The Windup Girl

by Paolo Bacigalupi | Science Fiction & Fantasy |
ISBN: 0356500535 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Xeyra of Seixal, Setúbal Portugal on 1/16/2009
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Xeyra from Seixal, Setúbal Portugal on Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the windup girl - the beautiful and enigmatic Emiko - now abandoned to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of the rich. Engineered as slaves, soldiers and toys, they are the new underclass in a chilling near future where oil has run out, calorie companies dominate nations and bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. And as Lake becomes increasingly obsessed with Emiko, conspiracies breed in the heat and political tensions threaten to spiral out of control. Businessmen and ministry officials, wealthy foreigners and landless refugees all have their own agendas. But no one anticipates the devastating influence of the Windup Girl.

Journal Entry 2 by Xeyra at Palmela, Setúbal Portugal on Saturday, April 23, 2011
The world in the Windup Girl is an interesting mix of old and new, the real and the alternative, a dystopian future where several countries have ceased to be as we know it and/or are under threat of genetically created diseases, energy and food shortage, poverty and environmental dangers. When you start reading this book, you're immediately thrown right into the universe the author created, which will be strange and confusing at first because of all the multiple linguistic expressions used to portray the life in the eastern setting of the novel, Thailand (or a version of it, referred to as Thai Kingdom). One of the good things about the book is that the author doesn't spend much time on technology/historical exposition to frame his world. He just throws the reader right into it and expects them to keep up and figure things out as we go along. You see hints at past events that are never fully explained but are enough to understand the present as you go along.

The novel has a structure of multiple POVs for at least four different perspectives: the foreigner farang, Anderson Lake, the calorie man from the western countries and the genetic agriculture companies; Emiko, the abandoned subservient windup girl; Hock Seng, Lake's chinese factory employee, once the owner of a Chinese trade company before becoming a destitute refugee in a country that gives him few rights; and the white shirts faction, a violent military unit of country loyalists. Each point of view allows us to see different perspectives on the happenings within the city, plans and counter plans and all the motivations behind the characters, which are often greedy and thoughtless and political minded, which is probably why I didn't really like a lot of the POV characters. Don't get me wrong, they're very well drawn, they're real and human, each with their specific traits and flaws and weakness, and maybe because of that I found it hard to like them as people enough to be invested in their fate. And that's kind of a nice thing because I sort of enjoyed not having a stake in the situation. Since I didn't necessarily like any of the factions, I would be happy with whatever fate ended up befalling any of them. I don't know, it's kind of strange.

The world is a violent one. People are killed, degraded, violated and humiliated depending on who they are or where they came from. The world is bleak and cruel. The title character, Emiko, suffers the most for being a genetically created, test-tube grown person, a soulless person according to the Thai population. She is also one of the few characters you can actually feel any sympathy towards. She's the only one you actually cheer for when she finally throws off the shackles of her servitude (though there's a very open ended finish to the novel that leaves her future somewhat uncertain).

The setting, the speculative fiction aspect of it in terms of the environmental, political, technological and genetic impacts of the events that happened in the past, are happening and may well happen in the future, are more interesting than the characters used in this commentary on future possibility. In the end, this was a novel I really enjoyed reading without getting extremely involved with the characters, and thus enjoying the twists as they happened with a sort of sense of perverse glee.

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