Water Inc

by Varda Burstyn
291 pages,
ISBN: 1859845967

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First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella

As a fiction writer I was taught, and consequently taught my own students, that if you have an ax to grind, grind it on nonfiction. Burstyn, until now a nonfiction writer, presents a novel that is a supreme ax-grinder. It should have a green cover and be printed on green paper. On a scale of indignation and self-righteousness it rates 99 out of 100. That said, it is also a rip-snorting contemporary eco-thriller, well conceived, well thought out and for the most part well executed, until it fades away a bit in the final chapters.
The United Nations claims that one of the main problems of the 21st century will be water scarcity. Taking that as a starting point, Burstyn introduces a private American consortium of corporate players (some of the richest men in America), headed by multibillionaire William Greele, who reminds me of the ultra-greedy Mr. Gecko in the film Wall Street. Their plan is to pipe water from northern Quebec to water-parched areas of the United States. Their investment is huge, which for them justifies using whatever means are necessary to get the job done, including murder. Malcolm Macpherson, a Seattle aerospace executive and conservationist finds out about the proposed pipeline, and enlists the aid of eco-Justice USA, headed by Claire Davidowicz. The inevitable romance between them follows. A Deputy Minister in the Quebec Government, reluctantly agrees to lobby for the consortium, until it costs him his marriage. The good guys are too good, and the bad guys are too evil. One can't help but think of Chinatown, when one thinks of skulduggery involving water, and I was hoping for an equally ambiguous ending, but after a wild ride, the ending is a little too pat.

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