Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Book Description

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.
(Description from Goodreads)

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia

Series: N/A

Quick Synopsis

In a post-fossil-fuel world where genetic modification has run rampant, many different people fight to choose the direction of Thailand's future or just to survive the machinations of others.


  • It's very refreshing to have a book set in a non-Western country with plenty of non-Western characters.
  • The world-building was well done. Windup Girl shows a future plagued (often literally) with the bad effects of gene manipulation and rampant corporations. This vision of the future is compelling because it's believable.
  • I loved the exploration of the varied outcomes of genetic manipulation. The author manages to cover the issue fairly even-handedly, at least in regard to mammals (New People/Windups, Cheshires). It's incredibly imaginative.
  • The tale reads a lot like a Neal Stephenson book with each chapter being told from a different character's perspective. Mr. Bacigalupi packs a lot of information about the characters into the relatively small spaces devoted to them, and as a result, the players seem real.

    Liked Less
  • Though I felt that the coverage of mammal gene manipulation was covered in a balanced way, I thought that the author tipped into preachiness when discussing the genetic modification of food crops.
  • I felt like Gibson was kind of just thrown in there. I couldn't really get a feel for him at all, and I think he could have been cut out entirely without changing the plot.
  • Though the style is similar to Neal Stephenson, it's missing the punch. With Stephenson, I get moments of sheer "OMGWTFBBQ that just happened!" Bacigalupi delivers more of a "They really did that?!"


Knight of Swords
An average read. The good and bad points balance each other out.

Disclosure: I purchased this book.

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