Ship Breaker takes places in a gritty, grim future, where the divide between the rich and the poor is deeper than ever. The poor grow up like Nailer,...moreShip Breaker takes places in a gritty, grim future, where the divide between the rich and the poor is deeper than ever. The poor grow up like Nailer, a youth who lives in a little shack on a beach off the Gulf Coast with his abusive, drugged-up father. Like everyone else on the beach, Nailer must work hard to survive, stripping washed-up oil rigs for the raw materials, but even hard work is not enough to guarantee survival in his dog-eat-dog world. Nailer can rely on hardly anyone, besides his crew boss Pima and her mother. His father doesn't care, and even his own crewmates, blood-sworn to have his back, will betray him if it means being rewarded by the Fates with their own "lucky strike".
Nailer's beach has people from a hodgepodge of cultures and ethnic backgrounds. One thing I loved about this book was that the people came in all shades of colors, and none of the characterizations resorted to stereotypes. Unlike most books, white is not the default. Such a mix of characters also paved the way for an interesting culture, one that thrives on luck and "the Fates", with gods and deities from all religions, as well as some made-up ones like the Rust god. I just found this interesting because it emphasized the fact that everyone was poor, no matter their color or beliefs. Everyone had to struggle, with no one being that much better off than another.
One theme that this novel explores pretty well is how some people lose their sense of humanity in the face of adversity. No one in this book is nice. They are all willing to kill if they have to, but with each person having a different way of determining when they "have to". Nailer has more humanity than most. When a city-killer storm ravages the beach, it leaves behind the wreck of a clipper ship, a vessel for rich people. Nailer and his best friend, Pima, are the first to discover the ship, and are determined to scavenge all they can from it. In one of the rooms they discover a beautiful "swank" girl, who appears to have been crushed by toppled furniture. Noticing the girl's gold jewelry, Nailer and Pima have no qualms about taking it from her, perhaps cutting off her fingers in the process in order to get her gold rings. Things become complicated when the girl turns out to be alive. Pima is all for cutting the girls throat and taking the loot. Pima is not a bad character. She is fiercely loyal to Nailer and the rest of her crew and family, but she has no sympathy for characters outside her circle of loyalty. Nailer is more conflicted, convincing Pima that the girl is worth more alive than dead, for people are certain to come looking for her.
Through out the novel, Nailer is torn between being "smart" (aka doing what he can to survive and get ahead), or doing what is right. He constantly finds himself doing what he can to save the swank girl, Nita, and returning her to her family, although that is difficult because they are being pursued by enemies of Nita's father, who want to use Nita as leverage, as well as Nailer's own father, a killer who wants revenge.
The world that Ship Breaker is set in is one of YA distopia's best, as it is well-concieved and imaginative, while remaining plausible. The plot was extremely fast-paced, violent, and action-packed, and the writing had moments of insightfulness. But one thing that was missing from the novel was empathy. I felt it lacked heart and an emotional punch. The characters felt more like roles than actual people. There was potential for some extremely heart-wrenching moments that was ignored, and the small romance between Nailer and Nita could have been fleshed-out more. I don't intend to be sexist, but I just believe this is because the author is male and this book is geared towards a male audience. Not that females can't enjoy it too, its just if they are hoping for some intense romance, they will be disappointed.
One more small quirk I had with this book was how Nailer learned to read so fast. I just found that highly unbelievable, and it took me out of the story.
But overall, it was quite a good novel. It wrapped-up nicely, leaving room for a sequel (I understand it's to be a trilogy), but no cliff-hanger. Nonetheless, I am eager for the next installment.
Pathfinder is centered on Rigg, a thirteen year old boy who lives an isolated life hunting and poaching with his enigmatic father. Rigg has a strange...morePathfinder is centered on Rigg, a thirteen year old boy who lives an isolated life hunting and poaching with his enigmatic father. Rigg has a strange ability; he can see paths, tracks in time that are remnants of every living thing ever to have lived. The only person whose path he cannot see is his father's, who dies one day in an accident. His father's last wish is for Rigg to find the sister he never knew he had. This leads Rigg to undergo a fascinating journey, with every step of the way leading him to uncover more secrets about his father and his own special abilities. Meanwhile, in a parallel story, there is Ram, another young man with mysterious abilities, who is responsible for a time-traveling ship searching for a new home in the universe.
Owww. This book made my brain hurt. There is time-traveling, parallel time lines, paradoxes, and all other sorts of sci-fi fun. In order to get the full effect of the story, you have to work with it, actively putting pieces together as you go along. I loved that. I was able to crack the mystery about how the two stories come together half-way through the book, but it took a lot of deduction on my part. Also, nothing is ever as simple as "magic". There is a specific convoluted scientific reasons for all the special abilities in the book, which Card does not hesitate to dive into. Dude, books like this make me feel stupid. How do people think of this stuff! It did not help that the main characters were geniuses in their own right. My favorite part of this book was easily the story itself. It was well-concieved and quite epic. Although the book is over 600 pages long, the pages flip by relatively quickly if you don't get too hung up on trying to figure out the finer point of the space-time continuum.
I've only read one other book by Orson Scott Card, the famous Ender's Game, and I saw some definite similarities. They both had adolescent main characters with a genius IQ and intense responsibilities, and the writing was quite the same. The dialogue was witty, and the characters were fun, but I never really felt connected with the story. This happens to me often with third-person narration. The characters can be perfectly well-developed and complex, but if its in 3rd-person, I just don't feel emotionally invested. Card's writing was also cool and calculating, much like his characters, and didn't lend much to descriptions. I still don't have any idea what the characters look like except for the vaguest notions, and the scenery was pretty much left entirely to the imagination.
Overall, this was a great read for lovers of YA sci-fi, and while this novel had some sense of closure, I can't wait to see what is next in the trilogy. Hopefully, Card remains in good enough health to finish it. (less)