- File Size: 1549 KB
- Print Length: 378 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385352875
- Publisher: Vintage (May 26, 2015)
- Publication Date: May 26, 2015
- Sold by: Random House LLC
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385352891
- ISBN-13: 978-0385352895
- ASIN: B00NRQOR26
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,237 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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“[A] fresh, genre-bending thriller. . . . Reading Paolo Bacigalupi's richly imagined novel The Water Knife brings to mind the movie Chinatown. Although one is set in the past and the other in a dystopian future, both are neo-noir tales with jaded antiheroes and ruthless kingpins who wield water as lethal weapons to control life—and mete out death. . . . Bacigalupi weaves page-turning action with zeitgeisty themes. . . . His use of water as sacred currency evokes Frank Herbert's Dune. The casual violence and slang may bring to mind A Clockwork Orange. The book's nervous energy recalls William Gibson at his cyberpunk best. Its visual imagery evokes Dust Bowl Okies in the Great Depression and the catastrophic 1928 failure of the St. Francis Dam that killed 600 people and haunted its builder, Mulholland, into the grave. . . . Reading the novel in 93-degree March weather while L.A. newscasts warned of water rationing and extended drought, I felt the hot panting breath of the desert on my nape and I shivered, hoping that Bacigalupi's vision of the future won't be ours.” —Denise Hamilton, Los Angeles Times
“Bacigalupi's characters are engagingly unpredictable, and his story blasts along like a twin-battery Tesla. The Water Knife is splendid near-future fiction, a compelling thriller–and inordinately fun.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A noir-ish, cinematic thriller set in the midst of a water war between Las Vegas and Phoenix. . . . Think Chinatown meets Mad Max.”—NPR, All Things Considered
"These days are coming, and as always fiction explains them better than fact. This is a spectacular thriller, wonderfully imagined and written, and racing through it will make you think—and make you thirsty.” —Lee Child, author of Personal
"An intense thriller and a deeply insightful vision of the coming century, laid out in all its pain and glory. It's a water knife indeed, right to the heart." —Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Aurora
"Anyone can write about the future. Paolo Bacigalupi writes about the future that we're making today, if we keep going the way we are. It makes his writing beautiful . . . and terrifying."—John Scalzi, author of Lock In
"The Water Knife is an noir-tinged, apocalyptic vision of the near-future: What will the world be like, and how will we live in it? Bacigalupi already seems to live there. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.” —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
“A fresh cautionary tale classic, depicting an America newly shaped by scarcity of our most vital resource. The pages practically turn themselves in a tense, taut plot of crosses and double-crosses, given added depth by riveting characters. This brutal near-future thriller seems so plausible in the world it depicts that you will want to stock up on bottled water.”—Library Journal, starred review
"The frightening details of how the world might suffer from catastrophic drought are vividly imagined. The way the novel's environmental nightmare affects society, as individuals and larger entities—both official and criminal—vie for a limited and essential resource, feels solid, plausible, and disturbingly believable. The dust storms, Texan refugees, skyrocketing murder rate, and momentary hysteria of a public ravenous for quick hits of sensational news seem like logical extensions of our current reality. An absorbing . . . thriller full of violent action."--Kirkus
An Amazon Best Book of June 2015: Three very different characters—an orphaned Texan teen marooned in Phoenix; the “water knife” Angel from Las Vegas who will break any law he needs to in order to pave the way for his boss to gain the water rights she wants; and journalist Lucy Monroe, who has adopted drought-decimated Phoenix as her own—thrust Bacigalupi’s near-future tale through violence and betrayal toward a blockbuster conclusion that could well be one of the best endings of the year. Murder and torture are everyday events in dusty Phoenix, which is loosely controlled by a sociopathic crime lord, a Chinese construction company that’s offering the only jobs in town, Californian interests, and Las Vegas’ shadowy water knives—former criminals and ex-military who enforce the water rights bought or extorted by their powerful boss. When a rumor surfaces of water rights so senior that they would trump all existing rights and give Phoenix a chance to bloom instead of continue its rampant slide into death by drought, the race is on to find the rights, and no one will survive unharmed. Bleak, troubling, and at the same time deeply hopeful as Bacigalupi’s complex characters define and defend their loyalties, The Water Knife delivers a final scene as unexpected as it is satisfying. --Adrian Liang--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The plot revolves around machinations over the rights to the ever-decreasing supplies of water, (echoes of Raymond Chandler, without the poetry). California, Nevada and Phoenix (not so much Arizona as a whole) have deployed lawyers, security contractors, and “water knives” to do each other out of. The main characters, Angel (the eponymous water knife, working for Nevada), Lucy (the Pulizter-prize-winning journalist covering the collapse of Phoenix), and Maria (the hardscrabble Texas refugee teenager) all get involved in the dog-eat-dog--or rather, hyena-eat-everybody--search for the antique contract that grants the holder (?) unassailable ownership of the Colorado River (or something close to that). Betrayals, shootouts, sex scenes, and torture (of the female protagonists, of course) ensue. And the plot really moves along, from murders to morgues to squatter camps to upscale bars, scattering bullets and bodies along the way. Very cinematic, and entertaining if you have a high tolerance for typically R-rated everything--and don’t think about implications too much.
For example: Nevada, California, and Phoenix are all willing to kill and destroy anybody to secure legal water rights--but the courts don’t hold them accountable for the damage and casualties? States have closed their borders due to hordes of drought-stricken refugees from Texas, with National Guard troops and independent militias willing to shoot (and worse) anybody who tries to run or swim across, but the US as a whole is still functioning enough for courts to matter at all? (There is a thrown-off mention of the US Army still being a thing that Washington could send in if the infighting gets too nasty, but that seems more like the author hand-waving the question.) Where’s New Mexico in all this? For Texan refugees to be inundating Arizona, they’d have to have come through New Mexico first, but there’s no mention of what happened there--and apparently Albuquerque isn’t in as dire straits as Phoenix (or the author just really hates Phoenix). Also, Utah and Colorado are both positioned far upstream from any of the direct competitors in the story--so if the situation is so dire, why haven’t they already claimed all the water coming out of the Rockies and dammed it up for themselves? The Mormons are too nice, and the Denverites are too high to effectively fight the water war?
The inconsistency that makes me smile slightly and cynically is that by the end, Angel and Maria, the two most pragmatic, look-out-for-number-one, “clear eyed” characters (meaning that they realize the world has changed, and aren’t “blind” to the new, mercenary-or-meat reality) literally owe their lives to others’ being blind and deluded enough to help them out of altruism (plus guilt, which also indicates a conscience). Maybe banding together to solve the problems and outsmart the bad guys isn’t such a dead-end idea after all?
By the way, the end of the book includes a set of discussion questions. Since I can’t imagine any high-school or even university English course including this book in a class syllabus, I assume it’s intended for book club members. Huh. Guess book clubs have really expanded their body counts from the Oprah days. :)
The ‘water knife’ is a euphemism for an enforcer of water rights and a hunter of anyone trying to access water without legal authority. Angel is one of the best, in the employ of the sharp female administrator of Las Vegas’s Water Authority, Catherine Case. He becomes involved with a hunt for a water-rights treaty granted to Native Americans—a priceless document so old that it would take precedence over all existing agreements—and in the process, becomes involved with a female reporter who’s gone from being an observer to being in the thick of the life and death struggle of everyone in Phoenix as the water runs out and the dangers only grow more unbeatable.
However, the most frightening thing about this novel is its basis in fact—much of the disastrous environment described has been warned of in a non-fiction book, "Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water" by Marc Reisner. That book was published in 1987, and much of what he warned about is starting to manifest itself—such as the present severe drought conditions in California.
Like most doomsday-scenario stories, “The Water Knife” describes people on the edge, people in trouble, and twisted people who take advantage of chaos to create their own little fiefdoms of violence and tyranny. I never read such stories purely for the goth-like rush of people being cruel and dark—but in cases where I feel the story will give insight into something real, I put up with it—especially from a writer as good as Bacigalupi. And this is an exciting, engrossing tale of intrigue, passion, and ‘history as a hammer’, for all its darkness.
Top international reviews
In this book water shortages in the southern states in the US are taken to "a" logical conclusion and are the backdrop for a story about love and friendship and expediency.
Paolo's books are so good I don't even read the blurb anymore, I just buy them.
As for the novel itself, a true page turner and quite eye-opening