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Paolo Bacigalupi's new novel drawing buzz -- six months before release

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You know you've moved beyond cult status as an author when national magazines get all itchy over the upcoming publication of your new novel... a good half a year before it's scheduled to be released. Such is the excitement around The Drowned Cities , Paonia writer Paolo Bacigalupi's much-anticipated follow-up to his 2010 breakout young adult fantasy Ship Breaker.

A recent piece by Time book critic Lev Grossman discusses "Seven Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2012," and Bacigalupi is in some pretty good company here, including Mark Leyner, Wlliam Gibson and William Boyd.

"I have filed Bacigalupi in a file marked 'lives up to the hype," Grossman declares. "He doesn't have a lot of company there. This is a guy with genuinely radical ideas, writing in a genre, science fiction, that is, like most genres, largely populated by merely faux-radical ideas. Moreover he can really write."

The unqualified rave is only the latest in a series of laurels descending on Bacigalupi, anointed "the hottest writer in sci-fi" by yours truly in a detailed Westword profile last year. The Colorado native's debut novel, The Windup Girl, a very adult work of sci-fi dealing with post-apocalyptic intrigues over genetic engineering and energy shortages, has since won the Nebula and Hugo awards, and his YA entry Ship Breaker was a finalist for a National Book Award.

The Drowned Cities apparently isn't a sequel to Ship Breaker, but a parallel adventure set in the same dystopic future milieu of climate upheaval and civil war. It does feature "the bioengineered war beast named Tool," who made his first appearance in Ship Breaker -- a character critic Grossman calls "sooooper bad-ass."

And with that kind of valediction from the mainstream press, can the fanzines be far behind?

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Paolo Bacigalupi: Colorado's top NBA prospect?"

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