In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.
This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.
Released: May 1st, 2012 Pages: 437
Publisher: Little Brown Books Source: Library
I've had plenty of time to mull over this book and my review, and yet...I still can't quite find words for it. There's just something about this novel, something about the way it just sucks you in, that it's hard to write about. Let's start out, then, with some things about it that are concrete.
The futuristic, dystopian setting is fabulous. It's dark and gritty. It's incredibly believable in a way that is unnerving. As I wrote in my review of Ship Breaker, it "took those mediocre dystopian The Giver ripoffs and ate them for breakfast". (Rereading the SB review, I realized that I was in an odd mood when I wrote that. "I could smell the...stuff that didn't smell good"? What? LOL. Carry on.) You know, those dystopian books that are everywhere, the ones that look so unique and enticing but once you pick them up, you realize you've read the same thing before. You know this setting from somewhere, because it's basically the same setting every mediocre dystopian novel has.
If you enjoy that kind of setting, don't you dare pick up The Drowned Cities. TDC is not like that. The setting is unique and scary and awesome. And the rest of the book is nothing like those other mediocre dystopians, either. The characters are wonderful and lovable and utterly real. When I realized that Nailer wasn't in this book at all, I was very disappointed. I loved Nailer. The only character that SB and TDC have in common is Tool, actually (someone's name is Tool? What? Yeah, if you weren't interested before, you should be now). But Bacigalupi* makes up for this with Mahlia and Mouse. Each of them were compelling, beautifully developed characters with exciting stories.
My only complaint with this book is the plot, actually. Despite the awesome characters, the story moved a bit slow at the beginning. I kept waiting for it to pick up, and it took a little too long. Luckily the rest of the book was awesome enough that I can forgive it.
And now I have to write, somehow, about the harder parts of this book. About the sheer harshness of the world, the characters, the themes. There is violence in this book. Quite a bit of it. This is by no means an easy book to read. It's tough. It puts characters in impossible, horrible situations, and you're glad to be safe at home. And then you realize...it isn't that far from reality. Child soldiers have been a major topic as of late, and this book fits right in with that.
I think Bacigalupi was going for quite a bit of shock value with this book, much more so than Ship Breaker. It worked, too. But none of the intensity, none of the violence, felt thrown in just for the sake of it. Everything was deliberate, and I admire Bacigalupi for that.
And then there's the last part of the book. The death at the very end. You guys who have read the book...you know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm still reeling from it, still asking "Bacigalupi, how could you?" The thing about it is that the author made us care so much that we feel such emotion from this death, and again, I admire him for it.
This is an awesome book, guys. Read it. Recommended for fans of dystopian novels, or gritty novels, or basically anything that makes you think and feel.
*Like I said last time: And I thought Paolini was fun to say.Reviews of other Ship Breaker novels:
Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker #1)