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The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife (edition 2015)

by Paolo Bacigalupi (Author)

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1,0566011,680 (3.83)65
Title:The Water Knife
Authors:Paolo Bacigalupi (Author)
Info:Vintage (2015), 386 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:to-read, from_Goodreads

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The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Recently added byeldorz, PSII, Carla_Plumed, kathage, LMJenkins, 3njennn, ebohn, nkmunn, private library
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» See also 65 mentions

English (59)  French (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Reminds me way too much of everything I couldn't stomach in Stephen R Donaldson's Gap into Conflict BUT some of the observational scene setting and imagery pushes this beyond a sheer exploration of violence, survival, poverty, power and the way people's lives are shaped by the same.

It's more like a 3.75 for me than a straight 3 but the the way the author cycles through and back to torture puts me off a full four - the treatment of torture feels like it wanders uncomfortably for me toward sensationalism rather keeping itself to a harsh or dark story essential in some scenes . ( )
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
Excellent read! Lots of action but some good background too. The initial chapters alternate between three main characters whose lives gradually converge. The central setting is Phoenix, at a time where climate change has induced major water shortages and states have closed their boundaries with each other so most folks are quite stuck and desperate. There is some futuristic technology but nothing absurd or extreme. The rich folks live in enclosed environments where water is recycled through fancy treatment facilities.

To a large extent the book is just a typical dystopian thriller but Bacigalupi incorporates lots of nice details about water rights to drive the plot. ( )
  kukulaj | Oct 26, 2018 |
Murder mystery with well drawn characters set the American Southwest of the near future, when states have gone to war over water rights to the Colorado River. Writing is well paced and a few unanticipated twists kept my interest. ( )
  spuddybuddy | Aug 13, 2018 |
4.5 stars

Ripped from the headlines of today, The Water Knife breaks the mold of typical dystopian fiction in a masterful telling of an extremely bleak near-future, fragmented America. The set-up is very long – over 30% of the book – but it was well worth the effort to get through it.

The reality portrayed in The Water Knife reveals the consequences of [so-called] climate change and the resulting water scarcity on the American Southwest. The author, with his limitless imagination, creates a sad, violence-ridden world abounding in colorful detail, in sharp contrast to the bleak desert landscape that dominates the story. And this is what makes this book so impressive: the world building. There is enough of the familiar to make it real. We’ve all read or heard the current news about the years-long drought that California and other states are suffering through, the dust storms plaguing Phoenix, and the legal battles gearing up over water rights between the states of the American southwest, the states in the southern plains, and various other entities such as American Indian tribes. (There is a near constant stream of television commercials about the water rights of the tribes here in Oklahoma; the rhetoric from both sides is simply amazing to hear.)

Prolonged drought, the draining of the aquifers, and violent political winds have combined to return most of the desert southwest back into its natural form, while the states of the Eastern seaboard, the Gulf Coast, and the Midwest are succumbing to the rising sea levels, monster hurricanes, and severe tornadic storms that dwarf anything previously known in American history. A weakened federal government has caved to demands that the states be permitted to forcibly close their borders, which now use National Guard and local militias to violently prevent entry into their state.

Mr. Bacigalupi has an exceptional talent of creating characters that are complex and believable. The “water knife” — a hit man who cuts off water to farms, towns, and cities — is a tough, clever Mexican immigrant who works for Catherine Case, the powerful ruler of the Southern Nevada Water District. Using a small army of thugs, she has channeled most of the water of the Colorado River into Las Vegas, when she has built massive vertical towns that are virtually self-contained. In these privileged communities, thousands of wealthy people live in luxury unknown to the rest of the population.

Angel’s boss sends him to Phoenix to further solidify her hold on the waters of the Colorado River. In the course of his dirty work, his path intersects with a teenage refugee from Texas, and an investigative reporter who is pursuing the story of Arizona’s water politics at great risk to her life. The intertwined stories of these three characters form the core of this extremely well-written novel.

The depth of the characters is what one would expect in such an example--actually a pretty superior example--of “after-the-collapse-apocalypse-fiction” -- a sub-genre becoming increasingly formulaic. The Water Knife describes people increasingly on edge, people in trouble, and twisted people who take advantage of the chaos to create their own tyrannical kingdoms. The violence is explicit, and may be disturbing to some readers. There’s explicit sex, too. This is a book for adults, period. This book is about what is in today’s headlines, leaving the reader to wonder and worry about its predictive value like readers have done with [b:1984|5470|1984|George Orwell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348990566s/5470.jpg|153313], [b:Brave New World|5129|Brave New World|Aldous Huxley|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1433092908s/5129.jpg|3204877], and [b:Atlas Shrugged|662|Atlas Shrugged|Ayn Rand|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1405868167s/662.jpg|817219], among others.

Paolo Bacigalupi is among the most gifted of current science fiction writers. His best-known work, [b:The Windup Girl|6597651|The Windup Girl|Paolo Bacigalupi|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1278940608s/6597651.jpg|6791425], is a masterpiece of the imagination, painting a picture of a grim, far-future reality of GMOs that illuminates the world in which we now live. The Water Knife is as equally compelling, another look at the potential future of our world, and is highly recommended. ( )
  ssimon2000 | May 7, 2018 |
The Water Knife is an interesting book. In part because many of the horrific events that occur because of the mega drought in the story don't seem that far fetched. This book is rooted firmly in the pit of reality. The reality that humanity can prove that it sucks in so many vastly different ways that nothing surprises you. This is not a joyous book. There is no sudden uplifting of humanity. Nobody surprised me. I had little doubt believing that politicians would find a way to make a bad situation worse. No real heroes and lots of shades of grey. Don't read this book if you are feeling depressed. I guarantee it will make it worse.

With that out of the way. Let me add the good news. It is a good book. Well written and thought out. A relentless plot that is constantly kicking you in the face. When you are done reading it you will feel a little drained and then immediately want everyone who is ignoring California's current drought to read it.

I had a few parts of the book that I thought were a little unnecessary to the story. Honestly, the sex scenes felt a little out of place. They kind of zapped me out of a book I was really interested in. I have nothing against sex in books. It just didn't do it for me in this story. Mileage will vary on that problem though. It certainly isn't enough to stop you from reading it.

The book's plot feels dangerously close to our currently reality. Water becomes scarce on the west coast of the United States and Mexico and suddenly it is every state for themselves and the most powerful people are those who can manipulate the water rights to their advantage. One of the best parts of the story is witnessing the monstrosity that California becomes. The book follows a few characters. They are all interesting and all extremely flawed. I like flawed characters though. There is a constant struggle of people trying to rise above the disaster around them. The book is so grounded in reality that watching them get squashed by the machine can be a little depressing. This is good science fiction and I hope it stays science fiction and not a startling accurate prediction of our future. ( )
  CSDaley | Mar 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (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)
"But this is no pastiche; Bacigalupi weaves an engrossing tale all his own, crackling with edgy style."
"With elements of Philip K. Dick and Charles Bowden, this epic, visionary novel should appeal to a wide audience."
added by bookfitz | editPublishers Weekly (Mar 16, 2015)
"An absorbing, if sometimes ideologically overbearing, thriller full of violent action and depressing visions of a bleakly imagined future."
added by bookfitz | editKirkus Reviews (Mar 1, 2015)
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Book description
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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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, ensuring that lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert and that anyone who challenges her is left in the gutted-suburban dust. 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.… (more)

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