Review by Tess Tabak
Tool of War is the third book in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker trilogy. A fast-moving dystopian YA novel, Tool of War picks up where Drowned Cities left off. Tool has broken away from his masters and is preparing for all out war against the people who created him.
As much as war, this book is about survival. Bacigalupi gives us insight into his characters’ emotional journeys. How do they cope with the horrifying world they live in? Tool grapples with the “monster” he was designed to be, an augment halfway between man and animal, kept genetically chained to his master for most of his life. Mahlia, a young healer who hates violence, faces the idea that she might need to hurt others to defend herself at some point in the near future. There is a rotating cast of main characters, but they all feel distinct and unique in their own way. This makes his dystopian world all the more horrifying: this isn’t happening in some abstract way; the terrible things are happening to these people.
The series paints a fairly realistic view of the future. Many cities in the world are underwater. Characters smuggle and trade precious resources to survive. Bacigalupi’s world is textured and vivid, with a rich history. He weaves backstory and exposition in smoothly, drawing out the world. For example, when Arial Jones, an analyst on the other side, is trying to track Mahlia’s ship, she realizes the Raker must be smuggling art, because of the rare art and historical artifacts that show up at auction after its frequent trips from Manhattan to Boston (Manhattan has gone “orleans,” or underwater, so it’s rife for looting).
It’s also nice to see a dystopian YA novel with so many active female characters. Bacigalupi lets his female characters be active alongside male characters, without making a big deal about gender one way or the other. One caveat is that none of the soldiers or augments designed for fighting seem to be female, or if there are any women in combat roles it isn’t mentioned in this book. However, in this novel every character has been altered by the war, male and female.
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of Tool of War in exchange for a review.