The Water Knife

The Water Knife

Book - 2015
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Working as an enforcer for a corrupt developer, Angel Velasquez teams up with a hardened journalist and a street-smart Texan to investigate rumors of California's imminent monopoly on limited water supplies.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, ©2015.
ISBN: 9780385352871
Characteristics: 371 pages ;,25 cm.


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SCL_Justin Sep 07, 2017

The Water Knife takes the classic cinematic cyberpunk image of a rain-soaked Los Angeles and tells a Blade Runnerish story in the climatechange-stricken American Southwest. It has that cyberpunk feel but is focused less on whiz-bang computers than on how people try to get by in the margins of a society devastated by drought and storms. The character-work is fine and the plot moves along nicely, but the real star of this book is the all too possible future it depicts.

Aug 24, 2017

The southwestern United States in a near future where the aquifers dry out before the population can adapt, and an ongoing drought paired with temperatures too warm for mountain snow dry up most of the rivers. States collapse as they lose their fresh water sources, and mass evacuations force surviving states to enact laws restricting interstate travel. Foreign corporations from countries which planned for the worldwide drought develop Arcologies, enclosed cities with complex biological water recycling systems. These cities begin appearing around the southwest, and become island oases that the outside population will do anything to live in. The states essentially become countries and those who leave dry states become refugees. Water rights become something that states and corporations are willing to fight and kill for. In the middle of this, the fates of a corporate mercenary, a refugee from the dead state of Texas, and do-good reporter will cross paths over a water rights contract that that will determine the future of the southwest.

Bacigalupi's speculative future world building is amazing, but his storytelling surpasses it. Water Knife has a lot of neo noir elements to it, and it was difficult not to compare it to blade runner in the way the plot and mysteries move forward. There are subtle hints that it takes place earlier than Bacigalupi's Windup Girl. If you read his short story anthology, Pump Six, it becomes more clear. If you like dystopic futures or dark, brooding mysteries, you'll love the Water Knife.

Megan_PNW Mar 31, 2017

A bleak book that challenges us to consider what happens when something we take for granted becomes scarce. The plot is a little slow to start but ramps up into quite the page-turner!

Feb 16, 2017

I liked it. I got a couple of friends who retired to AZ to read it. The report they'll never look at running water the same again.

Dec 06, 2016

In our current reality where California has experienced serious drought the last five years, where forces of ignorance, cynicism, and division are ascendant in the world, where the chasm between rich and poor grows ever wider, and where efforts to stave off anthropogenic climate change seem woefully inadequate, "The Water Knife" hits brutally close to home. The story unfolds in the southwest United States in a dystopian near-future where water scarcity has led to the collapse of major cities, mass migration of refugees, closed state borders patrolled by militias and drones, and barely concealed low-intensity warfare over the control of water rights. An excellent if depressing read. Definitely felt thirsty afterwards!

JohnK_KCMO Dec 05, 2016

I have a terrifying suspicion that future generations will consider this book prophetic, as we today view Orwell's "1984" and Huxley's "Brave New World". Bacigalupi presents a dystopia that grows too neatly from our present-day reality.

Jun 01, 2016

Rivals The Windup Girl for his best work.

May 11, 2016

Geez, O Man! Let's just take the real issue of the day and carry it to it's worse case scenario...OMG! It's a ride.

Apr 25, 2016

Bleak, brutal, and believable, Paolo Bacigalupi’s latest eco-thriller, The Water Knife, turned out to be quite the page turner, and I burned through it in a matter of (busy) days. In spite of Bacigalupi’s hard boiled sci-fi prose, this is a book with teeth, and with a message. A master of crafting fast paced, entertaining genre fiction infused with real world ideas and intriguing insights, Bacigalupi's writing rarely feels heavy-handed.

Twenty minutes into the future, the Southwest is in trouble, crumbling quickly and heading down the road to chaos that already took down Mexico and Texas. The dwindling supplies of Colorado River water are the literal life blood for the cities of California, Nevada, and Arizona and there's not enough for everyone. Under the noses of the impotent federal government, open warfare between the states is inevitable and Texan refugees are strung up as warnings along the border. It is this world that Angel Velazquez, a “Water Knife” for Catherine Chase, Queen of Las Vegas, inhabits. Angel makes sure that Vegas, with its gleaming Chinese built arcologies keeping the ultra rich cool and luxurious in the desert, gets the lion's share of water by any means necessary. Meanwhile, down in Phoenix, now a third world hellhole, the city struggles to keep up the vestiges of civilization while refugees die of thirst or violence, dumped in empty pools to become yet another “swimmer.” Lucy, a muckraking “collapse porn” journalist and a young Texan refugee, Maria, inadvertently find themselves crossing paths with Angel and a plot that could change the dynamic of power between the three players for the last water in the West.

While I haven’t read The Windup Girl yet, it is easy to see this as set in the same timeline of the stories in the YA novels Shipbreaker and Drowned Cities. The Water Knife is set just a few thousand miles away, a few years earlier during the last gasps of the Accelerated Age (what the inhabitants of the previous two stories refer to this time) and, with the exception of a few futuristic tech touches, seems very contemporary. Imagining what grim situations might await in our future if trends are ignored can bring the selfish bent of current politics to a deeper, more emotional resonance, I feel. The Water Knife is certainly a gut-wrenching, gripping taste of what our future may be like.

Apr 22, 2016

From the 2015 Southwest Books of the Year. Apt for us here in Arizona, the book foreshadows what life would be like if our water supplies dry up. A dark novel, pitting Las Vegas against Phoenix, and the hunting and acquiring of water rights. Do know there's a lot of violence.

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ArapahoeJennieB Aug 01, 2016

ArapahoeJennieB thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Dec 22, 2015

black_bear_515 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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