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The Water Knife

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  22,867 ratings  ·  3,057 reviews
In the American Southwest, Nevada, Arizona, and California skirmish for dwindling shares of the Colorado River. Into the fray steps Angel Velasquez, leg-breaker, assassin, and spy. A Las Vegas water knife, Angel "cuts" water for his boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her luxurious developments can bloom in the desert, so the rich can stay wet while the poor get dust. When ...more
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published May 26th 2015 by Knopf
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Chris Allan The book is for me more a projection into the future of current trends with a pretty big dose of imagination added in. And yes, the Merry Perrys do re…moreThe book is for me more a projection into the future of current trends with a pretty big dose of imagination added in. And yes, the Merry Perrys do refer to former Texas Governor Rick Perry and his appeal to Texans to pray for rain rather than work to mitigate climate change. So it's much more about our world than anything in Dune.(less)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  22,867 ratings  ·  3,057 reviews

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Emily May
As with Brave New World, I think I'm inviting insults to my intelligence by saying this, but sometimes Mr Bacigalupi is just a little too heavy for me.

I really like and appreciate what the author tries to do, both the strength of his writing and his focus on the dystopian but not unrealistic futures that could occur due to climate change. I enjoyed The Windup Girl and I especially loved The Drowned Cities. The latter was such a powerful and horrifying book about the effects of war, particularly
Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“If I could put my finger on the moment we genuinely f**ked ourselves, it was the moment we decided that data was something you could use words like believe or disbelieve around.”

 photo Water_Knife_zpsdgu04fg9.jpg
Massive Dust storms from abandoned farmland add to the misery of those left alive.

Water is going to be more expensive than gasoline.

Water is going to be more precious than gold.

Water is going to be fought over.

“Some people had to bleed so other people could drink. Simple as that.”

The world in the future is going
Rick Riordan
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Adult science fiction

Bacigalupi is the master of ecological dystopian novels. He describes the world after climate meltdown in frighteningly believable detail. I loved his novel of a drowned Bangkok, The Windup Girl, and his two young adult novels set in the wastelands of the former U.S. – Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities. The Water Knife is set closer to our own time. The United States still exists, but it is frayed and crumbling. The Western states are competing for scarce water supplies,
Nov 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No One
Recommended to Carmen by: Nenia Campbell
Friend-Read with Nenia Campbell! Woot woot! Her review is here:

So. I hated Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl. HATED IT.

Why would you pick up another book by him?

One: I like Nenia Campbell and she suggested a friend-read.

Two: I like giving authors second chances.

Here goes:

If you love reading about rape, torture, murder, sexual slavery and forced prostitution, have I got an author for you! Paolo Bacigalupi loves those things as well and always makes sure t
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've spent a grand portion of my life living in the desert so I've always been aware of water issues, but honestly, this novel freaked me out with just how bad things have gotten in this near-future SF. I mean, this is really all about the fate of whole cities and the struggle for every single person to survive the collapse when there just isn't enough to drink. I kept reaching for my water every few seconds just to make sure that I was okay.

Truly. This is really good for what it is. Thriller, d
Althea Ann
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Bacigalupi is On Point with this new thriller. This is the first book I've read this year that kept me compulsively turning the pages till way after my bedtime 'cause I absolutely needed to find out what was going to happen.

It's a near-future sci-fi dystopia - however, I have to say that every time I updated my partner as to 'what I was reading about,' he kept saying, "Umm, that's not science fiction, that's NOW."

Well, the situation in the book is a little worse than 'now' - but it's the directi
Feb 16, 2015 added it
I got to the morgue scene (around page 120, in case there are several and this was only the first) and I'm stopping because I've fucking had enough. And here's why:

"Jamie's executioners had carved a story into his ruined flesh, and in the chill of the morgue...his torture stood out, intimate and nasty."

Really? Tell me more -- j/k, don't. Really, please don't.

"Christine pointed with a rubber-gloved hand. 'Electrical burns on the genitals. Adrenaline injected into the body. Sings of trauma at th
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 goo ...more
Paul Nelson
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
'Some people had to bleed so other people could drink. Simple as that.'
The water knife is a pretty torrential but enjoyable take on the apocalypse, there's no virus, no nuclear fallout, it's much easier to imagine than that.
It’s all about Water.
The good old USA is suffering from a distinct lack of rain, so much so that the southern states, Texas and New Mexico are all but abandoned, the Texans are struggling to survive along with the other unfortunates of society.
Unless you've got the funds,
Elyse  Walters
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was my first book by Paolo Bacigalupi. I requested it -by choice - 'carefully'. I had a hunch it might be a challenge for me -- yet wanted to stretch my brain.
Living in California with a clear memory of my first experience of a serious drought in the 70's -when I was living in Berkeley, Calif. (not flushing our toilets after each use wasn't pleasant for me as a young maiden in any shape of form).
Plant stores closing was sad. Letting go of 'my' plants was sad. My little world -coming out o
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

In this day and age where one can’t even walk into a bookstore’s sci-fi section without a few dozen dystopian titles getting thrown in your face, I have to say Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife really impacted me in a big way. It put me in mind of an eccentric high school teacher I once had, who was a little obsessed with doomsday scenarios. He used to be fond of saying that if the civilizations were to crumble or if th
DNF - 30%. Buddy read with carol., who managed to actually finish it.

I'm finding this book extraordinarily unpleasant. Not unrealistic. Not poorly written. Just viscerally, creatively offputting. I considered putting it down after a scene in which massive piles of bodies have been discovered, but the emphasis is on the photographer, intent on getting the photos that will get the most clicks. I put it down for good a few pages later, when the body of someone who has been tortured in strikingly th
aPriL does feral sometimes

What an incredible story! Who would believe this awful fantasy? People wouldn't behave like these characters! The United States would never fall apart, each state operating as if they don't have to listen to the Federal government. Citizens would never forget we are all Americans!

This is a terrible novel of a fictionalized future about the dying city of Phoenix, Arizona in a water-starved Western United States. It is a waste of time to read! Really! Who would believe that Nevada, Ariz
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Collapse porn.

Paolo Bacigalupi, the WAY cool author of The Windup Girl delivers in his 2015 novel another near future post-apocalyptic tale of Malthusian scarcity and people’s tenacious ability to keep on keeping on.

Set in the American southwest, we find a world where water and water rights have taken the front seat to narcotics and any other vice and is now the coin of power. Rival states like Arizona, Texas, California and Nevada vie for senior riparian rights and the players of the game use h
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Awesome premise. Action packed. Brutal. Good characters. And then the ending gets away from the author and it devolves a bit. Like really? Ohhhkay. The last fifty pages just felt so wildly implausible within this world. Unearned perhaps. Also the sex scene between the two main characters is kind of hilarious but it isn't supposed to be. Very fun read though. ...more
Heather *Undercover Goth Queen*
2.5 stars.

The only reason I read this was because it's set partly in Las Vegas. And the subject matter terrifies me. Yes, it's true. I'm terrified of having to move away from my home one day because there isn't enough water to go around, and take up residence in a state that has income tax and summers with highs below 100 degrees.

Okay, but seriously, I am really scared of the water thing. I read a book about the early years of Las Vegas as we know it today, and even back then, water was a concer
Much less futuristic and depressing than I thought it would be. Quite thrilling.
4.5 stars

Ripped from the headlines of today, The Water Knife breaks the mold of typical dystopian fiction in a masterful telling of an extremely bleak near-future, fragmented America. The set-up is very long – over 30% of the book – but it was well worth the effort to get through it.

The reality portrayed in The Water Knife reveals the consequences of [so-called] climate change and the resulting water scarcity on the American Southwest. The author, with his limitless imagination, creates a sad, v
Andrew Lennon
The beginning of this book was a bit slow moving. Up until around the 20% mark I was actually considering giving up.
However, when it got going, it really got going! It became a really fun book to read! Gun fights, gangs, torture!
Once it got going I didn't want it to stop, just wanted to keep going onto the next chapter to see what happens next.
I would definitely recommend this to people to read, just get through the slow beginning and then you're on for a fun ride!

I received this book in exchang
Fred Hughes
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
A great story about potentially what our world could be like after our water starts to run out. Of course the one percenters aren't affected but the rests of us are pushed to the limits. Politics and money prevail as humanity is pushed to the brink.

A rousing adventure with lots of action. WARNING - graphic violence throughout

Recommended book and author
An imagined near-future where the American Southwest is a virtual dust bowl, water is completely privatized, and gangs, militias and refugees roam, hustling anything to stay alive and hydrated.

My first Bacigalupi - I've seen and been intrigued by his books for years, and I am glad I read this one first - but it is not for the faint of heart! Neo-noir dystopian, shades of Chinatown, Dune, Mad Max, even Clockwork Orange, with the underworld of Sicario and Breaking Bad (how's that for some comparis
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story honestly really surprised me. I hadn't heard much buzz about this book, but I had heard the author's name and it has been sat on my shelf for a fair while actually. I finally was prompted to pick it up becuase I joined a book club and this was their choice for this month's book. I'm really glad that I did go for it, because I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed it.

This follows a near-future world where water has become quite a rarity. Big corporations created by privat
Kara Babcock
For people who like their thrillers with a heavy dose of depth.

Seriously, The Water Knife is a thriller for “the thinking person.” If you’ve read many of my reviews, you might have noticed that I rail against thrillers on a semi-regular basis. I like to say I’m a semi-reformed literature snob—that is, I don’t like partitioning books into genres, but sometimes they are convenient labels for discussion and critique. Now, I’ve read some good thrillers in my time. But The Water Knife is definitely o
Oct 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Water scarcity has pushed USA to the brink of civil war. The states still having access to water like California and Nevada have maintained relative prosperity while states like Arizona and Texas have fallen down the wayside. A macguffin in Phoenix that will change the power equation completely sets the plot in motion. The writing is average, neither distracting nor memorable. Bacigalupi has a tendency to lay it on a bit thick when he goes all Nihilistic but otherwise it's okay. The world buildi ...more
May 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2015
3 Stars.

I am a huge fan of Paolo Bacigalupi and highly recommend him to all my friends. The Water Knife is no exception to that. I enjoyed this book from start to finish and felt that it does just enough to make it worth your time and money. The world building is sufficient and the dry post apocalyptic world is interesting and believable. The characters are good. The story and mystery is fun. I liked this book a lot but never loved anything about it. A good read, not a great one.
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
3.5 stars. I loved The Windup girl, and I’ve been hanging out to read the Water Knife ever since it was published. I love a good dystopia, and Bacigalupi really delivered with the post-climate change, post-petrochemical, post-everything-that-makes-life-easy Thailand of his last novel.

The first half of The Water Knife is four star work- it's pacey and set in a fascinating and plausible world with interesting characters. The drought stricken states of Nevada, California and Arizona are all battli
Book Riot Community
I’ve been telling everyone I know to get to their closest bookstore or library so they can read this book. Better yet, listen to it, because the audio by Almarie Guerra is so well-done I couldn’t stop listening. Set a few decades in the future, The Water Knife imagines a United States in which states have their own militias and flight each other, refugees flee their drought-ridden homes, and entire states have become uninhabitable – all because of the lack of enough fresh water to sustain the We ...more
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
In honor of the Water Knife being basically a near-future Western, I’m going to break my review down into the GOOD, the BAD, and the FUGLY (future ugly).

The Good

When I cast my mind back to Paolo Bacigalupi’s other more famous book, The Windup Girl, which I read about six years ago, I find what I primarily remember is not plot, the characters, or the writing, but the setting. Bangkok’s sea walls. The giant beasts being used to wind up energy coils. Calories as currency. Agricultural corporatocrac
Excited! Been such an age since the Wind-up Girl which was a superb & plausible tale of a near future, captivating throughout!

However on finishing The Water Knife I have firstly to say that this is not of the same depth & wealth of world building nor character development of its prequel......

What’s it all about? – Water! It’s the most sought after commodity, the rich shower in it whilst the poor recycle their own piss so they can drink their daily requirement. The land is desolate, the landscape
Bob Brinkmeyer
Mar 15, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 rounded up

The Water Knife is a near-future (rather than a far-future, given how the world is going) thriller about the battle for water in the American West by states and corporations, often working in tandem. Aridity is the state of nature for most of the West, with water its most valuable commodity. Most of the novel is set in what’s left of Phoenix—and if you’ve ever flown into Phoenix, you thoroughly understand why Bacigalupi set his novel there: it’s a sprawling city set in a sprawling
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Paolo Bacigalupi is an award-winning author of novels for adults and young people.

His debut novel THE WINDUP GIRL was named by TIME Magazine as one of the ten best novels of 2009, and also won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. Internationally, it has won the Seiun Award (Japan), The Ignotus Award (Spain), The Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis (Germany), and the Grand

Articles featuring this book

His Favorite Books About the Future: Water is scarce in his sci-fi thriller, The Water Knife, which peers into our possible future, along with...
16 likes · 9 comments
“Pure data. You don’t believe data—you test data.” He grimaced. “If I could put my finger on the moment we genuinely fucked ourselves, it was the moment we decided that data was something you could use words like believe or disbelieve around.” 50 likes
“If we can’t describe our reality accurately, we can’t see it.” 17 likes
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