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The Water Knife: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 26, 2015
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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
· Amazon.com, Best Books of 2015
· NPR Book Concierge, Best Books of 2015
· Kansas City Star, Best Fiction of 2015
· Paste Magazine, Best Fiction of 2015
“[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
“[A] water-wars thriller set in the Southwest only a few decades from now. . . . While Bacigalupi's environmental message could not be more powerful, it's neatly embedded in a nonstop action plot, full of murders and betrayals, that should satisfy thriller readers who didn't even think they cared about these issues.” —Gary K. Wolfe, The Chicago Tribune
“Mr. Bacigalupi’s is the most thought-provoking of the recent apocalypses. It’s a very timely read for policy-makers, as well as anyone living in the threatened American West. That’s the thing about sci-fi authors: Some of them really mean it.” —Tom Shippey, The Wall Street Journal
“Residents in the southwestern United States enduring that water crisis will appreciate the precision with which Bacigalupi imagines our thirsty future. . . . Bacigalupi is a grim, efficient and polished narrator. . . . Our waterless future looks hot—and filled with conflict.”—Hector Tobar, The Washington Post
“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
“Paolo Bagicalupi's new near-future thriller arrives at a depressingly appropriate moment. . . . The Water Knife is a carefully constructed thriller, with elements ofChinatown and The Maltese Falcon. But the novel ultimately transcends its pulpier origins. Bacigalupi offers a carefully calibrated warning of what might happen if the US refuses to address global climate change and its own water-wasting ways. It's one we ignore at our peril.” —Michael Berry, Earth Island Journal
"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
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The Windup Girl had such an interesting world that was so rich in character that 2 years after reading it I can still picture and smell the streets depicted in the story. This book - just a crude poorly written porn scene is all that stands out in my mind - and that's mostly because it felt very out of place... like the Kindle accidently downloaded a 50 Shades page or two in the middle of this mess.
Overall - meh.
Whereas The Windup Girl presented a starkly different world in many respects, The Water Knife takes place in a very recognizable society, the southwestern United States, with the only difference between it and the present day being a shortage of water. The states of Nevada, Arizona and California are at war over allocation of the Colorado River, with spies and frontier justice abundant. The novel focuses on three major characters, a Las Vegas “water knife” (hired killer), a journalist based in a dying Phoenix, and a female Texas refugee.
This is not a bad book, however it is very much inferior to The Windup Girl, in my opinion. Stripped down, it is little more than a mystery/thriller and the society presented is too similar to that of today to add anything to the underlying story.
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.
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That's easy. Nothing!
I regret that I wasted money and time plodding thru 152 pages of this book before tossing it in the...Read more