Fall of Rome
Thoughts on reading Ship Breaker, Paulo Bacigalupi, published by Little, Brown
This is by no means a book review, because i really liked the book. This is a response to the book, and to my response of liking the book. So it may seem odd that this piece should sound negative–but “I am faithful to ebb and flow…” as Denise Levertov described paradox in Stepping Westward. It is an apt enough metaphor for ruminations on a wonderfully multicultural story set on the flooded southeast coast of a slightly futuristic North America.
Let me start by plucking some words from the back cover Praises. Riveting, breathtaking, tense, gripping. When you’re writing a dystopian thriller, those are descriptors to die for, aye? And all writers are schooled in ways to maintain tension, to keep readers riveted and turning those pages. Typically, thriller isn’t a category i turn to, but as a student of writing, and YA writing in particular, i’m a bit torn by the creative tension between keeping an audience interested and allowing an audience to explore and experience and play. Sure high stakes almost guarantee my own interest–and that of millions of readers world-wide. So why the discomfort?
i admit to odd flashbacks to late Roman times that we’ve come to characterize as morally bankrupt. Why this label? The human atrocities carried out in front of thousands in the name of public entertainment….And like this social flashback, i think too that we in the publishing/entertaining business may fall back too our biological/evolutionary history by shooting people in the head with strong reptilian response triggers. The mammalian layer is evolutionarily younger, not so deeply ingrained, and includes the warmer-blooded emotional textures that make a story something to savor, learn from, return to. As a writer, i hope to offer something for our full evolutionary selves.