It’s no secret that the West is a region controlled by water, but the summer of author Paolo Bacigalupi book’s release (May 26, 2015) is turning out to be one of the worst drought years ever recorded. As California imposes mandatory water rationing for the first time ever, it does not take much imagination to see events in The Water Knife as a very real possibility.

Pure data. You don’t believe data—you test data.

In The Water Knife, States have closed and militarized their borders. The Red Cross has set up demand-priced water wells thanks to the generosity of the Chinese who are building exclusive arcologies, even in water-strapped Phoenix. Angel Velasquez is headed across the border from Nevada to Arizona in his custom Tesla to investigate the possibility of extremely senior Colorado river water rights for the most infamous and cut-throat water rights administrator, Catherine Case, the so-called “Queen of the Colorado.”

Why is this on our bookshelf?

We’ve reviewed Bacigalupi’s previous work, The Windup Girl (also an environmental science fiction novel) but I was particularly interested in reading The Water Knife. For three years I was a “‘zoner” — living in Scottsdale, AZ.

While we had running tap water, just living in the desert is a constant reminder about how precious water is. It wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine the National Guard defending water infrastructure for their states.

Rating (4 stars)

There have been a number of books published that use climate change as a component of the plot or as part of the setting, but thankfully Bacigalupi never lets climate change upstage his characters, who are generally well developed with exciting backstories and hidden motivations.

The plot occasionally ran thin — the love interest in particular seemed a touch forced — and some may feel that the ending was meant to be a shocking twist, but really wasn’t. Still, The Water Knife kept me engaged and, more importantly, let me imagine and become immersed in this world.