In his sixth novel, Bacigalupi (The Doubt Factory, 2014, etc.) imagines the vicious conflicts that might arise in a world of severe water scarcity.
In an American Southwest devastated by severe drought, Angel Velasquez is a “water knife” for one of the most powerful people in the region. When his boss, Catherine Case, wants to cut off a city’s water in a game of ruthless political maneuvering, Angel descends upon it with helicopters, guns, and unshakeable loyalty. He chases rumors of something that might transform the region’s balance of power to Phoenix, a city in a state of precarious near-collapse, where he finds himself entangled in the lives of Lucy, a journalist, and Maria, a young and desperate refugee. The three of them plunge into a frightening mess of political betrayal and merciless greed, desperately trying to second-guess the plans of people who will do anything to wield the power and wealth that water bestows. While the characters sometimes slip into the uncomplicated types that inhabit a slick action movie and the plot suffers from an excess of tidy coincidence, the frightening details of how the world might suffer from catastrophic drought are vividly imagined. The way the novel's environmental nightmare affects society, as individuals and larger entities—both official and criminal—vie for a limited and essential resource, feels solid, plausible, and disturbingly believable. The dust storms, Texan refugees, skyrocketing murder rate, and momentary hysteria of a public ravenous for quick hits of sensational news seem like logical extensions of our current reality.
An absorbing, if sometimes ideologically overbearing, thriller full of violent action and depressing visions of a bleakly imagined future.