The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Undercover 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; she is an engineered being, crèche-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.
Sourced from the authors website (http://windupstories.com)
I like a good science fiction cautionary tale, and in an era where there are so many things that we still do not understand, there is plenty of material out there for sci-fi writers to create something chilling that plays on our biggest fears. Global warming, genetic engineering, western consumerism - all of our greatest fears associated with these issues are drawn out and explored by Paolo Bacigalupi in his Hugo, Nebula and Locus winning novel The Windup Girl.
Bacigalupi paints a bleak picture of the future, a world overrun by bio-terrorism as calorie companies engineer crippling viruses that destroy crops and force nations to buy their own virus resistant crops. Global warming due to carbon emissions has seen the development of kink spring technology, devices that store energy (calories) by being wound up. Animals and now humans are being genetically engineered, questioning spiritual beliefs about the soul and how it reincarnates. Thailand has shut itself from the world almost completely, burning anything and everything that the foreign menace try to sneak past the border. It is a world that has been crafted so well that it feels like it might be a very plausible future. This world building is where The Windup Girl really shines, creating a cautionary tale that really engages with the reader in the hope that it may inspire action to stop this future from becoming a reality.
Bacigalupi explores this world through the eyes of five main protagonists, each with their own separate stories that slowly but surely interweave with each other as the book accelerates towards a "big bang" ending. These stories are cleverly constructed, they do a lot to make this book into a coherent novel whilst further fleshing out the cautionary tale, and they work hard at making the reader think. But there is a big problem here, the stories are just so depressing. For example - Emiko the windup girl is contraband, surviving as a taboo prostitute with her earnings used to fund the bribes that make the authorities look the other way. Things don't ever get better for her throughout the story, as she suffers more and more degrading abuse in the hope of one day being free. The other stories are similarly depressing with Bacigalupi not afraid to hold back, putting the characters in desperate situations with brutal consequences. It was really hard for me to maintain my motivation to read this novel - there was rarely any joy, rarely any fun to be had, and to be honest I just don't like to read depressing books.
The characters themselves, I really liked. In a world that is so hard on all of them, they show amazing resilience to keep on fighting in the hope that everything will turn out ok. They are all clearly motivated by their own reasons, they all display varying levels of intelligence, but what really separates them is their morality and the way in which each of them reacts when presented with similar scenarios. While one character will do whatever they can to save a village from an outbreak, another will have no qualms at all about setting fire to the village "for the greater good" - it creates a great contrast between seemingly similar characters. The resilience is by no means overdone, and as Bacigalupi presses them hard and harder, one by one their resilience gives out and they break. I like seeing characters being put through the meat grinder and coming out the other side having been fundamentally scarred by the experience, but I think Bacigalupi presses to hard here on too many characters, and in the end the broken characters are left with so little of their former selves that the little victories a few of the characters have towards the end don't really feel like victories at all. Again, just too depressing for my tastes.
Technically, The Windup Girl is written very well. The narration style is more third person omniscience which was weird for me at first having read so much third person limited and first person narration, but I got used to it quick enough and I think it really suits the mood of the story. The pacing is a bit slow, but that may be coloured by my lack of motivation to keep reading the story. One thing that I really liked was Bacigalupi's use of native languages. While the narration was done primarily in English, there was no attempt made to translate some of the more emotive dialogue and for me that was a good thing because the infrequent use of native languages really worked to punctuate some of the big issues and themes that Bacigalupi wanted to highlight.
This book is not for me. It was far too depressing, it was hard work, and I don't think I will be revisiting it again. I really appreciate what Bacigalupi has done with this story, and there are so many things he does right with each and every element of the book, but in the end I like to read as a form of entertainment and escapism, and I was not able to get that with this book. That said it might just be me feels this way, so for a book that does so many things right there is a good chance that you will love this book.
This The Windup Girl book review was written by Ryan Lawler
Have you read The Windup Girl?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Windup Girl reader reviews
Raphael from France
Extraodinary and so, so vivid. A very clever and deep book, which deserves its awards. As effective a thriller than a Sci-fi cautionary tale, exotic in many ways, political and moving... Great novel.
Victoria from United States
I loved this book. It was thought provoking and you just hoped all along. It was political without being overwhelmingly so. I am really lusting after anything this author might write in the future
8.8/10 from 3 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Human Race
Ever had a secret so big that the very knowledge of it consumed you? Uma Jakobsdóttir has one. A huge one. And if it falls into the wrong hands it could obliterate m...
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her al...
The Shadow of the Torturer
Severian is a torturer, born to the guild and with an exceptionally promising career ahead of him... until he falls in love with one of his victims, a beautiful young noble...
City of Burning Shadows
Joshua "Ash" Drake is a man in hiding. Hiding from the past, from the horror of his life as a priest after the gods disappeared. Hiding from his emotions, denying...
Revise the World
On March 16, 1912, British polar explorer Titus Oates commits suicide by walking out of his tent into an Antarctic blizzard, to save Robert Falcon Scott and the other membe...
Robert Le Normand
Khompchoi and Sharwendai were likeminded and worked towards the betterment of mankind; Kendulla, however, was of a different ilk. Whereas Khompchoi and Sharwendai were happ...
Outcast. Cursed. Dying. Is Keir beyond redemption? For Keirlan de Corizi--the legendary 'Blue Demon' of Adalucien--death seems the only escape from a world where hi...
The Many Coloured Land
In the 22nd Century, a group of misfits and mavericks are preparing to leave behind everything they have known. Advanced technology has created a one-way time portal to Ear...
The Man in Two Bodies
Shunned by the scientific establishment, brilliant maverick Rodge Dukas works in a damp basement surrounded by outlandish equipment. His discovery could propel humanity to ...
The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger's innovative debut, The Time Traveler's Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have kno...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her alone. Garbled warnings from bizarre creatures keep her up at night. And there’s a time portal in the keg room of the bar where she works. Soon, Hallie is tumbling through...
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his...
The Fifth Empire of Man
Rob J Hayes
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself Ki...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...