THE WATER WARS, by Cameron Stracher, 2010, Sourcebooks, $16.99, 256 pages.
You would never even consider it.
Going to school without a shower or a bath? No way. There’s a time and place in school to be sweaty and it’s called “practice” — as in football, basketball, the gym. But walking around without being clean? Nope, that’s a quick way to friendlessness.
So what if showers, baths, swimming pools and carwashes all were illegal? What would you do for a glass of water? Find out in the new novel “The Water Wars” by Cameron Stracher.
For as long as she lived, Vera never forgot the day she first saw Kai. He was standing on the side of the road, thin and blond like 17-year-old boys can be, and he was drinking water.
Water was something that Vera rarely saw because most of it was controlled by Canadians and Water Authority Board members. In Illinowa, one of the republics created after the Great Panic, people like Vera could only get water by using government-issued credits. But there stood Kai, drinking it in big gulps, then upending his container on the ground.
Though Vera’s father said she shouldn’t talk to strangers, Vera couldn’t resist this impertinent boy who was wasting water. She was intrigued when he told her that he didn’t have to go to school. She was enticed when he told her that water was everywhere. She was fascinated when he was picked up by a limousine and whisked away.
Though Vera’s older brother, Will, was skeptical about this other boy, Kai and Vera became friends. At 15, she wasn’t allowed to date, but Kai was special. He liked her enough to spend his afternoons with her. He liked her enough to show her a secret aquifer near an abandoned mine.
And then he disappeared.
Believing that Kai’s life was threatened, Vera and Will went in search of him. But finding one boy in the middle of a dry, rocky, thousands-of-square-miles landscape wouldn’t be easy, and there was danger. Officials from the nearby republic of Minnesota were rumored to be especially protective of their 10,000 dams, and local pirates would kill anyone who tried to steal their water.
As apocalyptic novels go, “The Water Wars” isn’t bad.
Vera and Will are likable enough and their circumstances are totally believable — to a point. Yes, there were times when the action here will take your breath away, with chase scenes and double-crosses. But there also are times when it descends into silly territory with plot lines that stretch credibility a bit too far.
Still, author Cameron Stracher’s dark novel is a page-turner and I was up way past my bedtime reading it. It’s easy to visualize the landscape that Stracher describes, and it’s all too easy to imagine the futuristic scenario that makes water so precious.
Go without food for three weeks and you’ll lose a lot of weight. Go without water for three days and you’ll die. But if you can put up with the few bumps in plot, don’t consider going without “The Water Wars” at all.