This is the fifth and final installment of Kathleen's reviews of the 2010 National Book Award finalists in Young People's Literature.
Ship Breaker is a dystopian novel, set in a post-oil future. Oil is scarce, and the earth is showing the effects of climate change (New Orleans is all or mostly underwater). The rich have developed alternative travel technology in the form of fast-moving clipper ships, but naturally these are only available to the rich.
The poor, like Nailer, live in squats, camps and shacks, and earn a bare living doing salvage work or working in shipyards. And the workers aren't much better off than slaves. Nailer's job is to scavenge copper wire from wrecked and abandoned oil tankers in the Gulf of Mexico. But a "city-killer" hurricane leads him to a clipper ship, a girl, and adventure.
The book is fast-moving and cinematic. Bacigalupi's descriptions of Nailer's adventures would fit right into an action movie. It's also suspenseful and kept me reading.
Bacigalupi has a sequel on the way, titled The Drowned Cities. It's due out in 2011.