Pamela's Reviews > The Drowned Cities

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
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's review
Jun 15, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: alternate-histories-or-futures, disappointing, dystopian, ew, readin2012, series, twisted, woefully-depressing, ya
Read from June 14 to 15, 2012

My memory may be imperfect, and I may not be remembering Ship Breaker properly, but The Drowned Cities felt so much weaker, more conventional, and less engaging than its predecessor. It's set in the same world, and I think some of the characters cross over (at least one of them does, I'm pretty sure) but I felt lost and disoriented in this area of the brave, wet new world the author has envisioned.

While Ship Breaker took place around the Gulf Coast, here we've moved up north to what the people call "The Drowned Cities"--which are evidently Washington, D.C. and its environs. I assume NYC is included as well, but this book concerns itself with D.C. However, I don't think I would have been able to figure that out had it not been for the cover and the mention of being close to Alexandria. The characters move through the ruins of the East Coast, now covered in jungle vines and full of soldiers. I have really no idea who these soldiers are or what they want--if it was explained in the earlier book, I don't remember, and I think that if an author does a series, he or she should at least drop a few hints about what's been going on. I didn't feel that strong sense of place that was so present in Ship Breaker.

The characters here are generally all on the "unlikeable" spectrum (except for the augment, Tool), ranging from "annoying" to "vile." We have two protagonist-ish people, with a third one tossed in there from time to time. I didn't like any of them. Now, that's obviously not a requirement for liking a book--I've read books where the characters are unlikeable and yet I liked the book. But here ... it just feels so shallow, somehow. And even the likeable (-ish) character of Tool was used in such a way as to feel hackneyed and convenient--I think another Goodreads user used the term "deus ex machina," which applies, I think.

Another major issue I had with this, is that it felt like Bacigalupi wrote an adult novel, took out most of the sex, and made his characters young in order to appeal to a YA audience. The violence level was pretty much off-the-charts gratuitous, complete with ritual heart-eating (would that be cardiophagy???) and all sorts of goodies. Bacigalupi glosses over rape, although it is mentioned, but repeatedly has characters discussing how another will get his p***k red with blood with his first kill. Um. Look, I know people talk like that, but this dialogue felt forced. LIke, oooh, how edgy!

I suppose I'd read another in the series, but would definitely prefer it if it focused more on the events of the first book. Also less heart eating would be much appreciated, thanks.
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