________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV . . . . August 31, 2007

cover

Water.

H.E. Taylor.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 2007.
220 pp., pbk., $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-897235-23-2.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

*** /4

excerpt:

"I am Wilhemina Featherstone, but I hate that name, so everybody calls me Billie. My tribe is hunter and my work is guarding the People. I roam the borders of the southern wastes - watching for danger, looking for opportunity. I roam because I hear the call of the road and because I will never be a mother. For a time, after I came to understand, I could not accept that hard fact. That was several lifetimes ago. I played at sex with many men - to no avail. The men of the village lost interest. As far as they were concerned, I was broken, a toy to be played with, not anyone that mattered. They want children - even if most of them are not whole. Damaged by radiation, by chemicals, by the biowar viruses, broken and half-human, condemned to the Mission though their progeny may be, they keep trying - but not with me. Not with me.

I left them and I wandered. The village people could say what they liked. I let it go. I would guard them all for the ones I loved. I became Billie the Ranger. I grew to love the desert as a child loves fire. The sun, the wind, and the still, still land. It creeps into my heart and I find myself in the silence - wide-open spaces where I can see right to the horizon."

 

Water is a post-apocalyptic tale set in a future where all (or most) of the animals have died and the world is nothing but desert. Extinctions created by man’s technology and destruction of the environment have meant the end of civilization and most of mankind. People are reduced to eating rats and breeding coyotes for food. One of the themes of the book is the mathematical question of how long a technical civilization can exist before it self-destructs. In short, this world may have come to the end.

     The protagonist of the story, Billie, a Métis woman, is one of the few survivors. Her skeleton carries a substance "Restart" which allows her to reanimate after death. Billie has taken upon herself to watch over a small group of survivors. Her experience and knowledge of the desert, where to find food and water, allow her to travel vast reaches of this wasted land. All around her are the crumbling ruins of civilization as the remnants of cities decay and fall back to become part of the landscape.

     This book follows one of Billie’s journeys as she goes out on patrol across a ruined prairie landscape. All around her are traces of the former civilization, agrorobots work what little remains of farming, trucks are self-driving. The remnants of the humans are not alone. Sentient cities contain Machine City folk, and when she travels, Billie tries to avoid the mysterious Ultras who are drawn to electromagnetic signals. On this particular journey, Billie meets up with a young man, known for the early part of the tale as "the Kid." She knows there is something different about him; she is not certain what it is.

     The story takes the reader into this world, uncovers some of its secrets, and leads Billie much further from home than she has ever travelled before. The title, Water, refers to the fact that our planet, although called "Earth" by its inhabitants, is mainly water, and also to the situation in the story that fresh water has become one of the rarest and most precious elements in this desert land.

     At 220 pages, with some technical sections, and many thought-provoking scenes, this is not a quick read. Well-written, it will appeal to those who look for a peek into a possible future based on an extrapolation of current science, and to those who enjoy a speculative fiction adventure set in an alien, at least to us today, landscape. 

Recommended.

Ronald Hore, involved with writer’s groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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