By: Paolo Bacigalupi
In this companion novel to Ship Breaker, Mahlia and Mouse have escaped the most dire of circumstances in The Drowned Cities and are living in the jungle outskirts. America has been torn apart by war and natural disasters. The borders are guarded by enormous war beasts, not allowing anyone to leave the devastated nation.
When Mahlia and Mouse meet up with one of these bioengineered monsters and are separated, Mahlia must decide if she is willing to risk everything to save a friend, or if she will escape to the north and possibly the only safety she's ever known.
A couple years ago, Ship Breaker piqued my interest. But, I never did get my hands on a copy. But, that didn't stop me from diving into The Drowned Cities when it arrived. And, I'm happy to report that it is a true companion novel, and I didn't feel confused or lost by having not read Ship Breaker.
The Drowned Cities has a very distinct flavor to it. And, it's not going to appeal to everyone. But, if you're suffering from a dystopian fatigue, this novel just might be the thing to give you a boost. The atmosphere is creepy, gritty, and downright dangerous. Everyone is desperate, and there are no rules. Mahlia is an orphan. Her father was a member of the Chinese army, and part of a failed attempt to stop the destruction and civil war in America. Mahlia is a cast-off, and was left behind by the feeling Chinese. Her hand has been cut off, but she still deftly assists the town's doctor in stitching up wounds, since the physician is almost completely blind.
I loved so many things about The Drowned Cities. I loved Mahlia and her stubbornness. She is loyal to her friend Mouse, who really is more of a brother by circumstance than anything else. Tool was terrifying and yet, I found myself rooting for him. He's really just a product of the society that made him.
The Drowned Cities will appeal to readers who enjoyed Blood Red Road by Moira Young (my review). The atmosphere is just as vibrant as Young's series, and I really think you'll love Mahlia like I did.