A Dry Future: THE WATER KNIFE by Paolo Bacigalupi

3Originally published at Bookpage.

No book will ever make you thirstier than The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi’s (The Windup Girl) action-packed return to hard science fiction, in which the American Southwest is ravaged by drought.

In the not-too-distant future, climate change has turned the Colorado River Basin into a dust bowl. California, Nevada and Arizona wage hot and cold war over aquifers, dams and water rights. The wealthiest 1 percent live in lush, self-sustaining “arcologies” (architecture + ecology), while the cities and suburbs of old are riddled with crime and desperation.

California has the upper hand thanks to foreign water corporations, and Arizona is a militarized backwater. But the most powerful woman in Las Vegas—Catherine Case—has a secret weapon named Angel Velasquez. He’s one of her “water knives,” soldiers trained to secure fresh water resources by any means necessary.

“Angel wondered what the river looked like back when it still ran free and fast…Children down in the Cartel States grew up and died thinking that the Colorado River was as much a myth as the chupacabra that Angel’s old abuela had told him about. Hell, most of Utah and Colorado weren’t allowed to touch the water…”

Angel is sent to investigate a potentially game-changing source of water in the most unlikely of places: Phoenix. There, his fate becomes entwined with those of a determined journalist and a teenage refugee from Texas. Together, they follow the trail of a near-mythical artifact that could shift the balance of power in the war for water.

Bacigalupi’s nightmarish vision of a dystopian America ruined by greed, bureaucracy and environmental disaster is both horrifying and prescient. It takes a few chapters to gather momentum and orient the reader, but once the story finds its stride, the pages turn themselves. The Water Knife is a thoughtful, frightening, all-too-likely vision of the future.


The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi (Knopf)


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