Disclaimer: English is my third language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks. You can read this review also in Spanish here.
The water knife is the latest novel by the american author Paolo Bacigalupi. It is his second work for adults, after the award-winning The Windup Girl and, like this, is set in a near future scenario marked by major global climatic changes.
Unlike the previous one, located in Thailand, the action of The Water Knife is set in the United States, primarily in Arizona, Nevada and California, but most of the action happens in the city of Phoenix. It is not as ambitious as his first book, there are fewer details and subplots, but probably I prefer it because of the improvement in how weaves the plot and the construction of the characters, much more solid and consistent over the whole story. I think Bacigalupi has matured as a writer, and he is able to keep the rawness and realism (the features that highlight in the novel) throughout all the story.
There are three main characters on the novel, each starring and narrating from his point of view the different chapters, alternately.
The main character in the novel is Angel, the water knife (a mixture of spy, gangster and detective) who works for the woman who controls Las Vegas. His function is to protect the water resources of this city of Nevada, and he does not hesitate to blackmail, threaten and if necessary (what happened often) use violence.
Lucy is an idealistic journalist who narrates the decay and corruption of the city of Phoenix, almost at the point of collapse, totally dependent on the little water that arrives from the Colorado River and filled with refugees from the former state of Texas who struggle in their suburbs.
Maria is one such refugees, and his view allows us to know more directly the decline that has come to the city.
One of more interesting points is the speculation of how the American Southwest will evolve in social, political and economic levels in case of extreme drought caused by climate change. Bacigalupi is a specialist in this type of analysis, although he has a viewpoint somewhat pessimistic about human society and its values. Or maybe he is realistic and I'm a little naive, I do not rule.
Another great point is the presence of the arcologies: large self buildings thanks to solar energy, the internal vegetal production and recycling of used water. Living in them is the goal of all people in the American Southwest, and building and maintaining them one of the origins of all the problems depicted in the novel.
Although setting and temporary situation makes me clearly classify the novel as science fiction, the style sometimes reminds me of a thriller: the structure of the plot and the relationship between the characters (which seems Bacigalupi doesn't want too much and does not hesitate to make them suffer).
In short, it is a great novel that I will clearly recommend, raw and hard, uncompromising, with a realistic touch and less complex than other works from the author, surely aimed to a broader audience . I am convinced that we will hear about it in future awards nominations.