Kirkus Book Review: The Water Thief

Kirkus: Best of 2012

KIRKUS REVIEW:

In a world ruled by capitalism, an empathetic corporate worker questions the principles upon which the society functions.

Soutter’s debut novel is a scathing, ceaselessly engaging examination of capitalism and corporatism. At Ackerman Brothers Securities Corporation, Charles Thatcher works as a perception manager; his job is to process and deflect any negativity regarding the corporation. Now that the government has crumbled, capitalism is the new regime, with constant demands for profitable information, either substantiated or speculative. Charles hopes for higher compensation by spinning the story of a woman stealing rainwater, but soon after his ploy, he begins to mull over the consequences and regret his actions. A meeting with Kate, a friend of the woman, leaves Charles reassessing the value of a civilization run by the rich, as he wonders how long capitalism can sustain itself.

The Kirkus StarThe story intimates that men and their actions—not just an immaterial idea—are the essential cause of immorality, but it centers on the undesirable fallout of money as the corollary source of power. Soutter’s vision of capitalistic supremacy is gleefully absurd: A simple elevator ride costs five cents per floor, and information is only conveyed for a price. Societal classes are now purchasable contracts, and the poor reside in LowSec (Low Security); a citizen’s lot in life, like all commodities, is bought and paid for. There are also welcome dashes of satire derived from characters unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge irony: a perception manager writing a report on an unflattering anti–perception management story; Linus, Charles’ higher-ranking colleague, offers an alternative moral regarding mendacity (he’s not against lying, but rather against telling the same lie more than once). Charles has many lengthy discussions with Kate over now-archaic standards (to them), like people electing other people into power, but their talks are never tedious or repetitive. Their conversations also lead to one of the book’s most potent lines: “The single best indicator of where you end up in life is where you start, no matter what the capitalists tell you.”

Profound, provocative and sure to spark a reaction.

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