My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads: Soldier boys emerged from the darkness. Guns gleamed dully. Bullet bandoliers and scars draped their bare chests. Ugly brands scored their faces. She knew why these soldier boys had come. She knew what they sought, and she knew, too, that if they found it, her best friend would surely die.
In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.
This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.
My thoughts: There is a small country in West Africa called Sierra Leone which is rich in diamonds. In 1991 a civil war erupted and left the small country in a blood bath. No home was safe. Families and friends meant nothing to many. Common practices for recruiting soldiers were to kidnap boys at the appropriate age, drug them until addicted, then keep them semi-drugged while they committed their first atrocities. They were then addicted to narcotics they could only acquire through soldiering and their neuro-pathways had been rerouted with the violence they had inflicted.
Mariama Kallom was a teenager in 1992 in Sierra Leone. Her brother was abducted and the brainwashing failed as he refused to take part in the violence. He was eliminated. Mariama and her sister were hiding in a house when the rebels arrived in their town. There was not time to run. They were dragged outside, raped, then systematically the soldiers cut off the women's legs. As the machete was raised to cut off her own legs, the Red Cross arrived. The rebels fled and she alone had two legs.
I tell this story to prepare you for this book. The story is reminiscent of the civil war in Sierra Leone. The violence is extreme. The ice caps have melted and there is no clear leadership. Different factions are trying to take control for idealistic reasons. The soldiers are young, ill-prepared and trained through combat alone. Civilians are tools and the world now includes creatures engineered by splicing DNA. The book is really about Tool, a DNA enhanced creature we met earlier in Ship Breaker. It is also about Mahlia, the one handed cast-off who would have had no hands if her friend, Mouse, hadn't saved her.
The world presented is dark, depressing, cruel, violent and unpredictable. What I described of Sierra Leone is true. What is described in this story is disturbingly similar. Be prepared. That's all I'm saying.
*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.