Icebreaker by Lian Tanner Book Review

Icebreaker by Lian Tanner
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: August 18, 2015

When people rose up to destroy the machines, scientists thought that eventually the anti-machine fervor would die down. So they made a ship with a secret machine aboard that would be able to help humanity once the tumult was over. Except they were wrong. The anti-machinests took over and the ship, called the Oyster, has been floating the southern seas for three centuries now. In that time the people have forgotten their original mission. The machine has turned into a legend that most don't believe anymore. The people have split into warring factions. Petrel is the only person not in a tribe as her parents did something terrible and were thrown overboard. She is a survivor on a ship that at best ignores her and at worst, would readily throw her overboard too. Perhaps her loneliness explains why she alerts the ship when she sees a strange boy out on the ice. Mister Smoke and Missus Slink, two large grey rats tell her it was a terrible idea and unknown to Petrel, they were right. The boy, who Petrel names Fin, has been sent on a mission to destroy the soul killing machines and he will stop at nothing to achieve his mission.

What I liked about this book are almost entirely wrapped up in the characters. We explore identity and belonging in the character of Petrel. What does it mean to be a friend? Who can you trust? It's also about belonging and despite many years of neglect, Petrel is still capable of connecting with others. Fin is dealing with massive amounts of cult-like indoctrination that have nearly destroyed any sense of self. Even the warring factions are a fascinating study on how humans can allow hatred to circumnavigate logic and reason.

Meanwhile, the internal logic of this world is completely nuts. These people eat bread and yet have no way to grow grain and as far I can tell, haven't made landfall in three hundred years. If they had no mysterious grain then these people's diet subsists of just fish. These people would also have one serious issue with scurvy. Beyond that, have hundreds of people living on a large ship and yet there are unexplored regions that no one, not even the little kids are aware of. As a child who was always curious I find it unlikely that this many people for this long have never found or don't use large swathes of the ship. I also find it interesting that not a single person took pity on Petrel after her parent's expulsion. It's like this ship is full of a bunch of assholes. Sure, there is a nice one or two, but even then, these people never did anything to help this tiny kid when she was abandoned. As for the anti-machinists. I'm just not buying it. There is no way that the entire world would fall for this. There would be places like North Korea that would be totalitarian about it and other places that would be the very opposite. Like the world in Raider's Ransom where some people are anti-science and the ones who aren't stick to themselves. I find it unbelievable that everyone on the planet becomes anti-machine.

For me, what this book has in character development is sorely lacking in world building. There were just too many unanswered questions and in the end, I found that I didn't care. Part of a trilogy, I am skeptical about future books in the series, but am hopeful that the author will answer some of the questions listed above.