The Water Knife

  • by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Narrated by Almarie Guerra
  • 14 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Paolo Bacigalupi, New York Times best-selling author and National Book Award finalist, dives once again into our uncertain future with his first thriller for adults since his multi-award-winning debut phenomenon The Windup Girl.
In the American Southwest, Nevada, Arizona, and California skirmish for dwindling shares of the Colorado River. Into the fray steps Angel Velasquez, detective, leg breaker, assassin, and spy. A Las Vegas water knife, Angel "cuts" water for his boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert, so the rich can stay wet while the poor get nothing but dust.
When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in drought-ravaged Phoenix, Angel is sent to investigate. There he encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist with no love for Vegas and every reason to hate Angel, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas refugee who survives by her wits and street smarts in a city that despises everything she represents.
With bodies piling up, bullets flying, and Phoenix teetering on collapse, it seems like California is making a power play to monopolize the life-giving flow of a river. For Angel, Lucy, and Maria, time is running out, and their only hope for survival rests in each other's hands. But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only thing for certain is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.

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What the Critics Say

"[A]fresh, genre-bending thriller....Bacigalupi weaves an engrossing tale all his own, crackling with edgy style." (Los Angeles Times)
"An ambitious, genre-dissolving thriller and a timely cautionary tale....this epic, visionary novel should appeal to a wide audience." (Publishers Weekly)
"There is a savage beauty to the novel, which makes it one of the best books of 2015 I have read so far." (SFF World)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The fight for water in a drought fueled apocalypse

Water rights on the Colorado River have been debated and negotiated for almost 100 years and the existing agreements are actually rather complex. The southwestern US, arid by nature, is completely dependent on water from the Colorado River which originates from the north. Upper Basin States are bound by "The Law of the River" to let the water flow south to support the needs of California, Nevada, and Arizona. So what happens when the climate changes and the available water is only a fraction of what is needed for all involved? Well, you find yourself in the dusty, apocalyptic setting of the Water Knife where law and lawlessness exist in equal measure within the southwestern US.

Due to a lack of water many southwestern cities have gone dry and the constitution is modified to no longer guarantee safe travel between the states. States borders are closed to limit population growth and patrolled by state military and local militia. The federal government sits back and lets the individual states handle border disagreements on their own but they loom as an ever present threat should any state go too far in their dealings with their neighbors.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is a bully of an organization with a private army willing to do whatever is necessary to gain control of as many water rights as possible. These rights are being used to build sustainable "arcologies" for the wealthy that keep Las Vegas alive and profitable. With California more than able to protect itself from Nevada, the SNWA turns its military and legal might against Arizona. Phoenix is just about out of water and has become a hell hole of poverty where lawlessness has the upper hand. #phoenixdownthetubes documents the slow death of the local population for the rest of the world to see online and there is little hope of a better future.

Paolo Baciagalupi inserts a cast of interesting characters into this setting and Almarie Guerra brings them to life with an excellent narration. Her reading of the story kept me interested from beginning to end and the characters felt like real people in an all too possible apocalypse. I was intrigued enough by the story to do a little extra reading on "The Law of the River" to improve my understanding of how the water rights of this region have been handled over the years and that made the scenario all the more plausible.

So if you like apocalyptic fiction and are up for something different from the standard fare of zombies, epidemics, and nuclear war then you have come to the right place.
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- Lore

I think the world is big, and we broke it.

(My favorite quote from the book.) This was the first book of Bacigalupi's that I've read, and I think it's going to stick with me for a long time. At least for now—having just finished it—I feel like it has simultaneously renewed and destroyed my faith in mankind. Disaster inspires the most selfless acts of kindness in some people, and the worst kind of avarice in others. The key players struggle with which kind of person they're going to be. Bacigalupi tells the story in stark reality.

With the southwestern US currently suffering from a megadrought, this story could hit terribly close to home for the people who live there, and I almost want to caution them not to read it, because it could give them nightmares. I would also caution anyone sensitive to violence. But if you want to think deeply about some of the potential consequences of climate change and untangle a web of corporate and governmental lies and deceit at the same time, this is the book for you.
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- Pam

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-26-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios