How did this guy almost win a National Book Award?
Ok, it was the Young People and not the big one, but still. The Drowned Cities (his second novel after the [I hope much better] Ship Breaker) isn't really an awful book and reads sort of well, and I guess it can raise some moral questions on the importance of our decisions and such. But a very few ones, and quite simple too. Its whole nihilistic vibe just seems too grim to be taken seriously, and the abundance of violence and slaughter should probably make the book a disturbing one, whereas it just makes it look like a paper version of a bad horror movie.
The characters have no real depth and their evolution throughout the book really is a cheap one. The narrative structure is incredibly predictable, at the point where you can tell what will happen in a specific chapter after having read its first page. I won't even start listing all the narrative flaws of the thing, but just saying, if you say that a character "died" at the end of one chapter, that guy shouldn't be alive ten pages later. IMHO.
What did I say about The Drowned Cities not being an awful book?