Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic novel set in the near future, on the coast of Florida.
Our world has run out of fossil fuel. We’ve suffered several major natural disasters, and most of Florida is in ruins or under water. Nailer, the main character, is the son of a drunken abusive father, and on a light crew. A light crew is a group subcontracted to crawl into the small areas of the old decaying tanker ships and strip the wiring, search for precious pockets of oil, and salvage anything that can be salvaged. There is a wide gap between the class that controls the worlds wealth, and the community that Nailer lives in which works hard, and in harsh conditions, to barely survive.
In the midst of all this, a well appointed corsair is caught on the jagged remains of an underwater Miami. Nailer finds the boat and is ready to strip it of its wealth (the gold and silver, the electronics, the food and medicine) when he discovers there is a girl on the boat, and she is still alive. He has to make the decision to preserve his own well being, or take a chance and save the girl. His choice will change his life for ever.
Shipbreaker’s setting lets us discuss both the questions of loyalty and trustworthiness, as well as sacrifice. At the same time it allows us to ponder bigger questions such as “Is the way we live our life today tenable, or will it hurt our descendants?”. The story allows us to get far beyond ourselves, and debate whether a future like this is just a figment of someones imagination, or a possible or probable outcome of life as we know it.