The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Read May 2019
Recommended for fans of dark thrillers

It’s almost impossible for me to review Bacigalupi. Check my other reviews, you’ll see. The Windup Girl, Pump Six and Other Stories; the only one I did justice to was Ship Breaker, his YA book. In a nutshell, it’s because once I am out of his world, I really don’t want to go back in. I work rather hard at maintaining both knowledge and optimism–without thought of ‘moral dessert’ (someone finally just watched The Good Place)–and Bacigalupi sends me right into the pit of despair (and not the good kind, with an albino with a cold). 

Here’s why:

Life, all around her. Struggling and surging and trying so very hard to survive in the face of all the horrors the world had to offer. 
On this ragged edge, she was alive…

She’d come to Phoenix to see a place dying, but she’d stayed for the living. Trying to divine something meaningful from this place’s suffering. What does a place that falls apart look like? What did it mean?

Nothing.
It doesn’t mean anything.
It just tells me how badly I want to live.

I persevered reading because out of his adult books, this one had the most hope (ha! A relative term). But there is environmental devastation, purposeful destruction, casual cruelty, deliberate cruelty, poverty, prostitution, torture, mutilation, and even the sex is masochism. And no one really gets just desserts, and no one is really magically saved. It’s like… the worse possible version of the world. Which is, indeed, the world, but without the leavening of hope, positivism, or vision. There is a little compassion in here, which most genuinely–oh shit, I just realized–might be from a magical Negro. Damn it. 

There’s a line from somewhere–not here, certainly–about how the mirror someone holds up shows us the version that makes us want to cut our hearts out. That’s what Bacigalupi does here, but the way he does it seems also to hold up the worst version of himself. 

Really, read Jennifer’s excellent review. What she said.

Technically, probably a four-star book in quality (fast plotting, world-building, word-smithing), much less in ‘enjoyment.’ I don’t think I can rate this one at the moment. I’ll probably keep my hard copy for awhile, but I’m definitely ditching The Windup Girl.

Many thanks to Jennifer for motivating me to get this off my TBR list.

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About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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