A review by Nalini Haynes
Lucy Munroe is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who has spent the last 10 years in Phoenix, Arizona, writing about the collapse of the state as bore water dries up and states fight about river-water rights.
Angel is a water knife, a minion of a company whose profit — indeed its very survival — depends on keeping the water flowing. (All the way through I wanted to make Dune-esque spice puns and yet Dune may have been prescient regarding water here on Earth.) Angel tries to keep his publicly-observed activities above the minimum level of the law but, in private, he’s not so squeamish.
Senior water rights were dug up by a paper-pusher. These water rights are the stuff of legends, motivation to kill.
Paolo Bacigalupi is a master of post-apocalyptic climate change novels. This well-researched novel goes one step further: all the water company people own copies of Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner, a 1986 non-fiction book subtitled The American West and its Disappearing Water. It gives the history of the struggle to remake the American West. The book’s main conclusion is that development-driven policies, formed when settling the West, are having serious long-term negative effects on the environment and water quantity (Wikipedia). This real book is the foundation of The Water Knife, lending credibility and depth to the novel.
Although there are hints of romance, The Water Knife is a thriller first and foremost. It kept me guessing until the end: I was consciously wondering “Why doesn’t ‘X’ act? What will ‘X’ do?” Then ‘X’ acted, surprising me although her actions were consistent with her motivations.
I highly recommend The Water Knife to adults of all ages as well as mature teenagers with the caveat that it features sex and drugs during the believable fight for survival. I just hope that, in 10 or 50 years, we’re not bemoaning politicians and companies using it as a handbook as seems to have happened with 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale. Bacigalupi is an award-winning author with several novels, of which Windup Girl is of particular note with its exotic setting and genetically-modified human woman who is, effectively, disabled and disempowered by society. The Water Knife is a great continuation of Bacigalupi’s work in the post-apocalyptic climate change genre, but it’s a thriller. [bangs fist on table] If you like thrillers, give this one a go.
Due out in May 2015. Put The Water Knife on your list.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Format: paperback, hardcover & ebook; 448 pages (review copy was paperback)
Publisher: Orbit (Hachette)