Let me say up front that I am in awe of Paolo Bacigalupi’s skill as a writer of ecological science fiction. Water scarcity! How’s that for a topic that could put the most avid science fiction reader to sleep? It takes a talented writer to make anyone crack a book on such a topic, and Bacigalupi has done it with The Water Knife. The novel has been nominated for the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction.
The Water Knife cuts closer in time than Bacigalupi’s last novel The Windup Girl (reviewed here) and puts readers into a pre-apocalyptic American West that we could actually live to see. The climate is undergoing a downward spiral of change, and water is scarce. The federal government has limited influence over desperate state governments and populations migrating toward any promise of water. Humanitarian aid organizations throughout the south and west build water pumps that sell water by the liter to the public while robber barons build climate-controlled luxury resorts for the rich. Continue reading
I just finished The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s a fabulous piece of environmental speculative fiction that I somehow missed when it came out in 2009. The worldscape in a future Bangkok is rich with detail, and the backstory about the consequences of genehacking plants and animals is so plausible that I completely immersed, despite being interrupted often due to having to complete tasks for others for money (i.e. work). A lot has been written about this novel, and I could easily go off on a tangent about many of its contributions to speculative fiction. This post, however, is not a review. I want to write about how the novel successfully explores a world from the viewpoints of multiple characters without making the cast so large, repetitive in purpose or thinly conceived that readers can no longer identify with any of them.
[Alert: there be spoilers below.]
The story begins with white male antihero Anderson Lake’s point of view. For a few minutes I thought I was going to be reading a novel that followed a typical thriller pattern nasty-genehacker-sales-rep-on-the-run kind of story and I was a little disappointed. But no! Bacigalupi introduces several other protagonists: Jaidee Rojjanasukchai a former muay thai fighter who is the heart and soul of the Environment Ministry; Kanya Chirathivat his unsmiling female lieutenant whose loyalties have been compromised; Emiko, a windup girl (a female cyborg) who’s been discarded and left to fend for her survival in the city’s seedy haunts; and Tan Hock Seng, an old Malay Chinese businessman barely surviving despite his scams and his nose for sensing out rising social tension. Continue reading