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Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi, Joshua Swanson This is a pretty good YA adventure yarn with some steampunk trappings.The back story—hinted at but not spelled out in detail—is that global warming has melted the ice caps, sea levels have risen, and massive flooding and severe weather have restructured the world economy and probably politics too. On the Gulf Coast of the (former?) U.S., teenage Nailer works on a crew dismantling beached old-style ships for scrap metal (just like exploited laborers do on the Indian and Pakistani coasts today). His mother is dead and his father is a violence-prone drug addict, so it's no bed of roses. But then a "swank" sailing ship—in this future, post–Peak Oil, old technologies have been resuscitated and developed—wrecks off the coast, and Nailer gets caught up in a whole other level of violence and exploitation, under the name of capitalism.Bacigalupi works in some good undercurrents of political/social critique without weighing down the story, but it gets off to a slow start, with dramatic scenes played too long and too much unnecessary "color" detail. The story really gets going by the end, but then it stops once we've gotten our main characters past their major obstacle. If this is the first book of a series, I probably will read the next one—but it would've been kinder to leave some of the scene-setting for that and future volumes, rather than front-loading it here.The narrator of the audiobook does a great job with character voices (though some of the accents are unnecessarily heavy), but his narration is clumsy, often subject to entirely inappropriate pauses and emphases, as though he hasn't even read ahead to the end of the sentence. It's clearly enunciated and easy to understand on a word-by-word level, but does violence to the rhythms of Bacigalupi's sentences (and he's a perfectly good writer) and becomes unpleasant to listen to for long stretches. The book itself deserves 4 stars, but the audiobook narration knocks it down to 3.