Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

Drowned Cities

Title: Drowned Cities

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Rating: 5 of 5

The world’s oceans have risen, flooding the shore line on every continent. Some places are still doing well, others, not so much. Paolo Bacigalupi doesn’t explain what got the world in the shape that it’s in. His characters have little time to contemplate the why of it – they are struggling moment by moment to survive. The story centers around a place called the Drowned Cities where warlords recruit children for their armies (meat for the grinder) because folks don’t seem to live too long under the constant bombardment of war. A new beast has entered the war. A special creature, bred in a lab from the world’s most fearsome predators to be a machine of war. It’s a creature that is feared and sought after to be a gladiator, then as much more.

Mahlia and Mouse are two kids living in the most brutal of environments. Both are orphans, but Mahlia is despised by her community because of her Chinese origins. They only let her exist because she assists the only doctor in town, but they don’t hold back their malicious thoughts about the girl. She’s a maimed thing, losing a hand to the Army of God, one of the local warlord militias. When a rival army comes into their community while pursuing Tool, the beast, Mouse is recruited into their army against his will and Mahlia makes an alliance with Tool to enter the Drowned Cities and bring Mouse back.

Drowned Cities is a brutal tale of senseless war – death and destruction over different ideals and not the betterment of the society that people live in. Paolo Bacigalupi wastes no time in getting the readers attached to the characters. Tool is a brutal war machine, a thing perfectly bred for death and destruction, but he’s much more than that. There’s an intelligent man within that beast, one with a heart that is ruled by his mind. Mahlia is a spirited girl who has been damaged by the people around her, both physically and emotionally. She’s a survivor with a conscience and loyalty to those who have been good to her, but she also wants payback for the wrongs she sees every day. Against impossible odds, she wants things to change. There’s a better life out there, and she wants to live it. Amazingly, Mouse seems to be almost care free, living in a man-made hell, but not analyzing things too much. He’s a child who is forced to take up arms and do things that his conscience tells him is wrong to fight a cause that he doesn’t believe in.

Ship Breaker is the predecessor to Drowned Cities. Each can be read separately because the only ground they share is the world setting and the character Tool. Ship Breaker was a fantastic novel and is appropriate for the YA reader – though adults will enjoy it just as much. Drowned Cities might still be a good book for most YA readers, but it’s brutal portrayal mindless war gave it more of an adult edge. Of the two books I enjoyed Drowned Cities better, though both books are excellent.

Clockwork Dwarf Clockwork Dwarf – Available at Amazon for the Kindle

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~ by bretjordan on September 4, 2012.

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