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Title & Author: Blue Karma, J. K. Ullrich

Genre & Publication Date: YA Environmental Dystopian, May 26, 2015

Book Description: “Water. It covers almost three-quarters of the planet, comprises more than half the human body, and has become the most coveted resource on Earth.

Amaya de los Santos survived the typhoon that left her an orphan. Now she scrapes by as an ice poacher, illegally harvesting fresh water for an always-thirsty market. But when she rescues an injured enemy soldier, she’s pulled into a storm of events more dangerous than any iceberg. After years of relying only on herself, she must learn to trust another…or risk losing all that’s left of her family.

Logan Arundson should be dead. After a mysterious attack destroys his military unit, he abandons his Arctic post for his native California, where droughts have made water a religion and a resource worth killing for. But when the water wars follow him home, he must face his frozen demons if he wants to save his town…and the girl he loves.

Paul Hayes is heir to an empire. But being vice president of a powerful hydrology company isn’t all gardens and swimming pools: he deals with ice poachers, water rights, and the crushing expectations of his CEO mother. His investigation into company sabotage and the miraculous appearance of a lake in a small California town lead him to a shocking discovery…and an impossible decision.”

Blue Karma is a story of choices and consequences, humanity and love.

First Line: When boredom became as thick and inescapable as the summer heat, Logan decided to tap the Vein.

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

The premise of this book is as interesting as it is relevant. The author does an incredible job of describing the threat and dread of such a dry existence. It’s certainly not hard to believe a world-wide shortage of water is possible or that corporate and governmental reaction would be to horde it under a regulatory guise.

Logan, one of the main characters, lives in the dust bowl that California has become. Last time I checked, California is pretty thirsty in a very non-fictional sense, so this landscape grabbed me right away. Backstory is woven in with skill, never dumping too much, and throughout the action/tension was kept high (always a good thing). There’s mention of the “Jordan war”, a past conflict that had water at its center, and while the main characters are all older teenagers, many adults around them are veterans of this war. References to this history and experience from side characters really made the world feel real.

I loved Amaya. Tough. Driven. No nonsense. Brave but frightened at the same time. Her past and current situation had me rooting for her from the beginning. She’s flawed and doesn’t always say the right thing, but she never loses my empathy. In fact, all the characters are depicted with depth. They make mistakes and they learn from them, but they still screw up. I can identify with that.

Mention must also be made of the extensive research that has clearly been done to create this story. The impact of the climate change, the flooding versus the drought, the corporate and political influence of water as a resource (rather than a right), the criminal element sprung from the situation, the refugee camps and illnesses borne therein. I was amazed and impressed at the amount of detail. This expertise was carefully folded in with the plot and not shoved in my face like bullet pointed facts. Heartfelt applause for the work done behind the scenes and the study of craft to know how to gently disperse it.

The Magical: Fantastic world building! From the Rainbow Religion, to the “blue” market (black market water) to engees (environmental refugees) to the socio-political impact of water shortage, the book immersed me –intentional pun– in a three dimensional world. Absolutely excellent!

The Mundane: The three main protagonists, Amaya, Logan, and Paul, sometimes seemed a bit too passive. I don’t mean they were pushovers, but rather that they were reactive instead of active. Things happened to them. They didn’t make things happen. In the beginning, when Logan decided to tap that Vein and when we’re introduced to Amaya, hard scrabble orphan carving out a living as a poacher, I was much more impressed by their resiliency than when they were swept from one disaster to another. I wish they would’ve taken charge more, had a plan, even if it turned out to be a bad one. This improved toward the end but I would’ve liked to see it happen sooner.

Summary of Thoughts: In Hawaii, there’s an old saying: Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono — The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. Considering the current state of the planet, this axiom couldn’t be more true. The central themes and struggles of a world drying out are poignant and had my attention immediately. Subtle and complex, the world of “Blue Karma” drew me in, made me worry for the characters and the engees as a whole, and had me clutching my water bottle a little tighter. Currently it’s $2.99 on the Kindle. A great read and a great warning, all wrapped in a compelling tale. Definitely recommended!


Many thanks to author J. K. Ullrich for providing a copy of the book to review!

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