Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Drowned Cities

I found this book by Paolo Bacigalupi (trying saying that name fast three time in a row) at the small alcove in the library here.  Not knowing anything about it or the author,  I read a little bit of the inside cover to see what it was about, and found out it was a dystopian-type SF thriller,  which sounded good enough to me, so I picked it up and brought it home.  I was at the library the other day and saw a small thin coffee table book on Hammer films, and I wish I had bought while I was there for two bucks, but didn't, so I may have to go back there today.  But I digress...

The above is the alternate cover.  What I found out though was the The Drowned Cities is the second book in a series he's written, which inhabit the same dystopian world, the first book is Ship Breaker,  which I don't have yet, but it's on my book list to watch out for.  They are both what is know as YA or young adult reader books, sort of similar to the Harry Potter series or closer to The Hunger Games (which I haven't read or seen the movie to yet).   Like I said it is a dystopian future, a world of greed in which the oceans have risen due to global warming, the jungles have moved north, and the United States is in a state of permanent, and meaningless civil war, largely fought by child soldiers. The Chinese peacekeeping forces who came to stabilize America have given up and gone home, and our only foreign trade is scavenging -- scraps of the past (our present, which is referred to as the Accelerated Age).

It is not a pleasant thought that this is an all-too-likely vision of our future.

Mahlia and her friend Mouse have escaped from the Drowned City that we can recognize as Washington, D.C., and joined a small farming community where they are, at best, tolerated. They are "war maggots," and, worse, Mahlia is half-Chinese, which marks her as a "castoff" left behind when the peacekeepers pulled out.

Into the mix, add the warbeast Tool, as depicted in the artwork on the alternative cover as a half human, half dog-like creature (the only character continuous with Ship Breaker), who has escaped from one of the militias. Mahlia helps him survive terrible wounds, but the "warboys" pursuing him capture and induct Mouse. Now Mahlia must decide between returning to the Drowned City on a fool's errand to retrieve her friend -- or leave looking for freedom.

Loyalty, kept or betrayed, plays a huge part in Bacigalupi's book, and it is on these questions of loyalty that the plot turns.

The story is bloody and may not be suitable for all young adults -- very strong meat indeed -- but is well worth the time of anyone, young adult or not, who enjoy these type stories.  Although I haven't read The Hunger Games, I thought the plot to it seemed a bit too familiar to me, which is why I wasn't so excited to read or see the movie yet.  I've got it in my Netflix queue, quite near the top, so I'll see it shortly, but The Drowned Cities, and Ship Breaker is more my idea of a book I'd rather spend some time with.  It's not for everyone, and I'll have to admit I question the rating of YA, thinking it's more just an adult read.  But really if you are looking for a high octane, harrowing SF story, you might want to check it out.  

This past week I also saw the movie, 1984, with John Hurt.  I must say it was an amazing film, and do not know why it has taken me this long to get around to watching it.  I've now started the book by George Orwell and it has started out pretty amazing as well.  Perhaps I'll review the movie next time, for now I have chores to do.  Rock on. 



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