Review by John for The Water Thief by Nicholas Lamar Soutter
John’s quick take: A dystopian tale about what happens when corporations and capitalism replace government and democracy.
John’s description: Charles Thatcher belongs to Ackerman Brothers Securities Corporation, one of the biggest corporations in a near-future world where all governments have disappeared, to be replaced by businesses whose only concerns are making money and beating the competition. Generosity and free access to anything are believed to breed weakness and lead to laziness, so everything is for sale. Even air and rainwater have to be paid for. Image is also everything so perception is deemed to be far more important than the truth.
Charles is a Delta – not the lowest of the low but a mid-grade class. Along with many others he works in perception management, tasked with finding any information or news that might harm his employer, and spinning stories and messages that help to put his company, Ackerman Brothers in the best possible light. He is constantly striving to be promoted to executive, something which very few achieve.
Then he stumbles across some information about a woman charged with stealing rainwater and decides to embellish the story - accusing the thief of being a seditionist and revolutionary who believes in government. What he doesn’t realize is that his story might be close to the truth. Disgruntled by his life, his investigation leads him to become enamored by the woman’s cause and the possibility of life beyond the corporations. But such beliefs are deadly and dangerous as the corporations will stop at nothing to squash revolutionary thoughts and to keep the masses in line.
John’s thoughts: This is an interesting theme for a book. Already we live in a world where corporations hold far too much political power and influence, and Soutter extrapolates this into a dystopian future where corporations have become all powerful. What might a world look like where governments no longer exist? He paints a grim picture.
Everything has a price tag and there is no such thing as social rights. Individuals are only worth what they can contribute to company profits, and if they cannot contribute anything then they are worthless – considered a drag on efficiency and company morale. It is wrong to save money as it is only through spending that people contribute to the economy. Indeed, people are encouraged to trade their own “futures”, thereby maximizing their spending (and forever indebting themselves to the corporation which already owns them).
The problem for me was that the picture was too extreme. It’s a bit like when you read a politically oriented article or news story that has been written by someone with hardline extreme views – personally I tend to go glassy eyed rather quickly due to a lack of balance and reasonableness. For a futuristic novel to achieve maximum impact it has to be believable, even if it stretches credulity a bit; and to my mind this novel goes a little too far.
Still, it was an interesting and thought-provoking read. The story is well written and it built nicely to the climax. I have to say that the ending, though perfectly in line with the theme and the story, did leave me a bit dissatisfied. Overall I’d rate this three stars and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of futuristic, dystopian novels.
Paperback | 248 pages | CreateSpace | April 23, 2012