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The Water Knife

by Paolo Bacigalupi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,514899,624 (3.84)85
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)
  1. 60
    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. 20
    Zodiac by Neal Stephenson (grizzly.anderson)
    grizzly.anderson: Another eco-thriller
  3. 10
    Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (sturlington)
    sturlington: Contrasting stories of climate change and water shortages in the Southwestern US.
  4. 10
    The Dead Lands: A Novel by Benjamin Percy (4leschats)
    4leschats: Post-apocalyptic water shortage leads to power struggles and fights for survival
  5. 00
    Odds against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich (sturlington)
    sturlington: Climate change, destroyed cities
  6. 11
    Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (bookfitz)
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» See also 85 mentions

English (86)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (88)
Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
Rather more uneven than his previous efforts. ( )
  mjduigou | Feb 27, 2022 |
The world Paolo has created in the Water Knife feels SO POSSIBLE. The story veers off into melodrama at various points - but otherwise a great book
( )
  Venarain | Jan 10, 2022 |
A really good book but I wasn't in the right mood for it (even though I devoured it). I love all of his stuff but I think I like his other work, especially his short stories better. It has made me interested in reading Cadillac Desert. Paolo does a great job of painting the bleak world of his book and kept me trying to figure out what was going on until right before it happened. I'd definitely recommend if you're into dystopias or like his other work. ( )
  nosborm | Oct 10, 2021 |
Superb near-future apocalyptic vision of the American Southwest as the waters dry up and the interstate battles begin in earnest. A genre work but as with Wind-Up Girl, it reaches rare heights. As the promo materials say, it's Chinatown for the 21st Century. Great characters, fluid writing, great thriller pacing. ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
"They have no idea what they're doing. These are the people who are supposed to be pulling all the strings, and they're making it up as they go along."

This isn't societal collapse brought about by an explicitly malevolent government, but rather humanity shooting itself in the foot, over and over, acting out the tragedy of the commons.

The setting is realized with terrible plausibility, and it's these background moments-- refugees crowding water pumps, the breakdown of order-- which make up some of the strongest parts of the story. By contrast the big HBO thriller style moments, laden with spies and sex and firefights, seem to lack reality.

Which particular characters live or die seems less important in the face of entire states being wiped off the map, but that didn't weaken the strength of the book's message, the apocalypse occurring in slow but inevitable motion.

In the end, I can only say I was entertained reading this book, but I'm not looking forward to living it. Here's hoping things work out a little better in reality... ( )
  MCBacon | Aug 2, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 86 (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)
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paolo Bacigalupiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Guerra, AlmarieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On ne juge pas les gens parce qu'ils craquent sous la pression, on les juge pour ces quelques fois où ils ont la chance de pouvoir choisir.
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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.

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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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