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The Water Knife: A novel by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife: A novel (edition 2015)

by Paolo Bacigalupi

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7855011,730 (3.85)51
Title:The Water Knife: A novel
Authors:Paolo Bacigalupi
Info:Knopf (2015), Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Science Fiction

Work details

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

  1. 30
    Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner (grizzly.anderson)
    grizzly.anderson: Reisner's history of water in the West is an inspiration for the novel.
  2. 10
    The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy (4leschats)
    4leschats: Post-apocalyptic water shortage leads to power struggles and fights for survival
  3. 10
    Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (sturlington)
    sturlington: Contrasting stories of climate change and water shortages in the Southwestern US.
  4. 00
    Zodiac by Neal Stephenson (grizzly.anderson)
    grizzly.anderson: Another eco-thriller

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» See also 51 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
For anyone aware of the drought in the western part of the U.S., this is the dystopian novel for you. In the near future, the southwestern part of the U.S. is engrossed in a war over water, with many of the states patrolling their own borders to prevent refugees from other states in. California and Las Vegas are caught in a desperate struggle over the Colorado River, and Phoenix is disintegrating into a dust storm. Ancient water rights from a native tribe have the potential to reverse the situation for many, but they rely on violent criminals becoming heroes. A very engaging and well-developed novel and definitely unique within the dystopian genre. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Dec 28, 2016 |
Chinatown meets Cormac McCarthy, or the California Water Wars, Round 2.

This book is serendipitously timely, given this headline, that I just saw yesterday: Rich Californians balk at limits: We're Not All Equal When It Comes to Water.

For those of you who don't remember Chinatown, it is a movie directed by Roman Polanski (fucking pervert), starring Jack Nicholson, in which the main character, private investigator Jake Gittes, must unravel a murder. The motive for murder is - as the motive for murder so often is - gain, in the form of a reliable water source for a hitherto not particularly valuable area of California.

Water is the lifeblood of the world, right? Los Angeles is a city of millions, caught literally between the devil (better known as the Mojave desert) and the deep blue sea. And the entire Southwest, from The Bellagio and its fountains in Las Vegas to the skyscrapers of Phoenix, exist because of the water that comes from the Colorado River.

“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.”


This is all a long beginning into a review of a book that is a post-climate change dystopian where water rules the world, drought is the norm, and there is not enough water to go around. It is gritty in all senses of the word - violent, bloody, dirty, dusty, and thirsty. Paolo Bacigalupi has written a book that explores what will happen when, if, the thin blue line of the Colorado River dries up, and people get their water on the black market, by the cupful.

Let me give you a hint. Rich people win. Rich people always win.

But, in all seriousness, it is difficult to write a book that relies upon an obscure legal principle, in this case, the law of water rights, senior and junior, and turn it into a thriller, which the author managed to do. And on the way, there was more than a little bit of irony and, probably, some payback. Texans, often known for their hostility towards Mexican immigrants who swim the river or jump the fence to flee problems in their native country, become victims of this same type of hostility when the social order completely breaks down and the northern states realize that they cannot absorb all of the inhabitants fleeing the dessicated southwest.

"Thanks to the centrifugal pump, places like Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas had thrown on the garments of fertility for a century, pretending to greenery and growth as they mined glacial water from ten-thousand-year-old aquifers. They’d played dress-up-in-green and pretended it could last forever. They’d pumped up the Ice Age and spread it across the land, and for a while they’d turned their dry lands lush. Cotton, wheat, corn, soybeans—vast green acreages, all because someone could get a pump going. Those places had dreamed of being different from what they were. They’d had aspirations. And then the water ran out, and they fell back, realizing too late that their prosperity was borrowed, and there would be no more coming."

So, yes, it's timely, and a harrowing look at what the future could hold, although hopefully not. Lucky for me, I live in Oregon. ( )
  moonlight_reads | Dec 11, 2016 |
Det var en väldigt bra, men tidvis svårläst bok! Det är mycket slang och relativt många påhittade uttryck vilket gör det svårt att förstå ibland! Till slut dyker det dock upp en förklaring, men ibland så långt som 10 kapitel efter att ett uttryck eller ord dyker upp för första gången!
Jag ger boken 4.5 stjärnor för jag var inte 100%igt exalterad över slutet.
Bacigalupi tillhör dock mina favoritförfattare. Detta är dock inte min favorit bok av denna författare! ( )
  Hessius | Dec 4, 2016 |
The Water Knife is set in a near future beset by extreme drought, extreme violence and extreme desperation. The main plot motivator, outside of the character's desperation and hope for something better, was a water rights-related MacGuffin that didn't quite work for me. And while the future is depicted in exquisite, brutal detail, some parts of it didn't ring true to me, in a jarring fashion (the state border controls, and the nicknames, especially for the Texas religious migrants). The ending, despite following plenty of violence and betrayal, was a little too tidy in terms of who survives, and their likely status. ( )
  teknognome | Nov 14, 2016 |
About five years ago I read the author’s The Windup Girl and was blown away by his depiction of a near future dystopian society. Despite being a big fan of the work, it has taken me that long to follow up with another Bacigalupi effort. While the author’s apparent preferred genre of dystopian society brought about by climate change is repeated in this novel, I found The Water Knife to be a far less effective depiction.

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. ( )
1 vote santhony | Sep 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
To some critics and commentators, climate change is also having a deep effect on literature, as more authors focus more closely on the actual and possible consequences of the subject in their fiction. The genre, if it can be called that yet, represents a loose affiliation that stretches back at least to J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World and includes such authors as Ian McEwan, Ursula LeGuin, Kim Stanley Robinson and Margaret Atwood. The Water Knife is perhaps the best, most-recent example of "climate fiction," and it expertly taps a wellspring of fascination and fear that runs beneath a culture ever digging a deeper hole for itself and the environment.
In The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi's best-selling, Hugo- and Nebula-winning debut, the author imagines a 23rd century in which the forces of commerce have run amok over the basic, biological building blocks of life. In his equally powerful sophomore novel, The Water Knife, he takes a similar approach to an inorganic substance without which human life wouldn't exist: H2O. But where The Windup Girl takes place hundreds of years from now in Southeast Asia, The Water Knife hits closer to home for U.S. readers. Its setting is the American Southwest, at a time in the near future when Britney Spears is toothless and old, the country is plagued by climactic calamities and the Southwest's dwindling water supply is controlled by robber barons.
Bacigalupi plays on a grand scale, but he does so with a keen eye for detail... His big triumph, though, is never forgetting that The Water Knife is a thriller at its pounding heart. Even amid reams of deeply researched information about the economy, geology, history and politics of water rights and usage in the U.S., he keeps the plot taut and the dialogue slashing.
added by grizzly.anderson | editNPR, Jason Heller (May 28, 2015)
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Paolo Bacigalupi, New York Times best-selling author of The Windup Girl and National Book Award finalist, delivers a near-future thriller that casts new light on how we live today—and what may be in store for us tomorrow.

The American Southwest has been decimated by drought. Nevada and Arizona skirmish over dwindling shares of the Colorado River, while California watches, deciding if it should just take the whole river all for itself. Into the fray steps Las Vegas water knife Angel Velasquez. Detective, assassin, and spy, Angel “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and its boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert and that anyone who challenges her is left in the gutted-suburban dust.

When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel 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 for Angel, Lucy, and Maria, 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.
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