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The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
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The Drowned Cities (edition 2012)

by Paolo Bacigalupi

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5384518,671 (3.88)40
Member:ravengirl
Title:The Drowned Cities
Authors:Paolo Bacigalupi
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 448 pages
Collections:default collection
Rating:
Tags:science fiction, young adult, read, post-apocalyptic

Work details

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

  1. 00
    Orleans by Sherri L. Smith (legxleg)
    legxleg: Both are fast-paced novels set in a post-apocalyptic gulf coast.
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    grizzly.anderson: Both books extrapolate on current social and political trends to produce a dystopian future.
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» See also 40 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
First of all, I wish i'd read this sooner after reading Ship Breaker, because in the back of my mind I kept looking for connections between the two stories as I read...which only annoyed me, because I can't remember what I ate for dinner two, sometimes even one, day ago, so of course my recollections of a book I read last year are, at best, hazy.

But that's not the fault of the books, obviously. Just my problem.

Anyway. I enjoyed this book--read it in about a day, and had a good time. But, I swear, it should have been longer. I don't know why it seems like that, but when I started thinking about the pros and cons of The Drowned Cities, my first thought was that it was too short. Like, it should have been denser somehow. Maybe that's just my impression because I finished it fairly quickly. And it's not like it was without substance--I got a good feel for the characters and their world, as well as their situations, and there was a definite message about violence and war, so, you know, not without substance. It just could have been more substantial, and that would have been a good thing.

So I think it's more 3.5 stars than 4, but it deserved the rounding-up rather than rounding-down. I'm hoping that the author will continue to write novels set in this world. ( )
  -sunny- | Jul 15, 2014 |
First of all, I wish i'd read this sooner after reading Ship Breaker, because in the back of my mind I kept looking for connections between the two stories as I read...which only annoyed me, because I can't remember what I ate for dinner two, sometimes even one, day ago, so of course my recollections of a book I read last year are, at best, hazy.

But that's not the fault of the books, obviously. Just my problem.

Anyway. I enjoyed this book--read it in about a day, and had a good time. But, I swear, it should have been longer. I don't know why it seems like that, but when I started thinking about the pros and cons of The Drowned Cities, my first thought was that it was too short. Like, it should have been denser somehow. Maybe that's just my impression because I finished it fairly quickly. And it's not like it was without substance--I got a good feel for the characters and their world, as well as their situations, and there was a definite message about violence and war, so, you know, not without substance. It just could have been more substantial, and that would have been a good thing.

So I think it's more 3.5 stars than 4, but it deserved the rounding-up rather than rounding-down. I'm hoping that the author will continue to write novels set in this world. ( )
  -sunny- | Jul 15, 2014 |
(review duplicates what I posted on LJ)

I loved Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, the story of Nailer, a boy who works stripping ancient oil tankers in a globally warmed futureworld, whose life changes when he and his friend Pima discover a shipwrecked luxury clipper. The world was vivid, and the characters were wonderful, so I was very excited to be entrusted with an advance copy of The Drowned Cities, which the publisher describes as a companion to Ship Breaker.

The Drowned Cities does share one character with Ship Breaker (Tool, a genetically engineered “half-man”), but it is a very different sort of story. Despite its bleak setting, I found Ship Breaker to be a very hopeful story. It was about, among other things, building families and establishing trust, and about people’s ability to escape from what genetics or circumstance dictates is their lot in life. The Drowned Cities, by contrast, explores how no one in a war zone can escape the black-hole pull of the carnage. You think you have morals and ideals you would hold true to, no matter what? You think at the very least you’d protect your loved ones to the death? You concede that you might do some things to survive, but not other things? The Drowned Cities begs to differ.

The protagonists, Mahlia and Mouse, are younger than Ship Breaker’s Nailer, but their lives are an order of magnitude harsher—which is saying something. They live near drowned Washington DC, which has become the stomping grounds of regional militias reminiscent of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front and Uganda’s terrifying Lord’s Resistance Army, complete with child soldiers, civilian massacres, and amputations. Mahlia’s the offspring of a long-gone Chinese peacekeeper father and a local mother (now dead) who made her living selling off the cultural patrimony of the former United States. Mouse is a war orphan.

The more you identify with Mahlia and Mouse—and Bacigalupi portrays them warmly and thoroughly, so it’s easy to identify with them—the more inescapable your participation in the wartime horrors they experience (and create). It forces a kind of radical humility and empathy: there but for chance of birth go any of us.

Of course, universal as the human capacity for atrocity is, we are actually culturally specific in the ways we brutalize each other: Pol Pot’s child soldiers aren’t precisely interchangeable with Charles Taylor’s, any more than the Armenian genocide is interchangeable with the Rwandan one, so really I suspect that warlord conflicts in a failed-state United States would have a somewhat less Sierra Leonean flavor than they do in The Drowned Cities, just as I suspect Chinese peacekeepers’ encouraging posters would be more like the four-character political slogans we see in China today—things like “One Country, Two Systems” rather than “beat your swords into plowshares” and “only animals tear each other apart,” which are among the examples given in The Drowned Cities.

Still, that’s a quibble, and since part of Bacigalupi’s intention is to make us identify with real-world conflicts that we’d like to distance ourselves from, I can accept the scenario he’s created.

The story also contrasts actions based on abstract ideas with actions based on personal, human relationships. War is hell, and even personal, human relationships won’t guarantee that you won’t end up betraying someone or being betrayed, but action based on friendship and love is shown as infinitely superior to actions that are prompted by abstractions—even abstractions that we think of as good. Kindly Dr. Mahfouz, a pacifist doctor who has sheltered the children, is ruled by his ideals, but it means his sense of compassion stops abruptly when he’s confronted with Tool, who, as a creature engineered for war, falls outside his moral framework. Mahlia, who’s not encumbered by a moral framework, is able to respond to Tool as a person. Self-interest affects her actions, but that’s not a bad thing, in the Drowned Cities.

What hope there is in The Drowned Cities comes from people recognizing one another’s humanity and reaching out to one another on a personal, individual level—rather than treating one another as members of some category: half-man, wartime castoff child, soldier boy. The relationships that Mouse and Mahlia have, at separate points in the story, with the youthful Sergeant Ocho are all about perceiving and fanning the humanity in one another. Seeing it happen makes you-the-reader stop and ponder what comprises humanity, what it means to be human, and what it means to love one another.

This is a harrowing book. It’s not fun. But it’s powerful, very, very thought-provoking, and, in the end, humane. Although no one is immune to degradation, no one is so low that they can’t be lifted up, if someone reaches out a hand and if they’re willing to take it. That’s a profoundly hopeful truth to discover amid the horror, and I’m grateful for it. I’m very glad to have read The Drowned Cities, and I highly recommend it--just be prepared for what you’re getting into.

[Edited to add...] There are other things I wanted to say--things I especially liked (Mouse's transformation: that was one of the things that gripped me most in the book), things I had reservations about (Tool's character: he seemed less his own person in this and more a type than in Ship Breaker), and things I initially had reservations about but ended up liking (Dr. Mahfouz's decision referenced above; certain things about Mahlia). But you know, a review that covered **all** that would be really long. And it's hard to discuss any of this without causing spoilers, and since the book isn't out yet, those are an especial no-no. So here we are. ( )
  FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |
(review duplicates what I posted on LJ)

I loved Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, the story of Nailer, a boy who works stripping ancient oil tankers in a globally warmed futureworld, whose life changes when he and his friend Pima discover a shipwrecked luxury clipper. The world was vivid, and the characters were wonderful, so I was very excited to be entrusted with an advance copy of The Drowned Cities, which the publisher describes as a companion to Ship Breaker.

The Drowned Cities does share one character with Ship Breaker (Tool, a genetically engineered “half-man”), but it is a very different sort of story. Despite its bleak setting, I found Ship Breaker to be a very hopeful story. It was about, among other things, building families and establishing trust, and about people’s ability to escape from what genetics or circumstance dictates is their lot in life. The Drowned Cities, by contrast, explores how no one in a war zone can escape the black-hole pull of the carnage. You think you have morals and ideals you would hold true to, no matter what? You think at the very least you’d protect your loved ones to the death? You concede that you might do some things to survive, but not other things? The Drowned Cities begs to differ.

The protagonists, Mahlia and Mouse, are younger than Ship Breaker’s Nailer, but their lives are an order of magnitude harsher—which is saying something. They live near drowned Washington DC, which has become the stomping grounds of regional militias reminiscent of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front and Uganda’s terrifying Lord’s Resistance Army, complete with child soldiers, civilian massacres, and amputations. Mahlia’s the offspring of a long-gone Chinese peacekeeper father and a local mother (now dead) who made her living selling off the cultural patrimony of the former United States. Mouse is a war orphan.

The more you identify with Mahlia and Mouse—and Bacigalupi portrays them warmly and thoroughly, so it’s easy to identify with them—the more inescapable your participation in the wartime horrors they experience (and create). It forces a kind of radical humility and empathy: there but for chance of birth go any of us.

Of course, universal as the human capacity for atrocity is, we are actually culturally specific in the ways we brutalize each other: Pol Pot’s child soldiers aren’t precisely interchangeable with Charles Taylor’s, any more than the Armenian genocide is interchangeable with the Rwandan one, so really I suspect that warlord conflicts in a failed-state United States would have a somewhat less Sierra Leonean flavor than they do in The Drowned Cities, just as I suspect Chinese peacekeepers’ encouraging posters would be more like the four-character political slogans we see in China today—things like “One Country, Two Systems” rather than “beat your swords into plowshares” and “only animals tear each other apart,” which are among the examples given in The Drowned Cities.

Still, that’s a quibble, and since part of Bacigalupi’s intention is to make us identify with real-world conflicts that we’d like to distance ourselves from, I can accept the scenario he’s created.

The story also contrasts actions based on abstract ideas with actions based on personal, human relationships. War is hell, and even personal, human relationships won’t guarantee that you won’t end up betraying someone or being betrayed, but action based on friendship and love is shown as infinitely superior to actions that are prompted by abstractions—even abstractions that we think of as good. Kindly Dr. Mahfouz, a pacifist doctor who has sheltered the children, is ruled by his ideals, but it means his sense of compassion stops abruptly when he’s confronted with Tool, who, as a creature engineered for war, falls outside his moral framework. Mahlia, who’s not encumbered by a moral framework, is able to respond to Tool as a person. Self-interest affects her actions, but that’s not a bad thing, in the Drowned Cities.

What hope there is in The Drowned Cities comes from people recognizing one another’s humanity and reaching out to one another on a personal, individual level—rather than treating one another as members of some category: half-man, wartime castoff child, soldier boy. The relationships that Mouse and Mahlia have, at separate points in the story, with the youthful Sergeant Ocho are all about perceiving and fanning the humanity in one another. Seeing it happen makes you-the-reader stop and ponder what comprises humanity, what it means to be human, and what it means to love one another.

This is a harrowing book. It’s not fun. But it’s powerful, very, very thought-provoking, and, in the end, humane. Although no one is immune to degradation, no one is so low that they can’t be lifted up, if someone reaches out a hand and if they’re willing to take it. That’s a profoundly hopeful truth to discover amid the horror, and I’m grateful for it. I’m very glad to have read The Drowned Cities, and I highly recommend it--just be prepared for what you’re getting into.

[Edited to add...] There are other things I wanted to say--things I especially liked (Mouse's transformation: that was one of the things that gripped me most in the book), things I had reservations about (Tool's character: he seemed less his own person in this and more a type than in Ship Breaker), and things I initially had reservations about but ended up liking (Dr. Mahfouz's decision referenced above; certain things about Mahlia). But you know, a review that covered **all** that would be really long. And it's hard to discuss any of this without causing spoilers, and since the book isn't out yet, those are an especial no-no. So here we are. ( )
  FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |
A great return to the world of The Shipbreakers ( )
  ExpatTX | Mar 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
The Drowned Cities is an adventure story, a thriller and a sharply drawn fable about the state of the world today. It succeeds handily on all three fronts
added by 4leschats | editBook Page, Heather Seggel (May 1, 2012)
 
Beautifully written, filled with high-octane action, and featuring badly damaged but fascinating and endearing characters, this fine novel tops its predecessor and can only increase the author's already strong reputation.
added by 4leschats | editPublishers Weekly (pay site) (Mar 12, 2012)
 
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For my father
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Chains clanked in the darkness of the holding cells.
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In a dark future America that has devolved into unending civil wars, orphans Mahlia and Mouse barely escape the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities, but their fragile safety is soon threatened and Mahlia will have to risk everything if she is to save Mouse, as he once saved her.… (more)

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