Tag Archives | Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife | Paolo Bacigalupi

The cover of Bacigalupi's The Water KnifeAngel Velasquez is a water knife. He cuts water supplies to drought-stricken towns in the American Southwest to make his employer’s desert thrive. Set in the near future, Bacigalupi imagines what the world could become when human greed and cut-throat litigation run wild.

Bacigalupi set the bar high with The Windup Girl. Unfortunately, The Water Knife doesn’t live up to is predecessor. While he is still able to create a terrifyingly plausible near future, this book is more thriller, less social commentary.

I’m aware that many people may in fact prefer The Water Knife to The Windup Girl. This newer book reads like a soon-to-be optioned movie thriller. If that’s what you enjoy, then The Water Knife has action to spare. If you’re more interested in the world we are creating, then the over-the-top shockers and cliff-hanging chapters leave little room for reflection.


Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Water Knife. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

The Windup Girl | Paolo Bacigalupi

The cover of Bacigalupi's The Windup GirlTime Magazine said it best in their blurb (printed inside the front cover): “Bacigalupi is a worthy successor to William Gibson: this is cyberpunk without computers.”

The Windup Girl is disturbing science fiction precisely because the future it imagines feels so real. From the first pages that describe Anderson’s search for a newly engineered blight-resistant fruit to the depraved handlers of the windup girl herself, everything feels plausible.

When you read about Anderson’s factory (complete with mastodon-like creatures that turn giant posts to generate power), you can almost feel the grit and smell the muggy stench.

This is not escapist fiction—this is fiction with a critical edge. The world has suffered major ecological collapse. Genetically engineered crops from the leading agribusinesses have (ironically) destroyed most of the world’s traditional food sources. (Does Wendell Barry read science fiction?) Racism and nationalism run wild in the collapse of society. Trade leaders become more powerful than politicians. There’s much to digest here.

Bacigalupi’s imagined world will stick in your memory long after the book’s finished. Here’s hoping for a sequel!

—Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2009).

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