Profile: Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
There is a gritty reality to Paolo Bacigalupi’s work. A grim straightforwardness that crushes the optimism older SF styles. On its own, this same honesty produces brilliantly brutal speculative fiction, like Windup Girl. But there is a necessary optimism to Young Adult literature that is at odds with Bacigalupi’s tone. Ship Breaker lives in artificial space between two styles, carving out its own literary niche, but at the same time feeling discordant and incomplete. And yet, it is a technically excellent novel that I really did enjoy.
Like many of Bacigalupi’s stories, Ship Breaker deals with a post-industrial crisis world. Climate changes has melted the ice caps and destroyed much of costal civilization. Technology and wealth have concentrated even further and the average person lives at the whim of a few mega-corporations that dominate the world. Nailer and his crew are child laborers who scrape a living from salvaging the wrecks of cargo ships from the old era. When the ship of a wealthy heiress crashes into their lives, Nailer jumps at the opportunity to escape his dead-end situation, only to get caught up in an international power struggle.