Some of the students in book club are very tired of reading dystopian literature. We have read Divergent, The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and the list goes on and on. But when Ship Breaker was added to the list and tackled this past month, the students had a very different reaction. They loved it.
Why? What makes this book a little different from the others?
My students immediately took note of a language difference. Bacigalupi is a master craftsman of language and this comes out through the book. His descriptions are beautiful, lyrical, and eloquent. The writing is strong and certainly added to the power of the book.
Another element that Ship Breaker presented in powerful form was the consistency and strength of the world building. Even though the beginning of the book takes some time to adjust to since the main character is crawling around in the belly of a ship and lands in a pocket of oil, we soon orient ourselves as readers and can easily follow the events in this world because they are so grounded in detail. As readers, we believe this world.
A question that came up again and again, though, had to do with the half-men. These creatures are treated as less than men because they can not think for themselves, but are owned and loyal to their masters. What exactly do these men look like? We are given a vague description of a dog, a man, tiger DNA, a hyena, and tattoos, but we don't get the complete picture and this was something we all wanted to see more clearly. It just so happens that Bacigalupi has written another book and I wouldn't be surprised if it made it onto our book club list for next semester.
I have had a few jobs in my life that I didn't enjoy: detassling corn, working in a small motor parts factory, framing pictures, serving food, and rejecting bad eggs in an egg factory. Today, I take part in a book club for teens and I love every minute of it.