The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl

Book - 2009
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A tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation. Examines what happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, forcing humanity to the cusp of post-human evolution.
Publisher: San Francisco : Night Shade Books, c2009
ISBN: 9781597801577
Branch Call Number: BACIGAL
Characteristics: 361 p. ; 24 cm

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PimaLib_ChristineR Apr 27, 2018

Somehow, from the title, I thought this was a Steampunk novel. Hahaha. No, definitely a straight dystopian sci-fi. Probably the first true sci-fi I've read in several years, but Bacigalupi made sure it won't be the last. To start: the world building is amazing. This is a future that we can all easily imagine. Global warming has raised sea-levels around the world, disrupting crops and drowning cities, while at the same time, the supply of fossil-fuels has dried up, leading to a "contraction" as long-distance travel becomes infeasible; and genetically modified foods have led to new diseases that wipe out existing crops and spread diseases to the humans who consume them.

The calorie companies now rival each other to develop new strains of disease resistant food, while at the same time developing new diseases to sabotage their competitors and drive up prices for the consumers. Genetic modification has also led to new species, including a breed of cat that has wiped out natural cats, and "windup" humans, who have been modified to move in a jerky manner to reveal themselves as "less than human."

The setting is Bangkok, Thailand, a city that is now below sea-level and relies on dykes and pumps. Here we meet an undercover Calorie Man, Anderson Lake, trying to discover the secret of how Thailand maintains independence from the calorie companies. Emiko is a windup girl whose Japanese owner has abandoned her in a country that would just as soon use her as fertilizer. Jaidee, the scrupulously honest captain of the White Shirts, the group that is tasked with keeping disease and illegal food and power from being used in Thailand. And Hock Seng, a survivor of a Malaysian purge of the Chinese, is a Yellow Card, working for Lake, but always keeping an eye open for a way to rebuild his former business empire. The story follows each character, as they are swept along in a larger tale of politics in a new world.

The plot is larger than any one character, and it isn't about a character learning, or changing. It's more about how each character is a pawn or a leader as the political tide changes in Bangkok. An absolutely brilliant and wide-ranging treatise on problems we may soon be facing.

Trigger warning: Emiko is a sex slave and there are two extremely cringy scenes of her being raped. I still see them as necessary in that they show how Emiko is considered less than human, and in explaining her actions later in the novel.

r
rbrude
Dec 20, 2017

I’ve read a lot of sf, both recent and many of the classics. The Windup Girl is one of the best recent sf novels I’ve come across. It absolutely deserves the Hugo and Nebula awards it received.

The story is complex and multithreaded. The themes and subject matter are extremely mature. This novel is not for the faint of heart, but it’s well worth reading.

a
armchaircynic
Aug 29, 2017

I had seen this book when it first came out and kept wanting to read it. I'm glad I checked it out of the library rather than buying it like I had initially planned. I love sci-fi but this was definitely not my cup of tea. I found the world building too slow and the author did not explain what Calorie Companies were until much later than I would have wanted. I spend the first third of the book being absolutely confused by what was happening. Overall I would not recommend it.

i
isaachar
Aug 24, 2017

In the future, long after the primary sources of energy, oil and gas, have been mostly depleted, the world's governments collapse unto themselves. Energy now comes from natural resources and human energy, stored in bio-engineered 'kink springs' and measured in calories. Bioengineering companies have become as powerful as governments, and a combination of corporate warfare and environmental irresponsibility has resulted in most of the worlds natural foodstocks dying off or becoming biologically contaminated through hybridization. The world relies on bio engineering companies to create disease resistant, high calorie foods to feed humanity. And that's just the background setting!

This was really hard to put down. Bacigalupi has become my favorite 'dystopic' future writer. The stories seem outlandish when being described, but the world he lays out seems very realistic and possible once you get into the story. The writing reminds me of the British science fiction show 'Black Mirror', in that it shows the subtle horrors that the near future could hold. A terrifying future created by technology and industry rather than war. Once I read this, I had to read 'The Water Knife' from the same author, which also takes place in a 'soft dystopian' future. It wasn't until I started reading his short story anthology 'Pump Six' that I realized that each of these stories might take place in the same world, only at different points in the future and on different continents. Great stuff!

r
Rubicat
Aug 06, 2017

I didn't finish this - I was not intrigued enough to make time for this before I had to return it. I only made it through the first 50 pages.

p
PearlyBaker
Sep 17, 2016

I literally own two hats that are indicative of how much I despise talking politics with opinionated, fundamentalist republicans and democrats. I have one that says, "I'm with Her" and one that reads, "Make America Great Again." I don't really wear them I just repeat these statements and hardly anything else when I'm around either group. Growing up Mormon I run from any fundamentalists who claim to be the "right" party, religion, recovery group etc. I don't think this novel got everything right about the future we face thanks to GMO's, pollution, climate change, resource depletion, and over population. However I do believe this is probably the most likely scenario I've read to date. And if you really want to be scared into action read The Sustainability Secret at the same time.

PimaLib_CinthiaT May 11, 2016

This is the "best" concept of the last days scenarios I've read so far. I love his ideas, especially the clones.

e
Eosos
Jan 25, 2016

I liked that it was different, that it was not set in a Western culture, that most of the characters weren't based on British or American backgrounds, that the world was so very different from my own.
Other than that, I didn't like any of it. The characters were one dimensional, like incomplete caricatures of what they could have been. The writing was florid and the story was lacking a good flow, it changed from character to character but didn't manage to create any feeling for them or their issues and problems and the resolution was too fast, after all the build up and creation, it was torn apart and finished in record time.
It was too bad, I really loved the premise but for me, it didn't deliver.

m
mariahnightfire
Oct 09, 2015

The author spent many years traveling and mentioned he lived and worked in China; I found the sprinkling of pinyin and inserts of Buddhism refreshing in a US SciFi novel, and it made the book more realistic for me. The hard to swallow and haunting scenes of Emiko warn the reader of a future of designer sex slavery. Overall an interesting look into the future of imperialism and agribusiness as humans discover how to alter and control the world they live in. A great book with relevant ideas.

a
Authorita
Sep 28, 2015

It describes a future poised by the effects of genetic manipulation, global warming, food scarcity and overpopulation along with interesting characters, stunts and explosions. I won't be surprised if it is turned into a movie some day.

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PimaLib_ChristineR Apr 27, 2018

PimaLib_ChristineR thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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armchaircynic
Aug 29, 2017

armchaircynic thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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morgapol
May 01, 2014

morgapol thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

6ATE4are Sep 18, 2012

6ATE4are thinks this title is suitable for 19 years and over

storiesnyc32 Jan 04, 2012

storiesnyc32 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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jsl
Dec 12, 2010

jsl thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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