Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
In the aftermath of environmental apocalypse, in the world of ship breaking on the Gulf Coast, Nailer survives by pulling copper wire from grounded oil tankers. He, like everyone else he knows, is looking for a ‘lucky strike’—the chance to find something valuable such as oil or gold—that he can keep a secret from the crew bosses and from his ultra-violent, drug-sliding father. But lucky strikes are few and far between—legendary, really. When Nailer thinks he has found one, he nearly loses his life as a crew mate refuses to keep the loyalty oath and tries to cash in for herself.
But there is a high price to pay for breeches in crew loyalty. Once put off a ship breaking crew, a teen will have no choice but to sell his or her body—first sexually, and finally in parts—collecting small sums for eyes and kidneys—until death finally arrives through starvation.
Though Nailer has a true mate in Pima, his crew boss, his existence in threatened everyday by his crystal-sliding father. Also a threat is the extreme weather. When a hurricane hits, Nailer and Pima seem to have found a lucky strike in the form of a grounded yacht. Only ‘swanks,’ people who are rich beyond imagination, can afford these clippers of the sea. And sure enough, when Pima and Nailer board the clipper, hoping to seal all the gold and silver before Nailer’s father and the powerfully violent men get word of it, the pair find impossible riches.
They also find some dead people. Just as they are about to cut the jewelry off a swank girl, she shows signs of life. Now Pima and Nailer have a dilemma: do they slit her throat, which might be a humane way to end her suffering? Or do they try to save her and hope for a vast reward?
Like Nailer’s first lucky strike, this one, too, leads to extraordinary danger. Nailer becomes wrapped up in the world of transcontinental shipping companies and the multi-billionaires whose business practices have caused the poverty and depravation of most of the world’s population.
Can a lice-picker like him survive?
High school housekeeping: This is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that completes one element of the storyline and prepares you for another. I think it’s a great choice for guys who have a hard time finding a good book, but everyone will like it for its high-stakes adventure. There’s a lot of social commentary. Ship Breaker, while it’s great sci-fi, leaves you thinking on the consequences of environmental devastation and a world where very few people control the lives of the masses. Super bonus: excellent writing.