Tag Archives | thriller

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.

419 | Will Ferguson

The cover of Fergusson's 419In 419, Ferguson has created a juxtaposition of worlds that will grip you from the first page  to the last.

In Calgary, police investigate the car tracks which lead to a fatal plunge through the guardrails. In Lagos, Nigeria, young shysters pack internet shops to write emails to rich Westerners from Nigerian Diplomats (a crime known by its Nigerian criminal code number, 419). In northern Nigeria, a young marked woman walks south for survival. In the oil-rich Niger Delta, trees are bulldozed and old traditions come to an end as multinational oil companies move in.

My first exposure to Ferguson was his travel narrative of Japan, Hitching Rides With Buddha. Although he’s also known as a comic writer, humor takes a back seat in 419. He uses his skills as a travel writer to make the various locations come alive.

While 419 is a page-turner, there’s far more to it than an average mystery novel. Ferguson has so fully fleshed-out the various settings and character perspectives, you will turn the chapter only to find yourself sympathizing with the villain.

Another fine element of this book was the conclusion (which I won’t give away). While it’s incredibly satisfying, it’s also unexpected. From a Christian perspective, it was fittingly redemptive. That’s all I can say about that!

If you read fiction, buy and read 419. Just be sure to set aside enough time to finish it. You will not want to put it down.

—Will Ferguson, 419 (Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2012).

The Island at the End of the World | Sam Taylor

This may be the residual effects of missing Lost speaking, but when I found a dystopic novel about a father who took his children to and island at the end of the world, I knew that I had to read it.

Pa, the protagonist,  is a truly frightening character. When you read the chapters written from his point of view, the mix of religious psychosis and single-minded determination send chills down your spine. Many times passages of scripture run through Pa’s rants. Despite knowing the context they’ve been ripped from, they still terrify.

The whole ethos of this novel is creepy. You never fully understand anyone’s motivations until something’s happened. As the book approaches the climax, scenes are piled on top of each other from various perspectives masterfully.

This mysterious psychological thriller haunted me well after I finished reading.

Reamde | Neal Stephenson

  • Reamde: A Novel © 2011
  • William Morrow: HarperCollinsPublishers
  • 1044 pages

There’s a curious juxtaposition here. Thrillers are, by nature, fast-pace adventure stories. Neal Stephenson’s latest thriller is a 1000+ page behemoth! Stephenson managed to insert deep characterization into his thrill ride in such a way that a 5 minute gun-fight can span 100 gripping pages.

This story covers everything from Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games to Islamic Terrorists, American survivalists hosting gun-toting family reunions to Asian hackers, Russian Organized crime syndicates to MI6, with a weed trafficker thrown in for good measure. You won’t run out of plot lines to consider!

The role of fate or luck in Reamde was particularly interesting. Stephenson managed to wrangle unbelievably improbable events into line without the reader feeling the effects of deus ex machina. It’s spectacular to see how he ties every thread together in one epic conclusion.

There were a few moments in the book where the sense of urgency departed and the thought of 1000+ pages wore on me. In hindsight, that’s probably because the action sequences are that well written.

My previous experience with Stephenson was his Cryptonomicon. After Reamde, I’m hooked.

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