From the international bestselling author of the Hugo and Nebula award-winning The Windup Girl, comes an electrifying thriller set in a world on the edge of collapse.
WATER IS POWER
The American Southwest has been decimated by drought, Nevada and Arizona skirmish over dwindling shares of the Colorado River, while California watches.
When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Las Vegas water knife Angel Velasquez is sent to investigate.
With a wallet full of identities and a tricked-out Tesla, Angel arrows south, hunting for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive. There, Angel encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist who knows far more about Phoenix's water secrets than she admits, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant who dreams of escaping north to those places where water still falls from the sky.
As bodies begin to pile up and bullets start flying, the three find themselves pawns in a game far bigger, more corrupt, and dirtier than any of them could have imagined. With Phoenix teetering on the verge of collapse and time running out, their only hope for survival rests in one another's hands.
But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.
- ISBN10 0356500543
- ISBN13 9780356500546
- Publish Date 3 March 2016 (first published 1 January 2015)
- Publish Status Active
- Publish Country GB
- Imprint Orbit
- Format Paperback (B-Format (198x129 mm))
- Pages 496
- Language English
Angel Velasquez is a Water Knife – a vicious and not-quite-amoral enforcer who helps Catherine Case control the water supply from the Colorado river, on which everyone downriver depends. Lucy Monroe is a Pultizer-nominated investigative journalist poking all the wrong people in Phoenix and California. Maria is a desperately poor migrant who’s made her way to Phoenix. When Angel is sent from Vegas to Phoenix to get his hands on some water rights, their paths collide in a brutal and violent exploration of what people will do to each other because of poverty, desperation, extreme conditions or just plain evil.
While The Water Knife lays this water shortage at the feet of man’s development and climate change, it turns out this isn’t the first time the Southwest has undergone drought. In fact drought led to the migration and eventual disappearance of the ancient Anasazi, the creators of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. That drought created enormous social upheaval, migration and violence (a subject I covered a bit here and here, including extremely brutal mass killings and cannibalism).
The Water Knife is a great read, no matter your point of view about climate change, urban development or water usage in the California and the southwest. It recalls the best of William Gibson’s cyberpunk masterpiece Neuromancer (is Catherine Case named after Case, the anti-hero of Neuromancer?). It’s an all-too-plausible extrapolation of the challenges facing California (often mis-reported as saying California will be out of water in a year). It’s a classic sci-fi/noir with a Southwestern flair. It’s an exploration of whether mankind is inherently evil, and a reminder that civilization might be a thin veneer over our violent natures. And it’s a fast, enjoyable read.
Bacigalupi’s characters occasional veer a little to close to stereotypes (the bad guy redeemed by a woman, the muckraking journalist), but those are minor quibbles. Great read, and thought provoking.
If you’re wondering what to read next after The Water Knife, head over to this page. And in the non-fiction category, consider Cadillac Desert, a history of water in the southwest which features prominently in The Water Knife.