The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi – book review

The Water Knife by Paolo BacigalupiThe Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Published: May 26th 2015 by Knopf

Length: 376 pages

Where I got it: NetGalley

Why I got it: The story looked interesting and unlike anything I’ve seen around so I decided to give it a try.

*I received a free copy from the publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Summary from Goodreads:

In the American Southwest, Nevada, Arizona, and California skirmish for dwindling shares of the Colorado River. Into the fray steps Angel Velasquez, detective, leg-breaker, assassin and spy. A Las Vegas water knife, Angel “cuts” water for his boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert, so the rich can stay wet, while the poor get nothing but dust. When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in drought-ravaged Phoenix, Angel is sent to investigate. There, he encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist with no love for Vegas and every reason to hate Angel, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas refugee who survives by her wits and street smarts in a city that despises everything that she represents. With bodies piling up, bullets flying, and Phoenix teetering on collapse, it seems like California is making a power play to monopolize the life-giving flow of a river. For Angel, Lucy, and Maria time is running out and their only hope for survival rests in each other’s hands. But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only thing for certain is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.

How could I start to talk about this book without talking about the key element which is the drought and the desperation for water. This is a theme that is both intense and consistent throughout the novel which I found it to be the reason why the message in this book is so strong. Bacigalupi reminds us of how much something as essential to us as water is taken for granted in the present world. I feel like this novel is very well timed with the global warming and sea level rising threats and so definitely has the potential to be influence people’s beliefs.

Paolo Bacigalupi gives us something that I absolutely adore in books and that is the ability to read from multiple points of view. We follow three different characters in this story, including ‘the water knife’ himself, which I will never not appreciate. When you’re thrown into a new world with new situations and an altered way of living, you want to have a very vivid sense of the world. Having those three characters gives us three different ways of looking at this post-apocalyptic world and so because of that, I felt like I knew a lot about the setting and was really comfortable with it.

The reason this book is not getting the fifth star is because I keep my five star rating for my absolute favourites and, as much as I enjoyed my experience with this story, I did not feel like this book hit that mark. It’s a mixture of little things that aren’t significant in the grand scheme of things but build up enough to knock that fifth star from its rating. For example, I found the beginning hard to get into and I, personally, find it difficult to fly through a novel if the beginning doesn’t get me hooked straight away. I got through it fine because the pace is quite fast but it was those little things that made the difference.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story and it’s definitely something that I will remember for a long time.


“People only really live when they’re about to die,” he said. “Before then it’s all a waste. You don’t appreciate how good it is until you’re really in the shit.”

RATING: [4/5]


2 thoughts on “The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi – book review

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