Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Water Wars

I had high hopes for Cameron Stracher's The Water Wars, but I was so disappointed. Books, especially advance reader's copies like this one, love to advertise ridiculous quotes from other authors or editors to get you to read them. They'll say things like, "Brilliant!" "Best book since such-and-such!" "A work of genius!" "Book of the decade! (or at least of the hour; ask me what I think when I've read the next hottest book on the market)." I'll admit, when I see a quote from a favorite author of mine or when a particular book I loved is referenced in the quote, I'm intrigued. But most of the sensationalism over a book is just that. Perhaps 20 people sent in reviews, and they picked the most outlandish hyperbolic sentiment to bait readers like me. (By the way, look at the back of any movie case, and you'll see the same: "Epic and amazing!")

So, now you're wondering what The Water Wars' cover said that got my hopes up so high. I'm not supposed to quote the book itself without checking a final copy, but I don't think that applies to quotes from other people about the book. Justin Cronin, author of The Passage (never heard of either of those two), said The Water Wars was "A rousing adventure story in the tradition of The Hunger Games." My husband says a lot of fantasy novels compare themselves to Lord of the Rings in some way. Wow. Really? You can genuinely say that Lord of the Rings is "epic and amazing." No one will question that. But unless a book is, say, book 3 of Harry Potter and the evidence of popularity is overwhelming, don't claim such things on an advance reader's copy that maybe 50 people have read!

I loved The Hunger Games. The Water Wars is dystopian, and that's where the similarity ends completely. The writing is not as good. The stakes are not as high. The target audience shouldn't even be the same. The Water Wars felt like middle school reading to me. The characters didn't seem as old as they were supposed to be.

Here's a quick rundown of the plot: the world is suffering from a lack of water, we destroyed our environment, the ice has all melted, much of the fresh water has been poisoned, groups control all that's left of the drinkable water, even stealing it from the clouds. (Are you getting the picture? This is heavy environmentalism, and while I'm in favor of taking care of the environment, I don't believe *gasp* that evidence supports global warming.) Vera and her brother Will set out to rescue a newfound friend named Kai, who knows where to find all the water he needs. They run into pirates, environmentalists who don't actually care about environment, slavers, and ultimately, the Big Boys who control the majority of the drinkable water. The climax is unbelievable, literally, and pretty boring. The book is way too preachy, like a cautionary tale rather than the fun make-believe that fiction is supposed to be.

The book is fairly short, fortunately. I was never sucked into it. I kept reading, hoping it was going to pick up. It was always almost there, interesting enough to try again but not intriguing enough to keep me reading long.

So, save yourself a little time and don't bother with The Water Wars. If you haven't read The Hunger Games, try that instead. The hype is well-earned on that one.

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