HomeAll postsShip breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

a review by Nalini Haynes

Nailer, a teenage boy, and his friends work on a ship breaker team, stripping lightweight salvage from shipwrecks for a living. Nailer’s father is a violent drug addict, so he relies more on his friends, especially Pima, and her mother Sadna. Their world is small and impoverished but the strength of friendships and community is strong. A hurricane destroys their village, leaving many survivors and a wrecked clipper ship off the coast that Nailer and Pima discover, along with a survivor who came to be known as Lucky Girl.

Ship breaker’s world has some similarities to that of Windup Girl in that the level of the oceans has risen, sinking exclusive waterfront estates providing pithy social comment on real estate values and intelligence. However, in Ship breaker the genetic codes of food have not been destroyed; villagers can harvest their own food when time permits. The primary cause of concern for these impoverished villagers appears to be their lack of money leading to low expectations and short life spans. Nailer’s interaction with the wealthy in Shipbreaker reveals a contrasting world in which the affluent abide. The contrast of the two worlds in Shipbreaker is food for thought in this era, where the gap between the rich and poor is ever-widening.

Ship breaker is dystopian young adult fiction that will appeal to speculative fiction and dystopian fiction fans of all ages. Highly recommended.

Originally published in Dark Matter issue 6, November 2011.  This blog has been pre-dated to reflect the date of original publication.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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