Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi Audiobook Review

It’s a cruel world in Paolo Bacigalupi‘s Ship Breaker. Main character Nailer is a ship breaker meaning he scavenges the old oil tankers for parts with other children, hoping to make a lucky strike and find crude oil leaving behind a life of harsh work. You see, this is a world divided by haves and have nots. Nailer actually has #thirdworldproblems as he lives in a shanty town and is always worrying about having food to eat and whether his drunk dad is going to beat the shit out of him. Nailer’s luck changes when he comes across a shipwreck with a wealthy girl, Nita, inside. He’s at a moral crossroads. Should he kill the girl and get the money for her ship and expensive rings or should he help her and maybe, potentially be rewarded with a better life? And this the dilemma on which Ship Breaker centers.

Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi, Book Cover

Ship Breaker

OH MY GOD. Ship Breaker is super intense. It’s such a cerebral read with a deeper meaning. And let me say straight up, I love books that examine class. There’s extreme wealth vs. extreme poverty. Nailer’s life conditions are radically different from Nita’s life conditions and they have radically different expectations from different scenarios. Each class has automatic assumptions about the other. Nailer assumes that all swanks are lazy and don’t do real work like the ship breakers. Nita assumes Nailer is stupid. It’s all very complex, and interesting because outside of books I know I have preconceived notions about different classes.

Guys, I totally loved Nailer and just want to reach into the book and pluck him out of his hard knock life. Yet, despite all the poverty Nailer faces, he retains strong character. He is loyal to friends. He is hard working. He’s also a bit lucy. Further, ethics are examined. If I’m discussing characters, I have to mention Pima, the female leader of the ship breaking crew. She’s very bold and headstrong, but also smart. She wants to kill Nita and get the money because it’s a sure bet. Yet, I find myself unable to judge Pima because I live by a different set of survival ethics than she does.

I listened to Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker on audio. The narration is done by Joshua Swanson who takes what is already an interesting story and turns it up to 11. He has different accents and different personalities for the characters. I loved the voice for Tool, the half man. However, Pima’s voice took some getting used to. I loved that Swanson added to the intensity and the atmosphere with his pacing. I’m glad that I audioed Shipbreaker, because there’s action and also themes and thoughtfulness, this was perfect for the gym. The audio is 9 hours and 8 minutes unabridged and produced by Brilliance Audio.

Disclosure: Purchased with my audible credit.

Other Reviews of Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalipi:

Books From Bleh To Basically Amazing
things mean a lot
Anna Reads
Book Gazing

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I LOVED THIS BOOK. I read the actual book, not the audiobook, so I can’t comment on that aspect of it. But I read it as part of the Award Winning Reads Challenge several months ago, and I was IN MY ZONE. I had the HARDEST time writing about it; I always have a super hard time writing about the books I love the most. I loved the grit, the metallic-ness, the rawness of it. Nailer is pretty much one of my favorite guy characters in literature now, which I realize is a bold statement since I’ve been reading for almost three decades. But I feel comfortable saying that. I loved the world Paolo Bacigalupi created, and I love the class struggles you mentioned. And believe it or freaking not, I LOVED the conflicts that were all over the place in this book–the conflicts we learned about in school: person vs. person, person vs. society, person vs. self, person vs. nature, etc. I was so NERDY that I actually found myself thinking on all that while I was reading, and I swore I would NEVER do that again back when I was younger. Anyway, I’m excited to see that you liked it because the reviews I read are mixed. And I’m getting overly excited typing this comment to you. So I’ll stop now to avoid writing a novel.

  2. I’ve been wanting to read this book FOREVER and just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Really glad to see that you enjoyed it!

  3. YES. i did adore this book, and i think a big piece of that was the class system. world building is my fave.

  4. Eep! I was totally captivated by this book. SO gritty and awesome. Glad you enjoyed the audio version!

  5. Reading this book this weekend *Whoot* Now so excited by the commentary that followed this review!

  6. Thanks for the kind words about my narration! It was a very challenging piece and I loved your comment about Pima’s voice. It took some getting used to for me too! My direction was “make her not American.” I tried my best. Sometimes people like your work and sometimes not, but I’m always humbled and honored when people take the time to write about it either way.


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  2. […] Rick Riordan was a captivating, fast paced story. As usual, I enjoyed Joshua Swanson’s (Shipbreaker) narration. His voice takes getting used to and can sound a bit robotic or computer generated if […]