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#CBR6 Review #18: Ship Breaker

Ship BreakerTarget: Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker #1)

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

After Action Report:

There is a gritty reality to Paolo Bacigalupi’s work.  A grim straightforwardness that crushes the optimism older SF styles.  On its own, this same honesty produces brilliantly brutal speculative fiction, like Windup Girl.  But there is a necessary optimism to Young Adult literature that is at odds with Bacigalupi’s tone.  Ship Breaker lives in artificial space between two styles, carving out its own literary niche, but at the same time feeling discordant and incomplete.  And yet, it is a technically excellent novel that I really did enjoy.

Like many of Bacigalupi’s stories, Ship Breaker deals with a post-industrial crisis world.  Climate changes has melted the ice caps and destroyed much of costal civilization.  Technology and wealth have concentrated even further and the average person lives at the whim of a few mega-corporations that dominate the world.  Nailer and his crew are child laborers who scrape a living from salvaging the wrecks of cargo ships from the old era.  When the ship of a wealthy heiress crashes into their lives, Nailer jumps at the opportunity to escape his dead-end situation, only to get caught up in an international power struggle.

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#CBR6 Review #12 – Un Lun Dun

Un Lun DunTarget: China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun

Profile: Young Adult, Fantasy, Weird Fantasy

After Action Report:

‘China Miéville’ and ‘children’s book’ are not, at first glance, two things that would appear to mesh.  Miéville, who I have described in previous reviews as being macabre, dense and sometimes overwhelmingly complicated (in an enjoyable way), is hardly the first person I’d pick to write a book for older kids and young adults.  Nevertheless, Un Lun Dun is a triumphant piece of fiction.  It taps into the fundamental truths of adventure stories, uses them where appropriate and turns them on their head when necessary.  Miéville’s singular ability to deconstruct genre and trope help create an earnest adventure for those of us who were never singled out for greatness.

Un Lun Dun follows two London girls, Zanna and Deeba who stumble onto a pathway into UnLondon, an abcity behind and beyond London proper.  Suddenly dropped into a world of magic, animate garbage, carnivorous giraffes and a never ending parade of strange sights, the girls are desperate to find their way back home.  But Zanna is the subject of an ancient prophesy.  Called ‘The Shwazzy,’ she is destined to save UnLondon from the malicious cloud of toxins known as the Smog.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #20 – The Rithmatist

The RithmatistTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist

Profile: Young Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk

After Action Report:

Oh thank god.  A Sanderson book.  I was beginning to get the vapors.  Except these reviews are STILL running about two months behind my reading schedule, so it’s more like I’m starting to get the vapors again…

So Brandon Sanderson took a break from his endless list of epic fantasy projects in order to dabble in the ‘Young Adult’ fantasy market.  The result is, in many ways, a well-written subversion of the Harry Potter books.  Of course there’s more to The Rithmatist than that, but it does seem that Sanderson was aiming to distance himself as much as possible from the story of a kid chosen by fate to save the world from evil.  Unfortunately, it’s still the story (and the characters) he ended up writing.

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