The GeekyNerdy Book Club is a new, bimonthly reading group hosted by GeekyNerdyGirl on her blog Geeky Musings from a Nerdy Girl. (That was a lot of geeking and nerding in one sentence!) We’re kicking it off with the post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi novel The Water Knife.
The novel features a trio of interesting characters: enterprising young Texas refugee Maria, hardcore journalist Lucy, and the titular “water knife”/enforcer Angel; their stories intersect in a future, water-starved Phoenix, AZ. Maria is just trying adapt and survive, while Lucy is trying uncover the real stories behind Phoenix’s slow death, and Angel is there to speed up that death, because there’s only so much water in the Colorado River, and the woman he works for in Las Vegas wants that water up there–as much as she can get, however she can get it.
The mix of genres in this book was very interesting, and I think it would appeal to a wide audience. It starts off, as I expected, solidly sci-fi, describing the water crisis in the southwestern US caused by climate change. (I think I tend to avoid this kind of realistic sci-fi because it can verge on preachy, but I didn’t feel like I was beaten over the head with the climate change message here.) Because it’s a near-future, real-world dystopia, much of the technology is familiar, like Tesla cars and solar panels. But there are also some new inventions, like Clearsacs, which purify urine into drinking water.
Suddenly somewhere in the middle of the book I realized I was actually reading a Western, complete with a mysterious gunslinger, a threatened homesteader who still won’t leave her “ranch,” and lots of doublecrossing. How cool! I love sci-fi/Western mixes; the two genres have so much in common. As I read further, I thought it was a thriller. Towards the end, I realized it was actually a mystery! Really, it’s all of this rolled into one. No matter what genre you would call this, the story was way more pulp-y than I anticipated, and I enjoyed it.
One thing that mildly bothered me was the pacing. The story starts slow, and doesn’t really pick up until the characters meet each other—that’s nearly halfway through the book! The ending, too, seems a bit sudden. I have nothing against open-ended stories, but we don’t get much resolution on the characters’ relationships and future directions. One character is even unconscious at the end! (She’s not going to be happy when she wakes up…)
The story does have some intense elements, and two mildly graphic sex scenes. The future is apparently pretty brutal–at least the sex scenes provide some character development.
Speaking of characters, Angel’s boss, Catherine Case, is an interesting one. She’s only briefly physically present in the book, but her shadow falls on everything. They call her the “Queen of the Colorado”—I think you’re supposed to despise and admire her at the same time. I don’t know if the relationship between her and Angel is broken at the end of the story, because I don’t know if it was ever based on trust to begin with (or at least, how I would define trust). Like Angel, Case is very unemotional about betrayal. She trusts patterns, not people. I could see her taking Angel back, only to have him taken out for something else in the future. Or just killing him now anyways. Or never. Whatever’s most beneficial for her.
Overall, I’d give this book 4 out 5 stars.
I’ve already read and enjoyed Bacigalupi’s YA novel Ship Breaker, and now I think I’d like to read his award-winning debut novel The Windup Girl. But maybe later. I can only take so much dystopia.
In the meantime, our next GeekNerdy Book Club choice will be:
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
Should be a little lighter in tone. Hope you’ll join us in a few months!