Paolo Bacigalupi’s latest novel is grim and brutal. The world of “The Water Knife” is transitioning from one order to another. Characters are trying to figure out how to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment created by long term negligence, as well as contemporary (to the setting) corruption. Some try to cling to a memory of the old order, other try to remake the world, most are just trying to get by.
The primary characters were well fleshed out, with believable origins and motivations, as well as changing attitudes.
The plot is structured by following three characters who’s lives intersect. This is a risky move, but it works well here and the coincidental interactions don’t make the novel feel too claustrophobic or artificial. There are plenty of twists that resolve in was that jibe with the motivations and perspectives of the different character.
I should note, that there is one chapter in this book that made me pretty uncomfortable. I can’t really judge it fairly from a literary perspective. It fit into the story, environment, and I though it was handled… OK, but it was …. gross.
I totally understand why someone would find this book cynical and abhorrent. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. But if you aren’t completely turned away by the gruesomeness then this book might be for you.