The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
This writer explores another dark future in this novel set in a Unted States that is being continually torn apart by brutal warlords and their armies of children soldiers. Mahlia and Mouse are war refugees barely surviving on the outskirts of the Drowned Cities, what we now call the greater Washington D.C area. They are being harbored by one of the few doctors left, Mahlia assisting with the surguries while Mouse spends his time foraging for food and supplies. While in the jungle, they stumble across Tool, a genetically engineered half-man who has been created to be a wartime killing machine. Mahlia promises him antibiotic medicine for his injuries when he takes them hostage, beginning a series of events that have her and Tool partnering to try to recue Mouse from the United Patriot Front army, which has forced him to become a “soldier boy,” or child soldier. This story takes awhile to get started, but then the action becomes non-stop. The America whose cities have been flooded due to climate change is full of fear, death and fighting. It feels immediate and realistic. The story speaks to loyalty, survival and the costs of war. I especially liked that readers get to see into the mindset of child soldiers, a topic of great interest recently.
You can probably tell that I really, really liked this book. It reminded me a lot of Bacigalupi’s award-winning Ship Breaker, but even more bleak. I would strong recommend this to science fiction and dystopian fans, readers looking for an engaging war story, and fans of the writers other YA and adult titles.