The Drowned Cities : Ship Breaker

  • by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Narrated by Joshua Swanson
  • Series: Ship Breaker
  • 9 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Soldier boys emerged from the darkness. Guns gleamed dully. Bullet bandoliers and scars draped their bare chests. Ugly brands scored their faces. She knew why these soldier boys had come. She knew what they sought, and she knew, too, that if they found it, her best friend would surely die.
In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man - a bioengineered war beast named Tool - who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.
This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.

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What the Critics Say

"Suzanne Collins may have put dystopian literature on the YA map with The Hunger Games... but Bacigalupi is one of the genre's masters, employing inventively terrifying details in equally imaginative story lines." (Los Angeles Times)
"Beautifully written, filled with high-octane action, and featuring badly damaged but fascinating and endearing characters, this fine novel tops its predecessor and can only increase the author's already strong reputation." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
"The novel's greatest success lies in the creation of a world that is so real, the grit and decay of war and ruin will lay thick on the minds of readers long after the final page. The narrative, however, is equally well crafted.... Breathtaking." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Another grim, gripping collapsed-world adventure

For my money, Paulo Bacigalupi is one of the few writers of dystopian science fiction right now who's not just channeling the social anomie of the moment, but is gazing out over the ramparts towards the approaching dust cloud. He asks a direct and urgent question that other novelists don't: what would happen if our fossil fuel-driven, environmental havok-wreaking global economy broke down? Would human society have to foresight to adapt, or would it just start to cannibalize itself, reverting to ugly old patterns?

Forget the Hunger Games, with its elaborate Big Brother fantasy -- The Drowned Cities (and its companion novel, Ship Breaker) portrays a more immediate kind of dystopia, a "future" that's already arrived in places like Somalia, the Congo, Iraq, or Afghanistan. It's just not a future that's gotten to our shores. Yet.

Just as importantly, Bacigalupi is a visionary who can write. His novels burn with a quiet, measured intensity, the calm of the language bringing the fear and struggle of his world to vivid life. He doesn’t give his characters easy moral choices, but puts them in a position where doing the right thing is often very dangerous, and being less-than-heroic is sometimes the only way to survive.

The Drowned Cities is a page-turningly grim novel, perhaps a shade or two more intense than it’s companion book, Ship Breaker. Here again, we meet two adolescent characters trying to keep their heads down and make it to adulthood, although not the same two characters from that book, and in a new setting -- near the flooded remnants of Washington, DC. We also have a return of the monstrous half-man, Tool, who plays a more prominent role as both a reluctant ally and a knowing but decidedly unsympathetic observer of human affairs, and is perhaps Bacigalupi’s best character to date. Here, the plot puts its protagonists squarely in the middle of a war between vicious militias of mostly-teenage conscripts, who, as we come to see, are as much victims of their circumstances as anyone else, unable to escape what their exploitative warlords have turned them into.

If that sounds like heavy material for a young adult book, it is, and I don’t know that I’d recommend this one for younger readers, given some frightening characters and scenes of brutality, torture, and enslavement. But, it is, like Ship Breaker, a very good book, framing its moral questions in a sober, even-handed way, and keeping the level of action high. I’m pleased to see that the economy required for shorter works has improved Bacigalupi’s chops at plot and characterization, and look forward to seeing him return to writing grown-up novels with those lessons in hand.

PS. If you haven’t read Ship Breaker, it’s not really a prerequisite, but I’d still suggest that one first, since it introduces Tool and is a bit more of an adventure.
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- Ryan "Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good."

A little better than mediocre

This is a dystopian tale filled with the strong praying on the weak. The violence and intent of some of the characters is disturbing. Included in the story is a man beast that makes it a little more interesting but really adds little to the final product. I listened to the entire thing but it's not one I'll come back to.
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- colleen "My favorite genres are absurdist humor, Sci-fi & modern fantasy, but, as you can see, I'll read just about anything. Don't mind the typos."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-01-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios