Skip to main content

The Tamarisk Hunter by Paolo Bacigalupi

* Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate and sponsored links. Learn more on my Disclosure page.

"The Tamarisk Hunter" is a 2006 science fiction short story by Paolo Bacigalupi. It is about a tree-hunting man in a future where California controls nearly all of the western United State’s water supply.

I must say that I loved this water-apocalypse story… but I grew up in the area where it takes place, so of course I enjoyed it! Yep, I was born in Moab, Utah, and spent the first two decades of my life growing up in the desert west. I can identify with this story – right down to the part where the protagonist goes dirt skiing down the hill! Its true that water has been a huge concern in this area, so I figure it wouldn’t take too much to make this story come true… but let’s hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon!

Non-Spoiler Summary

tamarisk forest by Rachel Zurer, CC 2.0 License

Lolo is a man who barely makes a living by digging up the water-sucking trees along the banks of rivers in the southwestern United States. Then he shows the proof to the Bureau of Reclamation who rewards him with life-giving water shares. It is a tough life, but he has a little trick to make sure his future is ensured: he also illegally plants the tamarisks too! Sheesh – what a tricky guy! Anyway, after chatting with an old friend on the outskirts of an abandoned town, he heads home to find that the National Guard has been looking for him. He figures that his gig is up and it is time to blow this joint, but his lady and an old friend try to convince him otherwise. The question is: what will he do when none of his options are looking particularly good?

My Two Cents

  • Story: 4 stars – I loved the idea of this story – what with water sparking a war in a desert area – something that I think is totally plausible. However, the very abrupt ending was a bit disappointing, so minus one star for that.
  • Writing: 4 stars – I think Paolo Bacigalupi is a great writer, and I very much like his style. If you like his other stories then you’ll probably like this one.
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars – I found it enjoyable reading about the area and all the steps taken to protect their most valuable resource. It is kind of a slow paced story, though, so your mileage may vary.

Where To Find The Tamarisk Hunter

  • This short story first appeared in the June 26, 2006 edition of High Country News.
  • You can read "The Tamarisk Hunter" online for free at the High Country News web site. (Tip: click on the “Print this” version to get a reader friendly version all on one page!)
  • It is also included in the author’s awesome collection Pump Six and Other Stories.

Craving More SF Stories Like This One?

If you enjoyed "The Tamarisk Hunter" then you might also like another Paolo Bacigalupi dystopian story: “The People of Sand and Slag” – about three genetically enhanced guards who find a strange life form roaming on their employer’s property.