The Water Knife
Not a drop to drink
Release Date: 28 May
384 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author: Paolo Bacigalupi Publisher: Orbit
To describe Paolo
Bacigalupi’s second novel for adults as much- anticipated is an understatement. It’s been more than five years since the publication of his Hugo and Nebula- winning debut, The Windup Girl – although he has written YA books in the meantime. Has it been worth the wait?
With some reservations, yes. Set in a near- future USA, The Water Knife is a tale of how different interest groups ruthlessly compete for dwindling water resources. Maintaining the unstable system provides employment for men such as Angel Velasquez, the “water knife” of the title.
The environmental theme of the novel will be familiar to anyone who’s read Bacigalupi, but the tone is different. Largely eschewing the neo- cyberpunk vibe that made his name, the author instead borrows airport thriller tropes as we see how Angel’s story ( violently) intersects with investigative journalist Lucy Monroe and a Texan refugee, Maria Villarosa.
It’s certainly exciting, with Bacigalupi proving adept at crafting showstopper setpieces. It’s also a clever novel in the way it explores the actions and motivations of an antihero, Angel, without ever over- glamorising him.
Where The Water Knife falls down is that it doesn’t seem such a radical or ambitious book as The Windup Girl. Nevertheless, with the tricky sophomore test passed, Bacigalupi is shaping up to be a major writer. Jonathan Wright