Paolo Bacigalupi presents a terrifyingly realistic view of the future of America in his new science fiction novel, The Water Knife.
In the future, humanity's misuse of water has led to lasting drought and the water wars. Cities have been completely cut off from water and states have sealed their borders to prevent refugees from taking more of the already limited and precious resource. Water is a cut-throat business, with legitimate water utilities bombing damns, spying on each other and sending "water knives" to protect water supplies by force.
Bacigalupi follows three people, a Texas refugee eking out a living in Phoenix, where there is no water, a reporter following the story of the dying city of Phoenix, and an ex-con turned water knife for a Las Vegas water utility. The story moves at a brisk pace, picking up different narrative threads that are then smartly woven together by the author into a thrilling race against time.
Some readers might be put off by the excessive violence and graphic sexual encounters. For others, these details drive home the desperation and horror of living in a water-starved future. In the end, you will find yourself caring deeply for the seemingly morally ambiguous water knife named Angel, as he and the others fight to find a piece of paper that has already cost a few lives and may cost the main characters their lives as well.
While this novel may be science fiction, water is undoubtedly a precious resource that is dwindling. If this book got you worried about the future of our water supply, check out these nonfiction resources:
- Last Call at the Oasis (DVD) — This movie explores water quality and shortages around the world and how activists are seeking solutions to the growing problems that humans face with water.
- Running Dry: The Global Water Crisis by Stuart Kallen — Written for children and teens, this book discusses how droughts, floods, and massive storms along with the human population affects water usage, and explains how the competition for clean water has increased.
- Taking on Water: How One Water Expert Challenged her Inner hypocrite, Reduced Her Water Footprint (Without Sacrificing a Toasty Shower), and Found Nirvana by Wendy J. Pabich — This memoir chronicles the author's efforts to reduce her own personal water consumption, which included processing wastewater and updating the energy systems in her home, and offers guidelines and tips for those looking to make similar changes.
- The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve, Capture, and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape by Laura Allen — This guide presents instructions on building systems for the home that reuse and conserve water, including constructing rain gardens, installing greywater systems, and purchasing a waterless composting toilet.