Book Review: Waterborne
Reviewed by Erica Ball
An environmental thriller about the use of a precious resource—water—as a weapon of terror
Waterborne is the high-stakes story of a horrible danger facing the people of California: a mysterious new virus contaminating them through their drinking water. Trying to stop the threat is Jake Bendel, the man who designed the brand new desalination plants which are supposed to supply safe drinking water, but from which the virus now flows.
When a suspicious video seems to frame him for the contamination, he and a few brilliant friends need to fight against the lie, race against the rising number of infections, and confront a foe from his past that seems to have only begun a truly cruel plan.
True to thriller form, the book clips along at a fairly quick pace, with scenes occurring in many places around California. Though events unfold rapidly, some readers may find the level of description at times slows down the unfolding plot. Nevertheless, the plot is as complex and convoluted as thriller fans could ask for.
The characters are similarly complicated. They are varied in their reactions to the crisis and each has their own distinctive voice. Many of those who start out as antagonistic characters turn out to have understandable motives, and in a few cases even seek to lessen the damage they may have otherwise caused.
Many characters (including the ones involved in the illness being caused) are acting according to their own goals and agendas. This adds a level of realism and great interest to the action, especially as their agendas start to conflict with one another.
The main character, Jake, is a brilliant civil engineer, and it is fascinating to learn about the thought processes and technology involved in his inventions. The fact that these inventions involve solving problems caused by global warming makes this book particularly relevant and timely.
One thing to note though is that all the characters who ultimately save the day are men. Female characters are depicted as needing the protection of the men, are part of the evil plot, or are treated as distractions or sometimes hindrances, like the governor. Nevertheless, many of the female characters do act on their own agency and play a role in assisting a resolution.
Waterborne is recommended to those who love thrillers with a technological and engineering basis rather than a militaristic or espionage one. And anyone who enjoys thrillers where regular (though brilliant) people find themselves in incredibly high-stakes situations will find plenty to dig into as well.
As climate change worsens and the demand for necessary resources like clean water becomes more fraught, stories like this are threatening to become more and more real. In all, Waterborne is an exciting look at how basic life-supporting resources are becoming a flashpoint for political and ideological tensions.
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Environmental Thriller
Print Length: 339 pages
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