Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Dystopian literature for teens is really big just now. Perhaps all this surmising about our future has something to do with the shaky ground we’re on in the present.  Whatever the reason there are a slew of future imperfect novels either on the shelves or heading there soon, predicting the mess we may all be headed for.

I first heard about one of these, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi  through a blog post by Maggie Stiefvater (of whom I am a huge fan!). And because she gave me 10 bloody good reasons to read this book, I did.

Now that I have, I’d like to expand on her list.  Not that I don’t agree with all her points – I most certainly do – but this is SUCH a great book, I want to talk even more.  So go and read Ten Reasons To Read SHIP BREAKER … and then I’ll give you 10 more and you’ll have 20 reasons.


11)  Not Dystopian Dismal – Ship Breaker is set in the future.  A future where life is pretty rubbish for the kids who spend their entire day scrabbling around in all the wrecked oil tankers looking for salvage.  They’re small enough to get into tiny pipes and bring out the copper wire that can be sold for scrap.  And yet, they don’t hate us for making a total mess of the world.  There are storms beyond compare, the sea level has destroyed vast land masses and pretty much ruined everything.  And yet, none of them complain about their lot in life.  They just get on with it.  This isn’t a “Hell Stop with Spoiling the World… or else” story.  And yet it is.  You get the message, but it’s subtly done.

12) Motivations – The main character is Nailer.  He’s the one who crawls along the pipes and brings out the wire. He’s part of a team, and the team look after each other.  Now Nailer could be a hard, bitter kid – his life is bad enough for it – his father is a total horror, he’s pretty much always starving, he lives on the beach under some palm fronds and rubbish.  And yet, he’s not.  In fact he questions his actions all the way through the story… why has he not turned out like his dad? And this makes him so interesting and really fuels his motivation.  It makes him a totally compelling character to follow.

13) Tension – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book (and I’ve read thousands) that has had me biting my nails as much as this one.  And I don’t bite my nails! It was horrible but in such a good way.  I felt my heart racing… literally.  If anyone out there wants to know how to do tension sensationally, then this is the book to read.

14) Unexpected twists – A beautiful clipper ship is washed up after a storm and on board is a dying girl.  She is wealthy and has more money than Nailer and his friend Pima have ever dreamed of. This sets in motion a series of events that you just cannot predict.  (And I am always trying to do that!) The story took me to places I wasn’t prepared to go.  And it was full of surprises.  I loved that.

15) Inventiveness – there were so many cool things to say woooo over.  The phosphorescent paint that the scavengers smeared on their foreheads so they could see in the pipes, the branding of the teams so you knew who they worked for and if you were sacked the brand was cut off, the half men, the organ harvesters… yes, woooooo.

16) The language –  a swank, Lucky Strike, Rust Saint… I found myself using these terms in real life.  The only time I’ve ever done that before is when I yell “10 points to Gryffindor” whenever my kids do something good (yes, I am that annoying!) .

17) Horrible choices – I’ll never forget Writing 101, Lesson 1, Part 1, (a) – Make your characters choose between bad… or worse.  This novel has that in spades!

18) A world you want to live in – yes, I know, I’m weird.  But despite this being a dystopian novel I wanted to go there, live there and be part of Nailer’s gang! (Maybe for a long holiday…)

19) Equality – There are lots of girls/boys/women/men in this story, but not once was the differentiation made.  Never.  They were all equal in work, in fighting, in choices, in absolutely everything that happened. That was bloody brilliant!

20) Tool – Yes, sorry, I know that’s a duplicate…but… not sorry actually.  You have to read about him and you’ll see.


So there you go.  You have no excuse.  Honestly you won’t be sorry, I lost myself inside Ship Breaker and I wanted to stay there.  It is without doubt one of the most phenomenal novels I have ever read. And I don’t say that lightly. (And if anyone reads it and wants to add another 10, I’m sure there are at least 30 reasons to read Ship Breaker :))

It’s only available in the UK in hardback just now, but the paperback is out in July.

About Eve Harvey

Eve Harvey is a bookaholic. She is forever to be found with her nose in a book. If there are none around then newspapers, magazines, the back of cereal packets, road signs or the tiny washing labels found on the seams of jumpers will do. Eve used to have full time job as a children's bookseller and she was the very first Waterstone's Children's Expert Bookseller in Scotland. Her first love was definitely literature for children and teens, about which she has nerd-level knowledge. However she has since become involved in grown-up books and has co-written her first adult novel with Cath Murphy. Eve and Cath Podcast, blog and have far too much fun on their website Domestic Hell. Eve lives in a field just outside Edinburgh in Scotland with her daughter and son and two dogs and two rabbits. She also has some tanks of tropical fish and vows one day to start up a marine aquarium. And the day she signs her very first publishing deal she is going to celebrate by buying a pair of Horsefields tortoises. You can find Eve through her Agent, Ella Kahn at DKW Literary Agency. She's also on Twitter or on her website :

10 comments on “Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

  1. Jackie
    March 26, 2011

    Oh my, you really liked this book! And it must be something that you’d still want to spend time in such a harsh world. It does sound intriguing & I like the gender equality. That’s a good point you make about the flux of dystopian novels right now. It’s also depressing to think about.

  2. Nikki
    March 26, 2011

    Well, how can I not go and read it? One of the most glowing and excited reviews I’ve ever read on VL!

    What sells me so much on this is that it’s so subtle – I can’t bear being beaten around the head. It’s irritating and makes me think the author thinks I’m stupid. I haven’t touched a dystopian novel since my headache inducing encounter with The Rapture, but you’ve convinced me to go back. Fantastic review, thank you!

  3. Eve Harvey
    March 26, 2011

    Thanks guys 🙂

    I absolutely loved this book. It’s quite extraordinary.

    Nikki… get it, you will find dystopian teen novels to be in a whole new league and this is one of the best. Enjoy!

  4. martine
    March 27, 2011

    thanks for this review, am always on the lookout for things for my daughters, they loved the Hunger games and this sounds really fascinating
    best wishes

  5. Lisa
    March 27, 2011

    Buying this. Thanks for the great review, Eve.

  6. Jamie Mollart
    March 30, 2011

    Sounds awesome Eve, I want it!

  7. lexy3587
    May 2, 2011

    Thanks for the review – I read the book because of it, and really enjoyed it!

  8. Eve Harvey
    May 5, 2011

    Thanks lexy… glad you enjoyed it 🙂

    Thanks Jamie and Lisa and martine… hope you love it. I am still reeling from the awesomeness 🙂

  9. Pingback: Paperbackdolls » Tween Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

  10. Pingback: Ship Breaker | Susan Hated Literature

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This entry was posted on March 26, 2011 by in Entries by Eve, Fiction: young adult and tagged , , , , .



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