The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was a little saddened after finishing Wind Up Girl and discovering that the Bacigalupi’s next book was going to be a young adult. I find this an annoying trend of authors of complex, adult, and sophisticated speculative literature to chase the YA dollar. Teens have everything these days grumpy old me says, leave me my speculative fiction. So instead of rushing out and getting his next title I decided to wait and see. I got my hands on both Ship Breaker and its sequel/sidepiece Drowned Cities and read them in a couple of days. I can’t endorse authors going YA (insert essay about our youth obsessed culture here), but if the results are this good, I won’t complain (excited about Railsea by the way). He has created a full world in these pages, a grim vision of a possible future that is painfully believable. Taking dire speculation on oil and global warming but mixed with prophetic horrors of the developing world (visions of children living in garbage dumps in South America and India and the terrors of Sierra Leon’s brutal civil war give these books resonance). The characters that fill this shattered, desiccated world are just as believable. The youth of the protagonists, the happy but uncertain endings, and the straight forward prose is the only concessions the authors makes towards fitting them into the YA mold. A lack of humor, subtlety, and over seriousness are some accusations with merit against these books, but I feel its tone is well earned. I smell a trilogy coming on (especially because of the character Tool) but I feel these books deserve a capstone. Everyone with well-thumbed copies of the Hunger Games needs to snatch these books up immediately, and Wind Up Girl. While the books are separate from the author’s debut, the worlds and concerns are so similar it wouldn’t be a stretched to place them as a singular unit.
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