Let’s discuss The Water Knife! Read through my discussion prompts below, then add your thoughts on those or anything else you felt was important to you. If you have written a review please include a link to it, and ask a question for me (or other book club buddies) to answer. And remember to check back to see if people have replied to your comments.
**WARNING** The discussion prompts and comments below will contain spoilers for The Water Knife. Only continue if you have read the book!
Who was your favourite character? And why?
My favourite character was Angel. I loved the depth of his character and I looked forward to his chapters most of all. Initially he seems like a hardened criminal, who does his job with ruthless efficiency and minimal moral reflection. But as we learnt more about his past, and see his relationship with Lucy develop, and then his internal dialogue before they find Maria at the very end, I felt like we got a much more nuanced picture of Angel as a product of his life. My favourite quote from him as the last line of the first chapter that really set the scene for the novel:
“Guess that makes me the Devil”
Did you have any predictions for alliances between the characters? And did they come to pass?
Because of the style of the story with multiple perspectives on a collision course for one another it seemed inevitable that the characters would unite against a common enemy. However it didn’t quite turn out that way, as they regularly betrayed one another, right up until the very last page. Some of my favourite moments were when characters don’t take the opportunity to ‘buddy’ up with someone who isn’t suitable. In similar stories you would expect them to just buddy up, but I think Bacigalupi’s approach was more fitting for the personalities of his characters.
The first was when Lucy rejects Angel initially, saying: “I don’t need a friend, I’ve got a dog.” This is followed not long after with Angel in turn realising that it wouldn’t be a great idea for him to bother assisting Maria: [Maria say] “Why do you care?” He looked surprised, then thoughtful. “You’re right. I don’t.”
How did you feel about the ending of the novel?
So much of this novel was about choices. Every character has to make so many hard choices throughout the novel, and in most cases there isn’t a clearly black and white ‘right or wrong’ choice for them to navigate. But almost all of the choices can result in either living or dying. I really enjoyed the ending for that reason, because each of the characters are trying to decide what is right for them, or for the city the feel a part of, and in the end the choice gets taken away with violence. There were lots of quotes in this vein, but my favourite was:
“In an instant her life seemed to make sense, she had always needed this. To live on the fine ragged edge between one thing and the other. Between living and dying.”
What’s your vision of the apocalypse?
The Water Knife is a particularly vivid and specific form of apocalypse, one where climate change results in mass drought. Do you think it’s a realistic vision? Though I enjoyed the novel, I think Bacigalupi’s vision, in The Wind Up Girl, of a post-peak-oil world dominated by corporations that control the world’s energy and food consumption is more realistic in its reflection of the complexity of the world.
“I think the world is big, and we broke it.”
“We knew it was all going to hell, and we just stood by and watched it happen anyway.”
Do you think words have the power to shape what we think?
There is a wonderful moment where Catherine Case talks about what she thinks formed part of the denial of the American population that the end of the world is upon them. And this has got me thinking about the power words have to shape our realities, and to give us the ‘old eyes’ Maria talked about throughout the novel.
“There’s a theory that if we don’t have the right words in our vocabularies , we can’t even see the things that are right in front of our faces. If we can’t describe our reality accurately, we can’t see it. Not the other way around. So someone says a word like Mexico or the United States, and maybe that word keeps us from seeing what’s right in front of us. Our own words make us blind.”
Look forward to hearing your thoughts and I hope you’ll join me in July as we read The Sudden Appearance of Hope!