Review Sunday: Thirst by Michael Carson

Standalone (with series potential)
Released: 2017
249 pages

In the year 2045, climate change is killing people. Fifteen-year old Lily Star must use her power over water to save her family and thousands of refugees in the parched, superheated American West.

She’s a powerful Diviner who can find and raise water from from deep underground. At Everspring, the family’s only source, she’s been raising water since she was thirteen, but now it’s dying from climate change. The Star family must ration every drop to stay alive. Ash from forest fires falls like snow, relentlessly blowing sand and dust are a fact of life, and millions of Floaters, driven out of their homes by flooding coastlines, drift inland looking for food, water, and new homes, which are in desperately short supply.

The United States has split into two unfriendly factions, the United Western Republic and the Eastern Alliance. When the Republic’s Minister of Water, Tanner Voles, discovers that Lily has the power that he’s been seeking, he pressures her to use it for his own political gain and the benefit of the water-hungry capitol, Aquion. But Lily and her family refuse, suspecting that Voles, a notoriously self-serving and evil man, will exploit her to get the water for the Republic and then kill her so nobody else can use her power. To gain control over her, he sends the family to Floater Camp 65, a broiling wasteland filled with thousands of Floaters. There Lily befriends Nate Arnett and the group 1Planet, an underground resistance group of kids who fight the government and give their generation hope for the future.

At the camp, Lily’s grandmother tells her that she can reverse climate change in and around their sequoia-forest home, Skywood. She only has to raise the Black Lake, the source of Everspring, a vast body of water that lies a mile underground – which is what Tanner Voles is pressuring her to do. But Gran has a plan to keep the water from him and the Republic and use it for the good of the Floaters, and the local environment.

Lily’s ability to do that is put into serious peril when Voles gives her a cocktail of drugs that he thinks will enhance her power. Instead it causes her to lose it and almost kills her. But it’s discovered that her nine-year old brother Justin also has the power, and it’s growing exponentially. He restores Lily’s power to an even greater degree, and is instrumental to the exciting conclusion of the story.

Along the way, Lily’s belief in herself will be sorely tested, her like of Nate Arnett will turn to love, and she will be wracked with grief and guilt over the violence she leaves in her wake. But ultimately, she will come to believe that she can save her family and the Floaters dying of thirst. And at the same time, change the planet, at least their small slice of it.”

I received a copy of Thirst from the author, Michael Carson.  All opinions expressed are my own.

I’m so torn about this!  I’m a biologist in training and the nature and idea of this book really drew me in and I enjoyed that, but at the same time, because I’m trained in how the Earth works, major plot holes are extremely apparent to me.  Double-edged sword, if you will.

1.  The characters.  The characters are… good.  The only really distinct personality I got a whiff of was Lily’s beau, Nate, coming from his inability to leave his father (he drinks excessively for complicated reasons that Nate understands).  The MC, on the other hand, was a bit hard to pin down.  At times, she acted her age, but at others, she was wildly inconsistent with her language patterns (I should also mention I’m a linguist in training…) and her actions.  Plainly speaking, she is very vague.  Her motivations are clear, but there are holes in her reasoning that are also connected to holes in the plot.  I’ll get into this more in the next section.  As for the villain, Voles, all I can say is that he’s pretty bland.  The idea of him is great, but it doesn’t come across in the right way (see the writing section).  Generally, the characters were adequate.  They didn’t do much to help the overall feeling of the story, but they weren’t useless either.

2.  The plot.  This was also hit or miss.  At some points, I thought the author did a really great job with crafting the plot structure.  There are plenty of microplots woven in with the overarching microplot and in some places, it’s really rather good.  However, there are some wildly inconsistent choices made by characters that steering the plot in some strange directions.  I love picking apart the motivations of characters and the actions they take because of their psychology and I can say wholeheartedly that the characters influenced the plot in some irreversible ways.  Because the author didn’t take steps to truly develop his characters, the plot suffered.  For example, at one point, Voles captures Lily and her crew so he can use her powers for his evil (more like slightly misguided) plans.  However, once they accomplish this strange, Hunger Games-like scenario, he lets them go, even though his endgame isn’t yet completed.  Like I said, strange.

3.  The romance.  I don’t have too much to say on this other than I am so, so glad there was no love triangle here.  I think the author made a wise choice in not involving any more complications.  I do think that the author overshot a 15-year old’s sexuality.  In about 10 minutes, Lily was completely ready to have sex with someone which seems a bit unlikely to me.  She’s still very much a girl.  Not much emphasis was placed on the world or how growing up is different than it is now so I’m judging this by my environment’s standards (so take from that what you will).  The romance itself is nice but the sexuality that’s attached to it isn’t.

4.  The world and the science.  As I said above, I’m a biologist and a linguist in training.  I watched Geostorm a while ago and I had this same issue where there are so many assertions that just don’t make sense scientifically.  One of the major claims made is that Lily can ‘cure’ climate change which, given her resources and power, is biologically and chemically impossible.  I’m not going to get into the how or why (I would definitely go into a scientific rant then but if you’re interested, feel free to message me and we’ll have a conversation!).  Another issue I came across was the world itself.  There was just no real world-building to be had (which definitely needs to happen if you’re arguing the extent of climate change impacts).  There wasn’t any explanation as to how electricity (and the internet) was still a thing (electricity generation needs an exorbitant amount of water unless they somehow completely switched to geothermal, wind, and solar).  Climate change will cause millions (if not billions) of people to die due to famine, drought, wars, etc and this fact was brushed over as well.  Generally, I just wanted more here.  I think the author had a great idea here, but he didn’t develop it in the right way.

5.  The writing.  This was also interesting.  Like the plot and characters, sometimes it was completely fine, and other times it was completely strange and wacky.  For example, I came across a passage where, in normal conversation, Lily’s father called her ‘babe’.  Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not really appropriate for a father-daughter relationship (and just so you understand, there was no abuse, sexual or otherwise happening).  In another instance, Lily informs the reader that her parents reasoned that her power (the ability to control and call water) would be less likely to spout out of control if she were in a school with a smaller class-size.  I don’t know about you, but that makes absolutely zero sense to me.  I think there’s potential here but the author needs a little more practice identifying with situations and characters and effectively communicating that.

The Final Verdict:
A very good idea with a mediocre plotline and wildly inconsistent characters and science.
2 stars

Meet the Author:
As an advertising copywriter, I honed my writing skills on hundreds of projects. But writing a script for a ten-minute video is nothing like producing a 300-plus page novel. I immersed myself in books and workshops, and worked with a writing coach to absorb the craft.
I decided to write my first novel about climate change when I became worried about my kids’ future. What would the lives of their generation be like? Would they be witnesses to a dying planet? Thirst was the product of my concern.
I’ve lived in Boulder, Colorado since 1998 and am currently at work on a new novel.

0 thoughts on “Review Sunday: Thirst by Michael Carson”

  1. Ugh, yeah. It sounds like there’s a great idea that was horribly executed. The science would go right over my head but everything else would bug me to no end. Babe? Really? Weird!


  2. Yeah and it was so disappointing! I think maybe I will post a bit of a scientific rant (honestly because it's basically the only thing I feel like writing about right now…) as a discussion post. If this book did one thing, it brought the topic to the surface.Yeah! When I first read that dialogue I was like 'whaaaaaaaat??' It was just so unexpected and out-of-place. Definitely something a proofreader or beta reader would/should catch. Thanks for stopping by, Jenny!


  3. Oh dear, I really get disappointed when I absolutely adore the premise of something but don't like the execution. The lack of world building and inconsistencies would kind of drive me crazy I think too. I think you've done a really great job in your review.


  4. Isn't it so disappointing??? When I read the blurb when the author sent his query, I thought it would be this excellent book but unfortunately, for me at least, it didn't turn out that way. Thank you, Di 🙂


  5. From what I can tell (besides the other, unrelated work he's done) it is his debut. I think he definitely has promise as an author but this novel needed more love and attention. Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie!


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