by Paolo Bacigalupi
Opening line: “Nailer clambered through a service duct, tugging at copper wire and yanking it free.”
Nailer is on a light crew, one of the ship-breakers working to strip the ancient oil rigs on the Gulf Coast of anything that could be salvaged from them. The oil is gone, except for a few pockets still caught in the rigs. To find those would make the successful scavenger hugely rich–give them a Lucky Strike. But for most, the life is one of endless hardship. Nailer has to contend with back-biting crew members and an abusive father. Then he finds the wrecked clipper.
I haven’t been hearing much about this book, but I picked it up anyway and was glad I did. Nailer is a great main character–determined, tough, but still sympathetic and conflicted enough to make things interesting. I feel like I say this a lot, but the worldbuilding here is great. Bacigalupi successfully creates a whole society based around this scavenging operation. While it’s clearly a fairly distant future, it doesn’t feel overly futuristic. I also appreciated the fact that he managed to avoid making a clunky point about global warming/climate change/whatever we’re calling it now. It’s obviously referenced and obviously the reason for the changed landscape of the Gulf, the fact that the waters are higher and the storms stronger. But I didn’t feel hit over the head or preached to and, on this subject especially, that was a refreshing change.
There are also some great sailing bits, and I love sailing bits. We need more nautical books, as a general rule.
My one quibble is that everything wraps up just a little too neatly. I’m almost always in favor of happy endings, but this one went a little beyond happy into the realm of tying things up with a pretty pink ribbon and sticking flowers on it. I’m not sure if Bacigalupi (or his editors) thought that a young adult book needed to end that way, but I would hope not. (There are so many examples to counter with.) Despite that annoyance, this is a very solid book. It would probably be a good one for guy readers, but it’s certainly accessible for girls as well.
Book source: public library
Book information: Hachette Book Group, 2010; young adult