Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Completion Date: June 4, 2011
Reason for Reading: Group read with Heather, Ana, Chris, and Debi.
Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.
A couple months ago a group of us decided to start reading books at the same time and then, hopefully, post about it and share thoughts. The first book we read was A Discovery of Witches, but it didn't go over well. Ship Breaker is our second read together and while I wanted to love it - I can't admit to an overwhelming impression about it. In the end, only Ana and I are answering the questions that the group of us came up with. Ana enjoyed the book a lot more than I did, so her post is likely more informative. I have a hard time saying a lot about a book I am only so-so about.

Ana answered the same questions as I did here. Heather also did a brief post on the book here.

Heather: Since I already know some things about this book bothered Chris, I want to know all about it. What bothered you about this novel?
I am not sure what it was about this novel, but it didn't leave a lasting impression with me. I had no problem reading it at the time, but at the end of the day it is a book a few months from now I will be able to hardly remember. This question ties in with the next one, so I will leave it brief.

Debi: It’s weird. I spent forever trying to figure out why I didn’t like this book more than I did. (And I’m not saying I didn’t like it—I just expected to like it more than I actually did.) Then Ana wrote a post about not connecting emotionally with books, and it hit me that that was really what was at the root of my disappointment with this book—I didn’t really connect on an emotional level. Did you all?
This was my biggest problem with the book. I didn't connect with it. I found that I wan't particularly affected by the events of the book. I read them with a sense of detachment that I am not fond of in my reading. It's not that hated the book, but I found myself wanting to love it a lot more than I did in the end. I am thinking that part of this is that I couldn't seem to connect with the main character. I am not sure if that is a flaw on my part, or because of how he was written. I don't even have strong enough emotions to say whether I love it or hate it.

Me: What did you think of the characters? Do you think they were written believably? Were there any that you loved? Hated?
I wanted to love the characters. I really did. There were some interesting story-lines and they tie into the characters well, but for some reason I wasn't particularly caught up with the characters. That is my overall impression to this book. I didn't hate any of the characters, but I didn't love any of them either. There are none that stand out as fantastic, but then there are none that I strongly disliked.

Chris: Comments on race and gender issues in the book? What did you like? What didn’t you like?
This aspect of the book I did really enjoy. I think this is why I wanted to love the book more than I did. I appreciate a book that shows diversity. There were characters from all races represented. There was also a strong a showing from both genders. It was a strong quality of this book and worth reading more from Bacigalupi for this.

Ana: One of the things that interested me the most about the book was the tension between, on the one hand, the idea of taking your life into your hands and making your own destiny, and, on the other hand, dealing with a very difficult reality full of inequalities and different opportunities for people born in different circumstances. Thoughts and comments on this?
This was another aspect of the book that I really enjoyed. I connected with the overall idea of the book more than I did with the specific ideas. The main characters in this book have been raised under a strict regiment of survival. If you are strong, you will succeed, but show weakness of any kind and people will take advantage of you. In the beginning there was nothing really to compare it with, but when they discover the ship wreck with the young girl still alive you get a strong sense of how the other side lives.

I am not sure what it was about this book really that I didn't love. If I read it at a different time, I may have loved it. For right now, it was just okay, but I will probably still read more from him.


  1. I think I ended up liking this one more than you and Heather did. Part of my problem was coming into it with ridiculously high expectations. But probably my biggest problem was that I didn't take enough time in processing it. After reading Ana's post, I feel like I really need to read it again. Anyway, Kelly, I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it more than you did.

  2. Just wanted to say that I thought you guys had a great idea to review this book together. What a cool readalong post!

  3. **Debi: June was a bad reading month for me. I think I might have liked it more if I had read it at a different time...

    **Iliana: Thanks!


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