of text.

NAILER CLAMBERED THROUGH a service duct, tugging at copper wire and yanking it free. Ancient asbestos fibers and mouse grit puffed up around him as the wire tore loose. He scrambled deeper into the duct, jerking more wire from its aluminum staples. The staples pinged about the cramped metal passage like coins offered to the Scavenge God, and Nailer felt after them eagerly, hunting for their dull gleam and collecting them in a leather bag he kept at his waist. He yanked again at the wiring. A meter’s worth of precious copper tore loose in his hands and dust clouds enveloped him.

The LED glowpaint smeared on Nailer’s forehead gave a dim green phosphorescent view of the service ducts that made up his world. Grime and salt sweat stung his eyes and trickled around the edges of his filter mask. With one scarred hand, he swiped at the salty rivulets, careful to avoid rubbing off the LED paint. The paint itched and drove him crazy, but he didn’t relish finding his way back out of the mazelike ducts in blind blackness, so he let his forehead itch and again surveyed his position.

Rusty pipes ran ahead of him, disappearing into darkness. Some iron, some steel—heavy crew would be the ones to deal with that. Nailer only cared about the light stuff—the copper wiring, the aluminum, the nickel, the steel clips that could be sacked and dragged out through the ducts to his light crew waiting outside.

Nailer turned to continue down the service passage, but as he did he banged his head on the duct ceiling. The noise from his collision echoed loud, as if he were sitting inside a Christian church bell. Dust cascaded into his hair. Despite the filter mask, he started coughing as powder leaked in around the poorly sealed edges. He sneezed, then sneezed again, eyes watering. He pulled the mask away and wiped his face, then pressed it back over his mouth and nose, willing the stickum to seal but not holding out much hope.

The mask was a hand-me-down, given to him by his father. It itched and never sealed quite right because it was the wrong size, but it was all Nailer had. On its side, faded words said: DISCARD AFTER 40 HOURS USE. But Nailer didn’t have another, and no one else did either. He was lucky to have a mask at all, even if the microfibers were beginning to shred from repeated scrubbings in the ocean.


Sloth, his crewgirl, made fun of him whenever he washed the mask, asking why he even bothered. It just made the hellish duct work hotter and more uncomfortable. There was no point, she said. Sometimes he thought she was right. But Pima’s mother told him and Pima to use the masks no matter what, and for sure there was a lot of black grime in the filters when he immersed them in the ocean. That was the black that wasn’t in his lungs, Pima’s mother said, so he kept on with the mask, even though he felt like he was smothering every time he sucked humid tropic air through the clogged breath-wet fibers."

I read so much first person lately, that sometimes getting into third can take some time, but after just these few paragraphs, the writing has got me hooked. I can picture poor Nailer in that tight, dark duct, paint on his forehead, mask covering his face, and I want to know what's going to happen NEXT.

Any books you've been lusting after lately? Read any good dystopian that's not Mockingjay? ;) I'd love to hear about it!

7 comments:

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Ooo, thanks for pointing this out. I personally feel like there aren't enough YA's with male leads, so I've been searching them out. Adding this one to my list.

I'm been SO lusting after The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney--so I'm super excited that my friend just loaned me the ARC. Can't WAIT!!!

Oh, and Matched is AWESOME if you like Dystopian. I also love Candor. :)

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

At least you've only been lame on Tuesdays. I've been lame everyday that ends with a Y. ;)

I can't offer any suggestions (Shannon stole mine) but thanks for telling me about Ship Breaker.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I've been hearing great things about this book and I need diversions! As you read on my post and thanks for following and for the great quote.
Er...besides Mockinjay...I guess I have to go with Beautiful Darkness because I loved the first one so much and I'm waiting on Casandra Claire to get those Infernal Devices on the shelves. :)

Elana Johnson said...

Oooh, great! I always love adding books to my pile. If you haven't read Neal Shusterman's UNWIND, you should.

Tere Kirkland said...

Awesome, thanks for the recommendations, y'all!

Susan R. Mills said...

I'd love to read a YA with a male lead. I'll have to check this one out.

Tamika: said...

I feel completely lame since I haven't read any of these:O

I plan on pulling my head out of the sand and getting back to some reading!