The Water Knife

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Water companies, run like the mob, have more power than local governments and law enforcement. They have their own armies to maintain control of water sources Much like The Wind Up Girl, the possibility of a very disturbing future awaits us. Sooner than we think! Just reading Where The Water Goes was enough knowledge to make me a water-hoarder and fear for the future generations.

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This read makes it all too clear what is in store. There's books that when finish them, you put them down and hold yourself in the moment, hoping to savor the feeling for just a moment longer. The Water Knife is not one of them. The terrifying near-future it portrays in grim detail is someplace to escape as soon as possible. Calling this a horror novel would not be far from the mark. Bacigalupi's language is like a scalpel, cutting a thousand precise slices into humanity. Even more than his solid effort to examine the human consequences of environmental destruction in The Windup Girl, here Bacigalupi conjures a vision of the Southwest that feels just moments away.

A few sections that deal with character relationships fall flat, but he writes at his best when he shows just what people will do to survive the unsurvivable. A content warning: There's some detailed depiction of torture, in case that's an issue for readers. For my money though, the most stomach-turning part of the book was how factual and urgent it all feels. I found this book difficult to get into. It has an interesting plot but I found that I couldn't get used to the characters.

The Water Knife takes the classic cinematic cyberpunk image of a rain-soaked Los Angeles and tells a Blade Runnerish story in the climatechange-stricken American Southwest.

The Water Knife Summary & Study Guide

It has that cyberpunk feel but is focused less on whiz-bang computers than on how people try to get by in the margins of a society devastated by drought and storms. The character-work is fine and the plot moves along nicely, but the real star of this book is the all too possible future it depicts.

The southwestern United States in a near future where the aquifers dry out before the population can adapt, and an ongoing drought paired with temperatures too warm for mountain snow dry up most of the rivers. States collapse as they lose their fresh water sources, and mass evacuations force surviving states to enact laws restricting interstate travel. Foreign corporations from countries which planned for the worldwide drought develop Arcologies, enclosed cities with complex biological water recycling systems. These cities begin appearing around the southwest, and become island oases that the outside population will do anything to live in.

The states essentially become countries and those who leave dry states become refugees. Water rights become something that states and corporations are willing to fight and kill for. In the middle of this, the fates of a corporate mercenary, a refugee from the dead state of Texas, and do-good reporter will cross paths over a water rights contract that that will determine the future of the southwest.

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Bacigalupi's speculative future world building is amazing, but his storytelling surpasses it. Water Knife has a lot of neo noir elements to it, and it was difficult not to compare it to blade runner in the way the plot and mysteries move forward. A Texas cult called the Merry Perrys prepares for end days, and everyone else prays to Santa Muerte, a. In this new world order, water companies operate like rogue states with private militias to guard aqueducts and keep out desperate refugees, especially Texans, whose state imploded after their water was cut off.

Everyone dreams of a residency permit in L. Francis Dam that killed people and haunted its builder, Mulholland, into the grave. But this is no pastiche; Bacigalupi weaves an engrossing tale all his own, crackling with edgy style.

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And he makes water politics sexy, laying down the jargon and technical details early, then hurrying back to the action-filled streets. Would you say that he is correct? In chapter 16, Angel tells Lucy about a specific ritual of the tamarisk hunters. Why do you think that he chooses to share this story with Lucy? Why do the hunters share water when they meet each other at the Colorado?

What do you think this reveals about the storyteller, Angel? Does the story seem to elicit the response that Angel was hoping for from Lucy? What does he say that they have in common? Do you feel that this is a fair comparison to make? In chapter 28, we learn that Angel blends in with the group of people he is among. What is it that allows him to blend in?

What does he have in common with all of the others in the group? What major theme or themes does this seem to reveal or support? Do the other characters seem to share this notion? Toomie also says that an Indian man once told him that he believed that the people of India could survive an apocalypse while Americans could not. Why does the Indian man believe this?

The Water Knife Summary & Study Guide

Do you agree? Does the novel seem to confirm or refute that idea?

Are there any examples of solidarity in the book? What does Angel seem to think about cooperation and survival? What is the Stanford prison experiment? According to Angel, what determines how people act? How does Angel answer this question? Do you agree with him?

The Water Knife Summary & Study Guide Description

What does the novel ultimately seem to suggest? What might he mean by this? Do you agree with his statement? Are the characters in the story forgiving of one another? Evaluate the theme of justice in the novel. What examples of justice are found in the novel? Why do the characters discuss the concept of poetic justice? If not, what message does the book seem to offer about justice? Consider the structure of the story. How do the alternating chapters and points of view affect your interpretation of each character? Does one point of view seem to stand out from the others? How do you think that your interpretation of the story would be different if the story was told only from the point of view of a single character? Does the novel seem to support the notion of binary good and evil, or does it offer a more nuanced version of morality? What ethical decisions are the characters faced with, and what informs and ultimately seems to determine their decisions?

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Does there seem to be a clear sense of what is right and what is wrong? What does the book seem to say about morality, choice, and human nature? What common themes are evident among the works? Are they treated similarly in each work?