Catie's Reviews > The Drowned Cities

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
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's review
Feb 26, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: for-review, read-in-2012, sci-fi, series, speculative-fiction, ya
Read from April 10 to 14, 2012

4 1/2 stars

Many of you (and I’m guessing possibly even the author himself) will laugh me off this small stage when I confess that I find Paolo Bacigalupi’s novels to be incredibly hopeful. Seriously. Now, admittedly, this is an author who writes all about the end of the world as we know it and what we’ve done to bring ourselves here. The Drowned Cities is about the irrevocable loss of childhood innocence, the harsh realities of survival, and the grasping, selfish nature of humankind. His novels are not for everyone, and trust me when I say that they are dark.

And yet, somehow these dark, twisted, eerily prophetic tales make me feel lifted. Maybe it’s because, set against such bleak settings, the hope stands out even more acutely. In the very harsh world of The Drowned Cities, it stands out in moments of sacrifice and resistance: in all the moments when these characters fight to rise out of the grim world they were born into. It’s in the reckless bravery of one damaged child to save another. It’s in the momentary resistance of one hardened teenage soldier to years of violence and trauma. It’s in the deceptively foolish actions of a peaceful man. It’s the strength within one born and bred killer to choose another path. These moments are brief and often fruitless, but they're powerful within the scope of a single life.

But that’s not the entirety of it. It’s hard for me to articulate this properly, but there’s a certain much broader, more ambiguous hope that I think Paolo Bacigalupi paints so incredibly well. It’s a hope that stems from our complete and utter insignificance. We crawl around this Earth, warring with each other and consuming every resource, leaving waste and pollution behind. And yet, the Earth goes on. The Earth finds ways to thrive despite us, because of us. It adapts. Even as we are molding this world into an incompatible home for ourselves, we are remaking it for something, someone else. We are so arrogant; we feel so separate, but the truth is that we aren’t above nature. We are a part of it. We are a small piece of this powerful, wild system that can’t ever be controlled. Even when we try to control it, it slips right out of our hands. We are such a miniscule, temporary part of this Earth’s history. All we have is this one brief moment to live the best we can and to try our hardest not to be a part of the violence and destruction. And even if we fail, this world will go on without us, just as it has for millennia. For some reason, I find a lot of hope in that.

What do all of my ramblings about hope have to do with this book? Everything, says my addled brain. Or maybe nothing. Maybe you’ll have an entirely different feeling, but I can almost guarantee that you’ll feel something for this intense book and its characters. Just read it. If you don’t trust me (understandable – this review is completely unhelpful), click here and let Tatiana’s much more lucid words convince you.

Perfect Musical Pairing

Nine Inch Nails - The Good Soldier

This is a very chilling song, told from the point of view of a soldier as he walks through his destroyed home, stepping over bodies and trying to convince himself that what he's doing is the right thing.

"I am trying to see
I am trying to believe
This is not where I should be
I am trying to believe

Blood hardens in the sand
Cold metal in my hand
Hope you understand the way that things are gonna be
There's nowhere left to hide, 'cause God is on our side
I keep telling myself."

Tatiana and I posted a joint review of this book on The Readventurer.
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Reading Progress

04/11 page 36
13.0% "Loving this." 17 comments
04/12 page 86
31.0% 4 comments
04/13 page 142
51.0% "I can't believe I'm only just putting this together but The Drowned Cities = Washington D.C.?! :-O" 9 comments
05/28 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Reynje (new) - added it

Reynje Beautiful review Catie. Although I have yet to read this - I think that the best dytopian stories contain a underlying element of hope. Perhaps not in the story itself, but in the subtext or the application to ourselves..

So looking to this :)

message 2: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie I agree with Reynje, beautiful

Catie Thanks Reynje. I think that you'll like this one. It's better than Ship Breaker. And maybe if you like this one, I can convince you to read some of his adult stuff! :)

Catie And thanks Bonnie!

message 5: by Paige (new) - added it

Paige Beautiful review and dystopian stories with tinges of hope are always fascinating.

message 6: by Paige (new) - added it

Paige And I've actually read some of his adult stuff -- it's quite impressive,

Catie Thanks Paige. I love his adult stuff. The Windup Girl is one of my absolute favorites. Hopefully he writes something new (adult) soon. Although I have to say that this one comes very close. There's a lot of cross-over potential for this one.

message 8: by Paige (new) - added it

Paige I loved that, as well as his short story collections. It would be great if he wrote some more adult. Both Ship Breaker and this book seem to have quite a bit of crossover appeal (though The Drowned Cities might have a little more crossover appeal).

Kwoomac Great review. I hadn'tthought about the whole hope angle, but I agree with you. I think it's what keeps the story readable, otherwise it's just too bleak.

Catie Thanks! I am usually a big fan of bleak, but I do find his stories hopeful (in a way).

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