The Water Knife (by Pablo Bacigalupi) = 5/5

If you’ve ever wondered what the U.S. southwest could look like when water runs out, The Water Knife is the sci-fi book for you. Set during a regional struggle between California, Nevada, and Arizona for water rights, the third-person narrative focuses on 3 primary characters: Angel (a guy who does whatever must be done to ensure his boss, Catherine Case, maintains her control over Nevada’s water supply), Lucy (a Pulitzer-winning, muck-raking reporter in Phoenix who has “gone native”), and Maria (an orphaned Texan refugee trying to make ends meet by selling water by her friend’s papusa stand outside a Chinese construction site in Phoenix). I really enjoyed the way Bacigalupi braided these narratives together without the plot feeling forced or contrived.

This is a book my husband reader’s advised to me, and I definitely enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. I’ve enjoyed all the short stories I’ve read by Bacigalupi, but wasn’t sure how well his writing would transfer into longer formats because I have found authors seem to have trouble writing sci-fi about climate change well. I feared The Water Knife would get preachy or redundant, but it definitely didn’t. I really enjoyed how Angel, Maria, and Lucy were all fully-fleshed out, realistic characters, and how Bacigalupi provided just enough details about the world to keep the plot moving forward without bogging it down with info dumps.

I’d recommend The Water Knife to anyone looking for accessible, character-driven sci-fi and/or solid speculative fiction about water shortages. I would say more about the characters and their choices, but I don’t want to spoiler things.

TL;DR: Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife reminds readers not to take anything for granted and is well-crafted, gritty science fiction told from three different perspectives about a future that could be.

Review originally written 19 August 2017

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