224 pages
ISBN 978-1-897235-23-2
DDC C813'.6






Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


H.E. Taylor’s first novel presents an almost completely empty post-holocaust world, after a biowar that destroyed most of humanity and much of the biospheres of Earth, Mars, and some moons in the solar system. Its protagonist, Billie Featherstone, is a ranger for the Big Sky People, one of a number of human tribes living in what we would call the North. Billie’s wanderings, checking out the borders, take her south to the great desert stretching from the middle of what were the Canadian Prairies down to the far south.


Mostly, Water follows Billie on her travels as she meets first a young ex-soldier, somehow still around from the biowars; then some Ultras—androids of superior intelligence and design but dangerously antisocial; and finally a representative of a star-faring civilization that discovers in Earth a new world far beyond its understanding. In doing so, it also lays out the history that has led to a world almost denuded of animal life, lacking many of the vegetable species it once had, and dangerously underpopulated.


Taylor has studied recent ecological disaster scenarios, and has created, in Billie’s people, humans who have learned to truly care for the natural world. Their Métis background is a spiritual aid in this way of life, but they, too, are limited in their knowledge of the whole world and how it works. Billie’s adventures lead her to new knowledge that will eventually help her people repopulate the world’s species. They have done some pretty interesting bioengineering, so that many of them can die and be reborn many times, something that happens to Billie frequently during the story. As she interacts with the nomad soldier, some Ultras, and members of her own tribe, we come to understand both how the wars that destroyed human civilization and much of the biosphere happened, and how those who survived have continued in the centuries since.


For a first novel, Water is an intriguing, often speculatively exciting work. I could wish a good editor had caught such egregious errors as “lay” for “lie,” as well as some typos.


Taylor, H.E., “Water.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/26886.