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Ship Breaker

by Paolo Bacigalupi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Ship Breaker (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3412193,684 (3.86)208
In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.
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    4leschats: Both stories deal with environmental issues and teen survival
  13. 00
    Rootless by Chris Howard (wifilibrarian)
    wifilibrarian: Rootless shares several themes and settings with Ship Breaker. Both stories have teen male protagonists with family issues, and both stories are set in future worlds where the environment has collapsed due to human interference. Both include the setting of a future dystopian/post-apocalyptic New Orleans.… (more)

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» See also 208 mentions

English (216)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (219)
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)
2.5 Stars rounded up to 3

Well I expected more from an award winning book. There were some moments where it was so engaging and then the pace would drop off significantly and I would lose interest. It probably would have been okay if there were compelling characters, but I just didn't connect with their story. The writing itself was really quite good and I found myself admiring some descriptions or phrases etc. I will add in content warnings when I am on my computer tomorrow. ( )
  Mrs_Tapsell_Bookzone | Feb 14, 2023 |
While still dystopian, this novel was much easier to handle emotionally than the author's adult fiction. Less grim and more hopeful. I would consider it solarpunk. ( )
  bjsikes | Jan 30, 2023 |
This dystopia takes place on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico in a time that seems to be about 200 years in the future. Global warming has resulted in more severe and unpredictable storms than we have ever seen. Current cities have long since been swallowed by rising sea levels, and it's unclear whether there is any real sort of government remaining in the U.S. or if society is only run by corporations and clans.

I was immediately pulled into the world described in the story as it is told by Nailer, a teenager who lives in poverty and works as a salvage collector. He crawls deep into ancient oil tankers to collect copper wiring and other valuable materials under horrible and unsafe conditions.

Many of the characters are pretty cliched and so is the dialogue, but the world and entire social system in the story are fascinating, and the action is very fast-paced. It was a really fun read, and I'm pretty sure that there will be a sequel. ( )
  kamlibrarian | Dec 23, 2022 |
Shipbreaker ends up as being something of a heart breaker. After an auspicious beginning and a fascinating look at a totally different world of a future and the lifestyle of a particular group of the impoverished shipbreakers and beach dwellers (this is after the depletion of fossil fuels and a catastrophic increase in global warming), the book devolves into the usual poor boy-saves-rich girl adventure plot. The poor boy is shipbreaker Nailer and rich swank Nita on the run from kidnappers sent by her father's rival in the Patel shipping monopoly.

Certainly the most interesting part is the first half. There is an interesting sub-plot about the enslaved half-men clone mutants and their discrimination in society. This sets a theme that won't really be explored until [b:The Drowned Cities|12814594|The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker, #2)|Paolo Bacigalupi|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1333712780s/12814594.jpg|13677912] sequel.

This is a true YA novel so there isn't any four letter words beyond "damn" and no explicit sex. There is plenty of moderately explicit violence. ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. Ship Breaker No. 1. Little, Brown, 2010.
Paolo Bacigalupi won the 2010 Hugo for his 2009 debut novel, The Windup Girl, but he is best known for his short fiction (some of which has been adapted for the Love, Death, and Robots series) and for his young adult novels. Ship Breaker is billed as a YA novel. It is a coming-of-age story with a 14-year-old protagonist, Nailer, whose small size lets him dive into the oily, water-filled holds of rusting tankers looking for salvageable materials. Ship Breaker also features the environmentalist themes and biopunk themes of The Windup Girl. It is set in an America that has suffered an environmental collapse that has melted the poles and generated frequent city-killer hurricanes. The currency seems to be Chinese. The oil industry has collapsed. Most of the economy is based on scavenging for a huge recycling industry. The very rich travel by high-tech, wind-driven clipper ships that also have some limited flight capabilities in ideal conditions. The plot begins when Nailer and his crew rescue a young woman from a wrecked clipper ship who is on the run from corporate pirates. The story is grittier than most young-adult fiction I have read, and Nailer is a well-nuanced character. The world-building is superb. 4 stars. ( )
  Tom-e | Jun 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)
Bacigalupi is a highly acclaimed adult sci-fi writer, and Ship Breaker won last year's prestigious Printz award for young-adult fiction in the US. It's a taut, disciplined novel, moving with tremendous coiled energy and urgency. I found it a tad colourless in places, but Nailer is a fine hero, complicated and questioning, always wondering whether he's doomed to inherit his father's failings or whether he can make his own destiny.

Which is, of course, the essential question of every dystopia. And basically the essential question of every teenager, too. Why do teenagers like dystopias? Simple. They're looking for proof that there's a way to survive the one in which they're already living.

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paolo Bacigalupiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Caplan, DavidDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foster, JonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horváth, NorbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swaab, NeilCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swanson, JoshuaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warner, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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For Arjun
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Nailer clambered through a service duct, tugging at copper wire and yanking it free.
The blood bond was nothing. It was the people that mattered. If they covered your back, and you covered theirs, then maybe that was worth calling family. Everything else was just so much smoke and lies. (p. 274)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.

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Book description
Even at night, the wrecks glowed with work. The torch lights flickered, bobbing and moving. Sledge noise rang across the water. Comforting sounds of work and activity, the air tanged with the coal reek of smelters and the salt fresh breeze coming off the water. It was beautiful.

In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota — and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life — strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.


Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being disassembled for parts by a ragtag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father to his hand-to-mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present-day third world.

When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

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Average: (3.86)
0.5 1
1 5
2 31
2.5 11
3 203
3.5 57
4 425
4.5 43
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