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'Ship Breaker' by Paolo Bacigalupi - A Post-Apocalyptic Adventure

Updated on August 13, 2019
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I love everything weird and colorful in this world and I try to live a life that will make the world a little better once I'm gone.

'Ship Breaker' by Paolo Bacigalupi - A Science Fiction Post-Apocalyptic Adventure

New Orleans has been totally destroyed by storms and rising water. New Orleans II has also been decimated. And MissMet (not named New Orleans 3 out of superstition) is now half covered with water. That is when the book Ship Breaker begins. Taking place in a future where the earth has changed wildly due to pollution and climate change, Nailer and his crew live and work on a dirty oil covered beach taking apart giant old oil tankers piece by piece for salvage. There seems little chance to change their lot, until a "lucky strike", a modern clipper ship, crashes on a nearby shore.

Ship Breaker is an amazing book that shows a cold hard world that evolved from the decisions that we make today. I can't say enough good things about this book. It is continuously captivating in its plot, characters, and setting. While written as a young adult book, it certainly won't let down any adult reader. I would suggest this book to anyone who likes an adventure, and highly recommend it to young adult guys.

'Ship Breaker' by Paolo Bacigalupi


  • Finalist for the 2010 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and won the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award
  • Winner of the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book.
  • Nominee for the 2010 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Listed on American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association list: 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Ship Breaker Book Trailer

This is an amazing book trailer that gives a good feel for the book. It represents the half-men a bit more werewolf-like than I imagined from the book. Don't be confused by that. This is not a werewolf book.

Paolo Bacigalupi Describes the Inspiration for Ship Breaker

Paolo Bacigalupi speaks here about what what things inspired this book, and what he hoped to accomplish with the story.

Issues in Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker is not a happy and fluffy young adult novel. It hits upon issues that are heavy and complex. Issues are not presented frivolously; they are important to the stories and the characters. They are presented in a very real way, stays appropriate for a young adult audience.

Issues touched upon in this book include: domestic abuse, drug addiction, violence, slavery, child labor, the effects of global warming & climate change, betrayal, sexual abuse (eluded to briefly), religions, literacy, guilt, business ethics, and world economics & politics.

This is a book I would recommend for someone high school age or older. Mature middle schoolers may possibly like the story, though I'm not sure they would get all this book has to offer unless read in a class where things are discussed and questions can be answered.

Before hearing about this book, were you aware of the ship breaking industry that exists today?

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What do YOU know about Ship Breaking?

The shipbreaking industry is not just part of a sci-fi novel set in the future.

This industry exists today on the oil covered beaches of several impoverished locations such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

People today are breaking down these massive ships in bare feet on oil covered beaches, in conditions unimaginable.

Someone Will Make This Book into a Film

I have no doubt.

This book is exactly the kind of book that converts into an amazing movie. It describes visually interesting settings throughout the book, and has fascinating characters that would translate well to film. There would be such contrast on the big screen to see the dirt and grime of the beach but then the modern clippers in the distance. Seeing the tops of the buildings, "the Teeth", from New Orleans peaking up out of the water would be a jarring image, and the half flooded urban scenes would be great on screen. I would love to see how they intrepret the descriptions of the half-men and implement them for a film.

I don't know who will be the one to pick this movie up and turn it into a movie, but whoever does will surely have a blockbuster on their hands.

It's the first in a trilogy!

Shipbreaker is, on it's own, a complete story. Starting this book is not a big commitment to a series - you can read just this and be satisfied. However, if you just can't get enough of this world, there were two followup books:

  • The Drowned Cities (2013)
  • Tool of War (2017)

To me, personally, neither packed the punch that Ship Breaker did, but still a fun read.

More Great Books By Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupo has written several great sci-fi books. One of my favorites is Windeup Girl a biopunk novel which won several awards as well. This is not a young adult novel, but meant for an older audience.

The Water Knife is another great book of his which is set in the Southwest of the US when climate change has caused a great drought there.

© 2011 Kerri Bee


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    • profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      7 years ago

      I do like post-apocalyptic novels so I may have to get this one. Alas Babylon is another good one although it's older.

    • Christene-S profile image


      9 years ago

      I might check this out once I'm finished with the third book in the Hunger Games.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      9 years ago from Canada

      You have done a phenomenal job on this book review. Love it!


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