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Ship Breaker: Number 1 in series
Ship Breaker: Number 1 in series
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great YA novel, 7 Jun. 2010
Ship Breaker, released in May 2010, is the second full length novel by Paolo Bacigalupi after The Windup Girl, which won the Nebula Award and is currently in the running for the Hugo Award, and his first Young Adult novel.

Ship Breaker is set in the Gulf Coast region of the United States in the near future, a world ravaged by poverty when oil reserves have been depleted and the sea level has risen dramatically due to climate change, causing geographic and societal shifts. Oil tankers, freighters and other huge sea vessels are no longer of any use due to the lack of oil, their only remaining value is whatever can be salvaged from them. On the Coast, ship breakers work at salvaging whatever they can from these huge ships, tearing them apart bit by bit until nothing remains. Light crews, constituted of children and teenagers due to their ability to fit into cramped ducts, are responsible for the smaller salvages such as the copper wiring or scrap metal whereas heavy crews salvage the bigger, heavier components.

Nailer Lopez, a teenager, is a Ship Breaker, he works for a light crew struggling as best he can to make salvage quota. After a severe hurricane known as a "City Killer" hits his coastal community, he and his crew-mate Pima discover a shipwrecked Clipper inside which they find wealth beyond their wildest dreams: silverware, food, paintings, etc. The crew are all dead, but they stumble upon the unconscious body of what appears to be a very wealthy, and beautiful, teenage girl. They are faced with a dilemma, salvage anything they can from their "Lucky Strike" before anyone else notices the wreck, or go against their instinct and save the girl.

Ship Breaker is a very enjoyable read full of action and adventure that tackles some themes currently in the Zeitgeist (climate change, peak oil) in a convincing way. This especially rings true with the current oil leak in the Gulf Coast. Bacigalupi paints a very bleak, dystopic portrait of our future if we don't find solutions to these problems soon. Clearly, one of the main messages this book sends is that we need to take a lot better care of our environment if we want to live as a species, and not just survive as best we can. I must say the world building in this book was phenomenal, the setting feels both plausible and alive, I would very much like to read more stories set in this world. The huge gap in wealth between the rich corporation owners and everyone else and all the other social commentary felt very à-propos.

The characters and their interactions were mostly vivid and fun to read, I especially liked the idea of the human-dog hybrid slaves. The relentless pace, action and adventure get you hooked in right from the start, it's a real page-turner. It's hard not to feel empathy for Nailer and his friends and the things they go through make you care even more for the characters. However the plot itself felt a bit formulaic and, to me, left something to be desired.

At times I found it hard to believe this novel is aimed at young adults, since some of the darker parts and events of the book had me a little squeamish. I hear this is typical of Bacigalupi, however this is the first book of his that I've read so I wouldn't know. At other times, the moralizing felt a bit heavy handed and repetitive, reminding me that this is a YA novel.

Had this novel been available when I was 13, and had I read it at that time, I'm sure it would have become one of my all-time favourite novels, much like Ender's Game. If the themes or the setting interest you, I highly recommend you read this book, whether you are in the target age group or not.


Revelation Space (S.F. Masterworks)
Revelation Space (S.F. Masterworks)
by Alastair Reynolds
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.63

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Epic First Novel, 18 April 2010
"Revelation Space", first published in 2000 and shortlisted for the BSFA Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, is the first novel written by Alastair Reynolds. Set in the Revelation Space universe, it is the first book in a trilogy.

It's the 26th century and humanity has slowly expanded into space, colonizing worlds, exploring nearby star systems and inevitably splintering into different factions, some of which are at war. There are some strange and intriguing entities in "Revelation Space" such as the Pattern Jugglers and the Shrouders, but space is nonetheless a very lonely and empty place, too empty. Remnants of long extinct civilizations have been discovered, but there is no sign of living intelligent extraterrestrial life. A mystery that is at the core of the story.

On Resurgam, a planet on the outskirts of human expansion, Dan Sylveste is leading a team of archaeologists excavating the remains of the Amarantin, an extinct 900,000 year old civilization that was wiped out by a cataclysmic event. Aboard the decaying Nostalgia for Infinity, a ship capable of interstellar travel at near light-speed, Ilia Volyova and her crew of ultra-humans are searching for Dan Sylveste, because they believe he will be able to help cure their captain of a deadly technological plague. In Chasm City on the planet Yellowstone, the contract assassin Ana Khouri is hired for a job she hopes will lead her to her long lost husband but she needs to find a way aboard the Nostalgia for Infinity.

Alastair Reynolds weaves with skill the stories of these three groups of unpredictable characters, each having their own motivations and goals. Their interpersonal relations are filled with maneuvering, machinations, subterfuge and conflict, their backstories adding even more layers of complexity. Khouri and Volyova are two strong female characters whose backstories and viewpoints I thoroughly enjoyed. Dan Sylveste on the other hand left me ambivalent and felt like a weaker character until the middle of the book, I just wanted to get back to Khouri and Volyova. While the jumping around between characters and timelines in the beginning means the story starts out fairly slowly, it also means you have time to take in the vastness in scale and time of the universe Alastair Reynolds has created. The pace definitely picks up as the the story progresses and builds into a page-turner you can't put down.

The weakness for me lies in the way that Alastair Renolds sometimes handles the information he gives the reader. At times he makes the characters withhold information or revelations from the reader at the time of discovery to be able to reveal them when he wants. Other times scenes feel like they ended abruptly, just when the reader was about to learn some information vital to unraveling the mystery. There are also big infodumps that sometimes cut into the tension of the story towards the end and could have been handled better.

This being hard science fiction, the laws of physics apply, which means there is no such thing as faster than light travel, something that writers often rely on as a crutch when writing space opera to make their stories work. Here however, Alastair Reynolds manages to use this and other limitations to his advantage. An astronomer working at the European Space Research and Technology Centre at the time of writing, his knowledge of physics and astronomy is infused in this book and lends it a real sense of believability, even plausability. The parts of the book where his passion for science blossoms into vast speculation or mind-bending constructs are very strong. His ability to weave real science into his story really captured my imagination.

The general atmosphere of the book is definitely bleak and oppressive, especially aboard the Nostalgia for Infinity, it all feels very Lovecraftian. There is always a sense that something unknown and dangerous is lurking in the darkness, both on the ship and in space.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite its weaker points, there are more than enough big ideas and vivid visuals here and some brilliant prose to make up for them. It's definitely one of the best first novels I've ever read, truely epic. After finishing this book, I dove straight into its sequel, "Redemption Ark".


Tom Clancys Ssn Win 95
Tom Clancys Ssn Win 95
by Macmillan
Edition: CD-ROM

2.0 out of 5 stars Fun but..., 6 Nov. 1999
This review is from: Tom Clancys Ssn Win 95 (CD-ROM)
I bought this game after having read the book SSN, unfortunately, the game is just as repetitive as the book. The game puts you in command of a 688(I) nuclear sub sent to China to battle the chinese. The missions are very easy and all seem about the same. The tactical aspect of the game is non-existant, it's really an action game, if you're looking for a real simulation, I recommend Jane's 688(I) Hunter/Killer which lets you take position at all of the subs positions. It also has a multiplayer option that SSN doesn't have, in SSN you're forced to battle the computer who isn't much of a tactician. The only really good thing about SSN is the second CD which contains a one hour interview with Tom Clancy.


SSN
SSN
by Tom Clancy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book but..., 5 Nov. 1999
This review is from: SSN (Paperback)
VERY one sided: The USS Cheyenne is dispatched to the Spratlys to battle it out with the chinese. The sub encounters many Akulas and Kilos but always come out of the battle the victor... Have the americans discovered a way of rendering a 688(I) indestructible?? Aside from this obvious flaw, it's a good action packed book but isn't a patch on "Hunt for Red October". When reading it, you can tell it was written as a storyline for the computer game.


SSN
SSN
by Tom Clancy
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but..., 5 Nov. 1999
This review is from: SSN (Paperback)
VERY one sided: The USS Cheyenne is dispatched to the Spratlys to battle it out with the chinese. The sub encounters many Akulas and Kilos but always come out of the battle the victor... Have the americans discovered a way of rendering a 688(I) indestructible?? Aside from this obvious flaw, it's a good action packed book but isn't a patch on "Hunt for Red October". When reading it, you can tell it was written as a storyline for the computer game.


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