Friday, October 7, 2011

Paolo Bacigalupi writes real women in SHIP BREAKER

You don't need me to tell you Ship Breaker is an amazing novel.  It won the 2011 Printz Award and was a National Book Award Finalist.  A lot of people much smarter than me agree Paolo Bacigalupi has written a masterpiece.

Ship Breaker has some of the best world-building I've ever read.  You might expect an epic post-apocalyptic sci-fi pirating novel to be a little far-fetched, but the world Bacigalupi has created felt so real, gritty, and complete I never questioned any aspect of the complex setting.

Nailer is a perfectly flawed hero.  He's loyal and kind, yet fierce.  I was swept away by the story and captivated by Bacgalupi's prose.  The danger and desperation of Bright Sands Beach and Nailer's life of poverty and abuse felt so real, I ached for him to escape.

But more than just an excellent story, I was impressed with the women in this book.  Bacigalupi created a stark dichotomy between rich and poor, or swank and ship breaker, and in doing so he was careful to craft whole and mutli-faceted female characters.  So when Nailer meets Nita, their differences aren't about gender, but about economics and culture.

So often stories that follow the hero's journey have oversimplified archetypal females: the mother, the witch, and the sex-object love interest.  Bright Sands Beach is full of smart, tough, hard-working women who are fleshed out as complex characters.  There's smart and loyal Pima, Nailer's best friend.  There's Sadna, who acts like a mother to Nailer but also beats the crap out of the villain.  There's Sloth the betrayer, and Blue Eyes the crafty cult-member.

Even Nita who is weaker than the other girls because she's grown up in the lap of luxury and needs to be rescued a few times, is awfully tough and pretty smart.  She helps to save herself like any self-respecting heroine should and she has an awesome line at the end basically telling Nailer to suck it up.

I also loved how Bacigalupi crafts the romance.  Nailer's culture values hard-work and the ability to earn a living, so we know he's falling for Nita when he compliments her ability to skin eels.

Ship Breaker is a dark adventure with some tough chicks who hold their own.


  1. Awesome review~ you just sold me!

  2. You always have such great books to recommend. I'm going to have to try this one after I finish the Terry Goodkind series I'm in the middle of.