Tag Archives: Paolo Bacigalupi


After I finished the fantastic Version Control, I read the excellent Keith Rowe biography by Brian Olewnick. I might still review that, but it’s a hard review to write for an audience unfamiliar with Rowe’s particular branch of experimental music.

Sadly, after those 2 great books, I’ve hit three I did not even finish. That and the relentless summer heat didn’t really urge me to start writing the reviews. Fortunately, that streak of bad reading luck came to an end, as I’ve also read a great, recent SF novella by Peter Watts, and finished yet another book on Rembrandt.

As the summer drought is still not over, I’ve decided I simply won’t bother trying to write longer, in-depth reviews for these books. I won’t even try to write up Hard To Be A God, the 1964 political allegory by the Strugatsky brothers, and the first book in that row of DNFs. I stopped after only 40 pages, not enough to write something meaningful, except that it was all too obviously allegorical for my tastes. Anyhow, without further ado, here’s those 4 mini-reviews…

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THE WATER KNIFE – Paolo Bacigalupi (2015)

The Water KnifeThe Water Knife is first and foremost two things: it’s a warning, and it’s a thriller. Its science fiction elements only play a supporting role, but that’s not to be taken as an objection. I hadn’t read anything by Bacigalupi, and I’m surely reading more of him in the future – good thing The Windup Girl was a Christmas gift last year.

The book is set in the American Southwest, in a not so distant future  – Britney Spears is still alive! – where climate change and the current Californian drought have worsened to apocalyptic proportions. The population has decimated and states fight over dwindling shares of the Colorado River. It focuses on three characters: Lucy Monroe, an East Coast Pulitzer winning journalist, Maria Villarosa, a poor Texan refugee and Angel Velazquez, a former gang member and current “water knife” – hired muscle doing all kinds of covert dirty work for Southern Nevada to ensure its water rights. The point of view changes between these characters, and sooner than later they run into each other.

The first half of the 369-page novel is mainly used to set mood. The part of the USA it’s set in has devolved to a violent dust world. Not Mad Max, but still. The USA is in political tatters, climate refugees from other states are lynched, psychotic drug lords rule over their territory and the law as we know it is hardly enforced anymore. Water obviously is scarce and valuable,  with almost Dune-like consequences, and Chinese companies build high-tech closed ecosystem resorts with excellent climate control, for the wealthy only, of course.

So, this book is a warning. Continue reading