The Wa­ter Knife

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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

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