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.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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