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The Windup Girl (2009)

by Paolo Bacigalupi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,2312601,479 (3.76)2 / 472
What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits? And what happens when this forces humanity to the cusp of post-human evolution? This is a tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation.
  1. 131
    River of Gods by Ian McDonald (santhony)
    santhony: Very similar dystopian view of the near future in a third world environment.
  2. 147
    Perdido Street Station by China Miéville (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Although Perdido Street Station is more fantasy than science fiction, I felt there were similarities in the exoticness of the world-building and readers who enjoyed The Windup Girl may also enjoy Perdido Street Station.
  3. 81
    Neuromancer Trilogy: Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson (rrees)
    rrees: Gibson's global world of dirty cities and high technology are generally more optimistic that that of the Windup Girl but the styling is similar and the weaving stories of people and corporate interests are similar.
  4. 104
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Another novel about a dystopian future with strong environmental themes.
  5. 71
    Zodiac by Neal Stephenson (CKmtl)
    CKmtl: Fans of one of these works of Ecological SF may enjoy the other.
  6. 50
    The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: These two powerful, well-plotted novels each give detailed, dark visions of two different cities in the nearish future.
  7. 40
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (bridgitshearth)
    bridgitshearth: I find I can't say it better than some of the reviewers on Amazon. Enthralling, riveting, compelling....
  8. 10
    Mosquito [short story] by Richard Calder (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Two powerful stories strike an eery chord...
  9. 21
    Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (bridgitshearth)
    bridgitshearth: This book seems to be overlooked: very quiet, no flash or catastrophe, very down to earth vision of a future with limited resources. It's one of my favorites, ever!
  10. 32
    Bangkok 8 by John Burdett (ahstrick)
  11. 00
    Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (sturlington)
    sturlington: Steampunk
  12. 11
    Neuromancer by William Gibson (g33kgrrl)
Asia (31)
Ghosts (77)

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English (254)  French (2)  German (2)  Polish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (260)
Showing 1-5 of 254 (next | show all)
Perhaps my reaction to The Windup Girl is influenced by the hype: I hoped for so much more than I got.

Yes, the post-Contraction world is depicted with eye-opening detail. How will manufacturing work when there is no more oil, and coal is a luxury? Bacigalupi comes up with ingenious solutions, from the mundane (computers operated with treadles, like old-fashioned sewing machines) to the outrageous (megadonts? really? when people can barely eat, where are they finding enough fodder for an elephant-mammoth hybrid?).

Yes, the Windup Girl herself is a beautiful creation, a new twist on the angry young girl who discovers her powers. Emiko is a New Person, a gene-enhancement created by the Japanese to supplement their aging population. But we are kept waiting far too long for her to figure out that she can be much more than a secretary-slash-bedwarmer. I expected her story to be the most important one. She is the title character, right? But her actions only accidentally cause the climax of the novel; her motivations are far less important than those of the many boring political personages whose chapters outweigh hers.

And there are too many of these other characters that we just don't care about. Hock Seng is probably the most interesting of them. For him, we get a back story and motivation. I sympathize with him and admire his tenacity, even when he's plotting against his boss...mainly because his boss is a bore.

The novel begins with that boss, Anderson Lake. But we never get any insight into this very important character. Why did he go to work for AgriGen? What happened to him personally in Finland? Why does he love Emiko? Important questions that are, frustratingly, never answered, and leave Lake a lacuna.

Not to mention all the political intrigue. We need more info on the feud between Akkarat and Pracha, and on the woman who works for both of them, and why she listens to the ghost of her dead captain, when he continues to get her in trouble.

The ending is ripe for sequels, of course, and smacks of Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood trilogy: New Person and generipper, friends in a desolate city. What will happen next? I'm afraid I'm not inspired enough to find out.

( )
1 vote stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
This is a debut novel by a aspiring American author. His knowledge and obvious appreciation of Asian culture comes across. Unlike many science fiction novels, this is immediately accessible. His characters are well drawn, and one feels sympathy for them. The tropical, oppressive nature of his future Bangkok, is well drawn, And the comparisons to William Gibson is the wall like cityscapes of the cyberpunk universe are inevitable. The pacing is extremely good, the plot intriguing, and certainly in the last third absolutely gripping. I would describe this as modern science fiction of the near future, at its best. Highly recommended. ( )
  aadyer | Oct 10, 2020 |
The book is interesting solely on the strength of the post-breakdown, dystopian world it creates (details of which have already been described sufficiently, I think). The story falls flat in that it mainly happens to the personnel of characters while they are busy making other plans. the titel character is a breath of fresh air in all that setup - but reminds me somewhat of Chapterhouse Dune's gholas.

And as for the post-breakdown, dystopian world it creates: I did get a bit tired of being presented with yet another dystopian outlook, in that it starts feeling like a knee-jerk reaction when dealing with the rapidly and fundamentally changing world we live in. ( )
  mulderg | Sep 29, 2020 |
At first the atmosphere gripped me, but the more I read, the more I had to suspend my disbelief. The world was beautiful and colorfully written, but why would people rear such huge animals to wind springs with the calories they could instead have used directly? Why the need to transport energy stored in springs? Why not just transport an animal (ox, donkey, elephant) and make it convert calories to energy on the spot where it's needed? That and some other things that seemed illogical to me was what made me stop reading. I do very much enjoy some of Bacigalupi's other works, though. ( )
  psyq123 | Aug 24, 2020 |
The experience reading this book was quite gritty and raw. The future world is the exaggerated worst. Reading this in Thailand after having stayed in Bangkok and having familiarized myself with some of the area and culture, this book really comes to life. Author does leave you in the dust quite a bit though. ( )
  bsmashers | Aug 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 254 (next | show all)
It is a reasonably convincing vision of a future rendered difficult and more threatening than even our troubled present.
The Windup Girl embodies what SF does best of all: it remakes reality in compelling, absorbing and thought-provoking ways, and it lives on vividly in the mind.
But the third reason to pick up "The Windup Girl" is for its harrowing, on-the-ground portrait of power plays, destruction and civil insurrection in Bangkok.

Clearly, Paolo Bacigalupi is a writer to watch for in the future. Just don't wait that long to enjoy the darkly complex pleasures of "The Windup Girl."
One of the strengths of The Windup Girl, other than its intriguing characters, is Bacigalupi's world building. You can practically taste this future Thailand he's built [...] While Bacigalupi's blending of hard science and magic realism works beautifully, the novel occasionally sags under its own weight. At a certain point, the subplots feel like tagents that needed cutting.
added by PhoenixTerran | editio9, Annalee Newitz (Sep 9, 2009)

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paolo Bacigalupiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chong, VincentIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horváth, NorbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lacoste, RaphaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Podaný, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riffel, HannesÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Anjula
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"No! I don't want the mangosteen."
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Rien n'est permanent. C'est l'enseignement central du Bouddha. Pas une carrière, pas une institution, pas une épouse, pas un arbre... Tout est changement, et le changement est la seule vérité.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits? And what happens when this forces humanity to the cusp of post-human evolution? This is a tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation.

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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? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of "The Calorie Man" (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and "Yellow Card Man" (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.
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