Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Release Date: September 1st, 2009
Publisher: Night Shade Books
3.5 Stars I liked it, didn't love it

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

The Wind Up Girl, is an adult dystopian novel based in a future Bangkok.  Let me start with what I did not particularity like.  This novel received many awards, including the Hugo award for best novel in 2010, and though I do not argue with the decision, I do not agree either.  The title made me think the novel would be centered around Emiko, the wind up girl, it really was not.   The focus of the book was wide ranging around several individuals.    I usually dive into and love dark sci-fi, dystopian, but I was left on the outside looking in on this one.  The book itself honestly took me almost three months to read. I had to keep putting it down because I just didn't seem to care what happened.  I found no connection to any of the characters.  I have also read Ship Breakers, a dystopian YA novel written by Bacigalupi and had the same problem with that book as this one where I had a hard time understanding this future that he creates.  All dystopian novels can have this problem, with names being made up and places changing.  It took me about one third of the way into the book to understand the calorie/currency based government.  Without serious spoilers, I do have to mention that the book did not seem to come to a complete ending, leaving many questions hanging.
What I did like was world he created (once I understood it completely).  It is a disturbing view of a possible future of corporate greed running rapid, humans struggling to survive, and genetically modified food that kills millions.  I really loved the "cheshire" cats that were genetically modified and became like rats in the alleys.  They set a great tone for the desperation of the city streets.  
This just isn't a book I read over again. I will put it away and if anyone asks, I will honestly tell them, yes read it, but don't have high expectations.
Other Hugo awards I would recommend: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman - Dune, by Frank Herbert, and Enders Game by Orson Scott Card.  

Synopsis and photo courtesy of Goodreads


1 comment:

  1. I would agree whole-heartedly with your recommendations. I liked the book. I think I picked up on the calorie currency early though, so that may have been the difference. It did lose me a little with the cop character. I think ship breaker takes place in the same world and I was able to take the understanding from this novel and apply it there, but that would be a weakness as you shouldn't have to read one book to understand the other. Have you tried Orks and Crakes by Margaret Atwood. Similar feel to the books.

    Hope you stop by and sign up for the Scare Me! Blogfest.