Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
Drowned Cities is the sequel to the mildly interesting novel Shipbreakers. So this is another tale of dystopian cities and populations scattered by war, resource shortage, and rising sea levels. Tool, the bioengineered dog-man from Shipbreakers, returns. This time he helps a young refugee girl and her friend, Mouse, try to escape a DMZ where warlords fight an endless feud for which there can be no victor.
The novel suffers from being written for the YA audience, which means that the dystopian nastiness Baculgulpi clearly wants to write (and did in The Windup Girl) has to be reigned in. The descriptions and his world vision are interesting; everything is sticky, damp, calorie-obsessed, violent, and makeshift. It’s a low-tech version of Gibson or low-magic version Miéville.
Ultimately, the novel steers a little too straight a line up the middle of standard adventure story plotting, and never breaks much new ground. A decent romp, but plays it too safe, coloring only inside the lines; and this amounts to a fatal flaw for a genre which is supposed to be pushing the boundaries.