Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rick Raphael's "The Thirst Quenchers" (novella, engineering, free): Managing fresh water in an energy-rich but overpopulated world

One of the innustrations, by George Schelling, accompanying the original publication in Analog magazine of short story The Thirst Quenchers by Rick Raphael
I think the main reason I liked this story is: it's a water dystopia that focuses on engineering to actually solve the problem, unlike innumerable others that focus on showing human pain in a world that has adjusted to the situation.

It's not a smooth story & has flaws, occasionally critical ones like:
  1. A device placed on snow - with snow below, & to pile above in ongoing snowfall. Placed carefully in a small dig in the snow so winds won't throw it away before new snow piles above it. What will happen to it at the time of thaw?
  2. Cutting a massive cave at the bottom of a straight bore dug into earth, with no consideration as to where the dug out dirt will go.
And for no reason, a small part of the story throws up the establishment of a colony on Venus! Story itself is entirely set on earth. It might have read smoother as a series of 3 short stories, or a longer novel.

Story summary.

Troy Braden & Alec Patterson, heroes of the story, are hydrologists working for US "Division of Agriculture". The overpopulated country doesn't have enough freshwater, & these are the folks that help manage the country's water inventory.

There are 2 major episodes:
  1. An adventure in snow, as the duo replace a faulty environment monitoring device.
  2. Quick engineering, on a massive scale, to recover the water lost in a breach in a reservoir - breach triggered by an earthquake.

Fact sheet.

First published: Analog, September 1963.
Download full text from Project Gutenberg, Manybooks, Feedbooks.
Rating: A.
Among the stories edited by John Campbell for Astounding/Analog.
Related: Stories of Rick Raphael.