THE DROWNED CITIES by Paolo Bacigalupi
I love Paolo Bacigalupi’s novels, especially his YA stuff. His books are written with a real sense of adventure and wonder. His characters don’t just struggle with problems, they live and breathe in a world that seems just right around the corner if things go badly.
Kids are probably drawn to the post-apocalyptic feel of the books because that is all the rage at the moment. They might not notice the craftsmanship Bacigalupi brings to the page consistently. His characters spring full-born from the words, and they snare the reader in a death grip until the final page is turned.
On the surface, The Drowned Cities appears to be in the same world as Ship Breaker. I loved that book, and I’m glad to see that the author is making a return trip to the world, even if it is so bleak and hard. The life and death struggles in these stories is very real, very gripping, and the characters are at once understandable and mesmerizing even in a world so different from the everyday one currently present.
The characters in The Drowned Cities include Tool, who’s a genetically enhanced warrior supposedly made from animal DNA (or at least DNA that gives him some of those abilities), Mouse and Mahlia, who are simply surviving in this bleak world, and Ocho, a military warrior who has had most of his humanity and hope beaten out of him.
All of the characters are rich and deep, and Bacigalupi explores their backgrounds just enough to make them real to the readers. I loved Tool, and I really want to see more of him. He was by far the most interesting when it came to being new and different.
But I love the humanity that the author gives to Mahila and Ocho. Those characters, at one point or another, do things that are inherently wrong, but they do them for complicated reasons. The result is that you don’t know who’s going to end up on what side.
The world drew me in and wouldn’t let go. When I turned the last page, I wanted more. I want the next book.
If you have a reluctant young male reader you’d like to entice over to the literary side, The Drowning Cities is a great book. Some of the violence can be hard, though, so be advised that this is a compelling and edgy read.