Paolo Bacigalupi is an author whom I hold in
high regard: firstly for the novel The Windup Girl and secondly
the short story collection Pump Six and Other Stories. So it was
with much interest that I approached his latest (and second non-juvenile) novel The
Water Knife. That interest was amply rewarded.
The Water Knife is set approximately 30 years from
now in Phoenix, Arizona in an environment where climate change has reduced the rainfall
into the Colorado River catchment (the water source for Phoenix) enough to make the
seniority of water draw rights of paramount importance for the life of communities along
the river. The States of Nevada and California are playing a very rough game for those
rights, employing water knifes to cut others water rights, resulting in everybody
else further up the river suffering the unhappy consequences.
Angel is a water knife working for the South Nevada Water Authority and
whose latest assignment is to go Arizona to discover why his sometime partner Julio has
gone off grid. In the process Angel stumbles into a water war skirmish with his opposite
numbers from California. There is a rumour that someone has uncovered some very
significant and very, very senior water rights large enough and senior enough to
unsettle both Nevada and California. Now Angel has to deliver those rights to Nevada if he
wants to live.
I found The Water Knife to be both a tense science
fiction thriller and a disturbing vision of the future. The characters were well drawn and
credible, and their motivations realistic. Access to potable water is not just a third
world problem. Mr Bacigalupi has shown a believable world where for a lot of Americans
that access will become a first world problem too and written a novel well worth reading.
Yes, I really enjoyed this book. That may show a bit in the review.