Thursday, 2 April 2015

Review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

In a future hammered by climate change and drought, mountain snows have turned to rain, and rain evaporates before it hits the ground. In a fragmenting United States, the cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas skirmish for a dwindling share of the Colorado River. But it is the Las Vegas water knives - assassins, terrorists and spies - who are legendary for protecting Las Vegas' water supplies, and for ensuring Phoenix's ruin.

When rumours of a game-changing water source surface, Las Vegas dispatches elite water knife Angel Velasquez to Phoenix to investigate. There, he discovers hardened journalist Lucy Monroe, who holds the secret to the water source Angel seeks. But Angel isn't the only one hunting for water, Lucy is no pushover, and the death of a despised water knife is a small price to pay in return for the life-giving flow of a river.
Star Rating: 5 stars

I loved Paolo Bacigalupi’s last book, The Windup Girl, so when I saw The Water Knife available on NetGalley, I just had to put in a request for it. I am so pleased that my request was excepted and I received a kindle version for free in exchange for my honest review of the book.

Like with The Windup Girl, the beginning is a little complex. I know why it is and so I suppose I didn’t mind it so much. This book is set in the future and therefore, the world as it is then needs to be explained as does its technology, politics and problems. That said, I found that quite quickly I was able to understand what was going on, much quicker than what I had with The Windup Girl – I was well and truly hooked by the end of Chapter 2.

As I’ve already said, this book is set in the future in a world where Climate Change occurred well and truly, brought about a permanent drought and everyone is desperate for water. This book is scary and I said the same thing about The Windup Girl too. It’s scary because this could actually happen and so much of it is reminiscent with our current situation in this world.

I really liked the following two quotes – kind of sums up what is happening right now with the whole Climate Change debate.

“If I could put my finger on the moment we genuinely fucked ourselves, it was the moment we decided that data was something you could use words like believe or disbelieve around.”

“We knew it was all going to go to hell, and we just stood by and watched it happen anyway. There ought to be a prize for that kind of stupidity.”

The story is set in the Southern States of America, near the border with Mexico. Bacigalupi includes many local Spanish words and phrases (and the odd Chinese one too as there are some Corporations from China involved in the storyline). I really like it when an author does this.

So each chapter focuses on a different character at the beginning. We have Angel, who is a Water Knife for Catherine Case who owns the Archologies in Vegas in which many people live in; Lucy who is a Journalist living in struggling Phoenix; and Maria who has to do anything to make money to live in a city which is going down the pan. These character’s lives intertwine when Angel is sent to Phoenix to check out whether some important water deeds actually do exist.

Bacigalupi did a fantastic job creating believable, likeable (and dislikeable) characters.

I know that Bacigalupi has been likened to William Gibson in the past and I can see why for sure. Gibson coined a few words and I reckon we may see the term “collapse pornography” around after The Water Knife is published. I thought this was a great term for the articles produced by the media detailing everything going down the pan and what’s worse, people can’t get enough of it.

So in a world where there is limited water to go around, it goes the way of oil today: it’s sold by the litre, it fluctuates with the markets, companies drill for it and make a lot of money from it, pipeline deals, and fighting and wars over the reserves. I really liked this.

It’s amazing how many phrases we use that are water related (and boat related for that matter) – I only noticed recently when I bought my boat and I became really aware of when I use one of these phrases in conversation, for example, “we’re really pushing the boat out”. I like all the water references throughout the book, for example, people were described as being out of their depth or drowning (metaphorically). I’m glad that the author didn’t shy away from these phrases when the main focus of the book was on water (or lack of).

There was quite a raunchy, explicit sex scene about three quarters of the way in. I don't mind a bit of sex in a book as long as it's not the main focus of a story. I did find it interesting the words the author chose to use to describe this scene though, especially the use of the C word. I don't mind expletives – I use enough of them but I really wasn't expecting to see that one placed there. But upon reflection it does go with the style of the writing and the harshness of the world these people were in.

I whizzed through this book so quickly. I was hooked from the beginning and it was fast paced so I just had to keep reading to find out what would happen next. A 5 star read for sure. More books please Mr Paolo Bacigalupi!

No comments:

Post a Comment