Monday, August 31, 2015

The Water Knife

by Paolo Bacigalupi
371 pgs

Paolo Bacigalupi's latest book takes place in the American Southwest in the not-too-distant future. Climatic changes have deteriorated to the point where deadly sandstorms in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah are now considered the norm, and a long-term drought known as "Big Daddy Drought" has decimated the region's water supply. Water rights have now become the most valuable commodity in the Western states, and a violent war utilizing guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics has been raging for years between those trying to control them. California has shut down its border in order to protect its water and formed a militia to guard it. Urban areas in Arizona, which has had its water supply shut off, have turned into ghettos inhabited by refugees. Out of desperation, many there resort to trying to hire ruthless "coyotes" to smuggle them across the border of Arizona and into California.

Angel Velazquez is a former gang member turned "water knife," an operative of the Southern Nevada Water Authority who is paid to ensure the ongoing supply of water to Las Vegas, using any means necessary. Angel is sent to Phoenix on an operation to investigate claims being made concerning a new water source, a source that the SNWA wants to ensure it will control. While there, he crosses paths with Lucy Monroe, a journalist who is investigating the violent murder of an associate of hers who had been making claims regarding the new water source in the region.

This is the first book by Bacigalupi that I've read, but it won't be the last. He does an excellent job of telling a story that is both futuristic and dismal, but is rooted in the realities of today. His story is compelling unsettling. It's too easy to see how the world that he describes could become a reality. It's pretty evident that the book has a message about conservation and mankind's obligation to the planet. But the book never comes across as preachy. Bacigalupi uses fear, as opposed to a sermon, to deliver the message.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


by Scott Sigler
345 pgs  (The Generations trilogy #1)

I've mentioned this before, but one of the things I really enjoy about science fiction books is that oftentimes you have to read your way through an orientation period. You start out with no idea of what's going on. The setting of the story could be anywhere in the universe; the story could be taking place at any point in time; the characters could be human, alien, or even synthetic. I look forward to and enjoy the time it takes to get my bearings each time, and more often than not, the story that follows is unique, imaginative, and very enjoyable. Scott Sigler's first book in his new trilogy Alive is a great example of what I'm talking about.

The book begins with a teenage girl waking up in a coffin. She doesn't know where she is, how she got there, nor does she even know who she is. Her limbs are restrained and she has to figure out how to free herself and escape from the coffin. When she does, she finds herself in a room that contains several other coffins just like the one she just crawled out of. As she opens the other coffins, she discovers other teenagers all waking up and like herself, having no recollection of who they are and how they came to be there. They're all wearing clothes that it look like they grew out of them years ago and they all have varying marks on their foreheads.

She learns from the label on her coffin that her name is M. Savage and decides she'll go by Em until she can remember her true first name. Em's elected the leader of their small group and they begin a journey of discovery and survival as they all try to find answers to all of their questions.

Alive is a promising start to a trilogy that hopefully will stand on its own in a genre that has become increasingly overcrowded over the past few years. I doubt it will achieve the popularity obtained by either The Hunger Games and Divergent series, but I don't think that's because it's not as good, I just think it's because times have changed and the interest in 'young-adult-dystopian-science fiction' books has faded.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee
274 pgs

When Go Set a Watchman was released a couple of weeks ago, I knew it was going to be a literary firestorm. Months before it was released its provenance was being called into question, and its publisher was being criticized for its decision to publish it. There was no way the book could be a failure, and at the same time, there was no way the book could be a success. After all, To Kill a Mockingbird is such a timeless classic, and it's one that everyone has read. So who isn't going to read GSaW at some point? But at the same time, GSaW will never be considered on its own merits alone. It will always be discussed, critiqued, and compared to it's predecessor--or successor, depending on which way you choose to look at it.

The book takes place twenty-or-so years after the events of TKaM when Jean Louis (Scout) returns home to Maycomb, Alabama, after having moved away to New York years earlier. Shortly after she returns, she finds a pamphlet titled "The Black Plague" among her father's papers and learns that Atticus, as a member of the Citizen's Counsel, is actively working to oppose integration in Maycomb. It's a discovery into her father's life and beliefs that shakes her to her core. How could the man whose character Jean Louis had always considered to be without fault be a part of something that she felt so morally opposed to?

Go Set a Watchman is a book that deserves to be considered on its own merits. It's well-written and shows how those who oppose equality for all races are able to justify and rationalize their beliefs without considering them racist. Unfortunately, what most people who read the book are going to get hung up on is the fact that it's Atticus Finch who has those beliefs. The book takes a character that has been placed up on a literary pillar for the past 55 years and sheds a whole new light on him, one that is sure to bother most of the book's readers.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Sunday, August 9, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee
323 pgs

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite books. It's one of the very few books that I was supposed to read in school, that I actually did. And it was the first book that I read a second time because I wanted to read it for myself and not so I could pass a test on it later. With the release of Go Set a Watchman, I thought it was a good time to read it again.

There's not really anything I can think of to say about the book that hasn't already been said countless times over the years by people more adept than I am. It's a true classic in every way. It perfectly captures the sense of innocence that children possess, and it demonstrates, in a very poignant way, how that innocence can be taken away. It captures the integrity man can possess, as well as the hypocrisy. All of which are showcased in a story that is lighthearted, fun, suspenseful, adventurous, and sad.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★