The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I enjoyed Ship Breaker but I think that this was even better! The world that Bacigalupi imagines, a future Waterworld-lite with the coastal cities "drowned", social structures breaking down and private armies/gangs running things is so realistically drawn that you can actually see it. This isn't a sequel to the first book, just an expansion on the world of Ship Breaker.
Here we are what I think is the former American South - Banyan Town is a small village trying to eke out a living while avoiding the violence that accompanies the marauding gangs of Army of God, UPF and other militia. These militia gangs are so similar to the Sudanese Lost Boys that it's a little painful to read. One such gang of UPF men/boys are hunting a half-man/part-wolf-bear-dog-tiger-hyena (named "Tool") when they find two "war maggots", Mahalia and Mouse. These two are squatting with Banyan Town's doctor, resented and feared by the other villagers.
One day the two children find Tool, nearly dead in a swamp but alive enough to capture them and attempt to kill the two. Mahalia's decision to try to save him, leaving Mouse behind as a hostage, sets the rest of the book in motion.
The questions of what loyalty you owe people (or, in Tool's terms, your pack), how far people will go to survive, and whether even truly hardened boy/men warriors can find mercy and redemption are all covered; no clear answers are given. This is definitely a Must Read for boys, book groups and lovers of dystopias.
ARC provided by publisher.