Reviews

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Public Speaking (pəblik spēking), noun:

  1. The process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listener.
  2. Something Rory should not do.

Four weeks ago I talked about THE day. The day where I spoke in public to people who paid for the privilege. If that day was THE day, then today is the sequel. Part two of my three part series is tonight and I am only slightly nauseated – a vast improvement. Today’s topic: genetically modified organisms in modern fiction. I accept that a few of you just tuned out.

I previously neglected to mention – the risk of sounding pompous being too great – that the series sold out very quickly. If anything, it makes it worse because I can assure you that whatever these people think they are paying for – it’s not to listen to me (but yet it is…do you see the dilemma?). Given the amount of time I’ve spent detailing my apprehension, you may be wondering why I subject myself to this. The explanation is one I feel many twenty-something (and thirty-something) Americans can relate to: student loans. Yes, I am a mercenary.

The Windup Girl

So is Anderson Lake. Anderson, under the guise of factory manager, combs the streets of Bangkok looking for new, historical food – foods that have been brought back from extinction. Here he meets Emiko, a not quite human girl designed for the whims and pleasures of a wealthy businessman, until he abandons her in the street. In Thailand, new people are thought to be soulless and evil, and she faces a variety of degradations. Emiko eventually learns of the Thai seed bank and villages for the new people and sets off to find them.

The Windup Girl is a dense, intelligent debut novel. It is a biopunk science fiction novel set in 23rd century Thailand. The world building is very well done and is possibly the most successful aspect of the novel that at points can get repetitive. Although The Windup Girl definitely has a ‘message’, it still manages to make corrupt multinationals and radical isolationists sympathetic. More importantly, it doesn’t preach…excessively. I very well may be biased though, because I tend to agree with the authors point of view regarding GMO’s.

Bacigalupi creates a post-collapse civilization that has not fallen to pieces. Instead, it has moved on as best it can. There is commerce, trade, technology, and community, albeit it in what we would consider a degraded state. Humanity persists. Life persists. It’s convoluted and hopeful, full of struggle and despair. In other words, it’s a very plausible science fiction world.

While The Windup Girl does many things well (it must have, it won the Hugo award), I struggled with the number of main characters and a few of the story lines (Hock Seng, primarily) bordered on farce. Are there challenges? Yes. There’s slang – in many languages.  Bacigalupi obviously has a vast vocabulary, his word choices are not difficult, just unusual. For example, fecund and fecundity both appear within the first twenty pages. That’s not to say it’s not an important, readable,  imaginative book worth your time, because it absolutely is. It’s intelligent with moments of poignancy (particularly with Emiko) and enough action and style to keep the pages turning. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. 3.5/5.

Would you pay money to listen to the above?

Thought not, wish me luck.

Fruit SaladThis novel is all about fruits and vegetables. So a summer fruit salad it is.

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