Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

The Water Knife The Water Knife
by Paolo Bacigalupi

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

Paolo Bacigalupi is an author whom I hold in high regard: firstly for the novel The Windup Girl and secondly the short story collection Pump Six and Other Stories. So it was with much interest that I approached his latest (and second non-juvenile) novel The Water Knife. That interest was amply rewarded.

The Water Knife is set approximately 30 years from now in Phoenix, Arizona in an environment where climate change has reduced the rainfall into the Colorado River catchment (the water source for Phoenix) enough to make the seniority of water draw rights of paramount importance for the life of communities along the river. The States of Nevada and California are playing a very rough game for those rights, employing water knifes to cut others’ water rights, resulting in everybody else further up the river suffering the unhappy consequences.

Angel is a water knife working for the South Nevada Water Authority and whose latest assignment is to go Arizona to discover why his sometime partner Julio has gone off grid. In the process Angel stumbles into a water war skirmish with his opposite numbers from California. There is a rumour that someone has uncovered some very significant and very, very senior water rights – large enough and senior enough to unsettle both Nevada and California. Now Angel has to deliver those rights to Nevada if he wants to live.

I found The Water Knife to be both a tense science fiction thriller and a disturbing vision of the future. The characters were well drawn and credible, and their motivations realistic. Access to potable water is not just a third world problem. Mr Bacigalupi has shown a believable world where for a lot of Americans that access will become a first world problem too and written a novel well worth reading. Yes, I really enjoyed this book. That may show a bit in the review.

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