The Water Knife is the second novel I have read by Bacigalupi…I read The Windup Girl a couple of years ago. His fiction is frightening, not because of the uncanniness that he describes but because, in Freud’s use of the term, he shows us just how uncanny our current predicament is. The Windup Girl (in part) posited a world in which famine had been caused in part by large seed companies who – in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage – had created viruses designed to wipe out the crops produced by their competitors’ monocultural seed. Yes, that is frightening in part because it is something that we don’t have to be cyberpunks to envision as possible. This scenario is about as uncanny as it gets.
The Water Knife might be scarier, a scariness perhaps based on my love of the American West. Some notes:
- As frustrated as I get with Bacigalupi’s characters because of his desire to make them hard-edged (which means cynical and violent), he is trying to make characters that fit this world, one that he feels we are inhabiting.
- His extrapolations about water usage in the west are spot on.
- I may, as a reader, want more optimism, to be told that everything will be all right. In other words, I don’t want the future imagined by this guy. There is some attempt at being ecologically savvy in his depiction of the Chinese arcologies (which are 99.9 percent sustainable).
- The title is particularly compelling, since the idea of a water knife is nonsensical, which is his point I’m guessing.
- I was also struck by the contrast between the incredibly poor and the amount energy devoted to fighting over tiny bits of water.