Aug 5, 2011

Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Intended Age-Group: 16+
Issues of Violence: some fighting and killing via knives/machetes
Intimacy Level: Low: one kiss
Swearing: Excessive (sh**, b*st*rd, d***, SOB)
Recommendation: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Nailer's job is to strip the inside of abandoned ships and oil tankers for what metal, copper, or worthwhile materials can be salvaged before other scavenger groups get it. He's small and lithe, but not for long. In the futuristic dystopian America, scavenging is a common job that anyone would give their left lung for (and often do thanks to the fumes). He and his crew live every day hoping for a "Lucky Strike"--a precious find of oil or materials that will pay their way to a new and better life....or just a guarantee of food every day (which might as well be a new and better life). When Nailer's "Lucky Strike" finally comes in the form of a beautiful shipwrecked , it's not as easy as he hoped to just cash in the chips. Tests of character and morals threaten to deprive him of any profit at all.

Initial Reaction: *****
I've never nearly drowned in oil and, after reading the first few chapters of Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker, I decided I'd rather melt like a wicked witch a hundred times instead. My lungs burned, my eyes stung, and I felt exhausted after fighting a pool of oil for freedom alongside the ship scavenger, Nailer.

I enjoyed this novel more than I expected to. Bacigalupi did an excellent job pulling the reader into Nailer's culture and time period without bogging down the story with too many details.

Characters: *****
I felt Nailer's desire to be free of this ship-breaking life he's trapped in. When he had a chance for an out, I cheered right beside him, urging him on.

Spiritual Content: *****
Nailer's culture focuses a lot on luck and the "Luck God". There are dark spiritual rituals with some of the "religions" mentioned, alluding to things like cutting off body parts and/or human sacrifices. The author doesn't go in-depth, but I think it was interesting insight into what may happen to our culture in the future.

The only downside to this novel for a reader might be the excessive swearing. Another reviewer actually counted--203 swear words over the course of 352 pages. That's a lot. Depending on your background or comfort-level, it will affect you differently. For those wishing to steer clear of foul language, I wouldn't recommend this book. It also has some other adult themes such as drug-use, intoxication, and mentions of prostitution.  The violence covers all planes--knife killing, physical abuse, bombs, guns, murder, getting ground up in ship gets a teensy graphic.

Overall Recommendation:
Despite the swearing and mature content, I really enjoyed this book. Though there is a sequel to Ship Breaker being released in 2012 (The Drowned Cities), I thought that Ship Breaker ended well as a single novel. It tied all loose ends and I closed the back cover with a content sigh.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at

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