I’m just going to come out and say this: Paolo Bacigalupi’s THE DROWNED CITIES is masterful. I don’t use that word lightly. In fact, I rarely use it, but this book is so very deserving. This is a dark and harrowing story about war. How it tears apart families and friends, communities and cities. About how no one can truly escape its wake of devastation.
Like its companion SHIP BREAKER, the themes in Bacigalupi’s newest novel are uncomfortably close to home. Children are snatched up by the feuding armies at civil war within the US, where they are either recruited to join their ranks, or killed without hesitation. The world-building is fantastically authentic, from the flooded cities and outsider villages, to the military systems and battling armies. As painful as it was to read, this novel felt realistic, even down to the hardened and desensitized state of most of the humans that populated it. Never have I read a story where I have been so truly terrified for the well-being of its characters, where the stakes have been incredibly high and no one — NO ONE — ever felt safe.
This is not an easy read, but I think it is an important one. The things happening in this story are happening today, just not here in the US. For that, we are very fortunate. Like THE HUNGER GAMES, this book really makes a reader feel the grueling nature of war and, above all, its impact on the lives of children. I dare-say it might even do it better. And for all the dark and bleakness in this novel, there is a shining beacon of hope that left me feeling not only moved, but changed, when I finally closed the cover. (And it’s in stores TODAY, so go pick up your copy!)
Originally reviewed here
NOTE: This review based on an ARC