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Monday, April 12, 2021

Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Young adult, near future, science fiction. I picked it up at my son's house because I wanted something to read, this one was lying right there in front of me and I had previously read The Windup Girl by the same author and I remembered that one being pretty good.

The world has changed, the seas have risen, New Orleans is underwater, but a city of a sort has grown up on what's still sticking above the water. Plus it's still a port, all the scrap metal from the shipbreaking business gets sent there on a train.

Shipbreaking (the business of taking apart old, worn out cargo ships and turning them into scrap metal) is now being done on the Gulf Coast by a savage crew of desperately poor people. Nailer, our hero, is a boy working on a light crew. These are the guys who go in and strip out all the light weight stuff, like wiring, before the heavy crew gets to work taking apart the hull.

It's a young adult novel so it's fairly simple-minded. A quick, easy and enjoyable read. There are a few science fiction-y bits. We have half-men walking around which are some kind of genetic hybrid of man and animal predators, used by those in charge for enforcement and protection.

Then there are the sailing yachts that the rich and powerful use to get around the world. These boats are overgrown versions of the racing sailboats we have today: carbon fiber hulls, hydrofoils and special sails. The sails are a bit of a trick. They use cannons to launch parasails into the stratosphere where they pick up the jet stream and drag the boats at impossible speeds. Being as the jet stream is several miles above the surface, you would need a pretty big gun to get to that height. But maybe they shoot rockets. We have guns that do that now. And you would need some super-strong lines to be able to reliably reach that far without having to carry reels that would sink your boat. That seems like it might be doable in the not too distant future.

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