In a world that's short on everything, salvaging is big business. Even a scrawny teenager like Nailer Lopez could make his fortune with one "Lucky Strike." While he's fantasizing about the good life, though, Nailer's got to live his real one, which means making quota. Every day, he squirms through rusting supertankers looking for anything that can be sold off for profit - copper wire, aluminum, nickel, steel clips, and, scarcest of all, oil. If he brings out enough of the good stuff to satisfy his boss he'll keep himself employed, earning barely enough to feed himself. It's a hardscrabble existence, but it's the only one he's ever known. A long time ago, he's heard, people lived in mansions, ate whenever they pleased, and traveled the world in gas-guzzling automobiles. That world is gone now, drowned in the sea, and this brutal new existence is all that remains.
When Nailer discovers a luxurious clipper ship run aground after a hurricane, he knows he's finally found his own, personal "Lucky Strike." There's all kinds of scavenge on the boat, not just metal, but food and swank stuff like furniture, art and silk clothing. All of it ripe for the picking. But as Nailer combs through it all, he discovers a different sort of scavenge - a beautiful girl, half-dead, decked out in enough gold to feed Nailer for the rest of his life. He could kill her, take her jewelry, her ship, her food. He'd probably be doing her a favor. His father would do it in a heartbeat, but Nailer's not that cold-hearted. Besides, the girl represents the one thing he wants more than anything else - escape. All he has to do is keep the swank hidden from rival scavenge gangs until her people come to rescue her. Then, he'll have it made.
What should be a simple rescue mission quickly becomes a frenzied race for survival. As Nailer smuggles snooty Nita Chaudhury into the sunken city of Orleans, he'll have to outwit the bloodthirsty bounty hunters who track his every move. Is snobby Nita really worth the effort? Will she keep her promise once she's rescued? Or is Nailer destined to risk his life over and over again in pursuit of the kind of life that just doesn't exist for a scrappy ship breaker like him?
Paolo Bacigalupi's debut YA novel, Ship Breaker, is dystopian at its very best. The National Book Award nominee (2010) combines colorful characters, heart-stopping action, and strong, vivid prose to create a story that comes alive with startling vibrancy. Although the story takes place in a fractured world, it's Bacigalupi's deconstruction of humanity that makes the novel so impactful. To put it simply, Ship Breaker is fast-paced, finely-plotted, first-class entertainment. Blood and rust (as Nailer wold say), I loved it.
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), violence and mild sexual innuendo
To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Ship Breaker from the generous folks at Hachette Book Group. Thank you!