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The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
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The Windup Girl (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Paolo Bacigalupi

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,3191901,638 (3.76)2 / 368
Member:Erratic_Charmer
Title:The Windup Girl
Authors:Paolo Bacigalupi
Info:Night Shade Books (2010), Edition: (2nd), Paperback, 300 pages
Collections:Already read
Rating:***
Tags:science fiction

Work details

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)

  1. 111
    River of Gods by Ian McDonald (santhony)
    santhony: Very similar dystopian view of the near future in a third world environment.
  2. 146
    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. 103
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Another novel about a dystopian future with strong environmental themes.
  4. 60
    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.
  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. 10
    Mosquito by Richard Calder (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Two powerful stories strike an eery chord...
  8. 32
    Bangkok 8 by John Burdett (ahstrick)
  9. 00
    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....
  10. 00
    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!
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English (184)  French (2)  Polish (1)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  All languages (189)
Showing 1-5 of 184 (next | show all)
Interesting premise, a dark, post-apocalyptic world where bioengineering and climate change have made life barely functional with a little prophetic edge as corporations have taken over both the political and public realm of life. The problem isn't the bleakness but the bland and dry writing. By the time you figure out the world and setup there was little to no investment to bother with the characters; plus, I felt there were a few cheap characters ploys that were unnecessary i.e. rape. ( )
  revslick | Oct 5, 2014 |
The author seems to greatly enjoy using "cool" new words and terms for new technology, which works in some books, but not here. What better authors would describe in ordinary language, this author chooses to describe with annoying techspeak. He also created characters that are dull and hard to connect with. ( )
  piersanti | Sep 28, 2014 |
I picked up this book because the premise was fascinating: in a futuristic Thailand, calories are more precious than anything we can imagine today. Calorie companies and governments and other factions struggle for power, even as people struggle to survive in the background of daily life, searching for scraps of food that aren't infected by plagues or mutated into killing bites of food. And in the middle of the story, a windup girl, genetically engineered for perfect obedience, finds herself overheating in this burning city as she struggles to survive.

Ugh, I ultimately didn't like this book because I thought it couldn't portray the world and characters as well as it should have.

One of the biggest problems, for me, was the backdrop of the story. Set in a supposed futuristic world, the setting was more like a direct imitation of history. And I'm just not historically literate enough in Thai or Malaysian history to understand the finer points of the story. This is a major sticking point for me because he tries to integrate the very culture of the countries into the book. But since he does next to nothing introducing any sort of historical background, he essentially relies on the reader to know history prior to reading the book. A lot of things went over my head culturally, including languages, certain references to religious aspects of the culture, the integration of different ethnic groups over time, etc. It was pretty frustrating because I could see that I was missing a lot, but there wasn't much I could do besides go do some extracurricular reading (and please, my time is limited as it is).

So lack of historical integration aside, I also had major problems with stereotyping. The first hundred pages in, I honestly thought the author just decided to take all the largest stereotypes of about the ethnic groups and shove them into a story. It was like taking a piece of history and shoving stereotyped characters into it - and overall, it didn't feel very... reverent to the history. Especially the mentions of slaughter and whole destruction of villages. Although the author writes that it's all set in a futuristic world, it's obvious he's drawing on historical references - but pays no attention to sensitivity when writing about it. That bothers me quite a bit.

Those things aside, which are only a little bit of the author's actual skill in writing, I guess I would also say that I only felt the mildest of attachments to the characters. If they lived or died, eh. It didn't really matter to me. Which is a bit of a problem, in my opinion. And did they really have different personalities? Not really. Everyone is paranoid, everyone is scheming, everyone is being played. Dialogue also wasn't anything of note - predominately because his dialogue was used so minimally and only then to further the plot line. That isn't a bad thing, and I think it was fine. But all of those things just lead to characters that are just characters trying to survive. And none of them with a special place in my heart.

See, Bacigalupi just does plot well. Hmm wait, no let me qualify that. He juggles scenes with different characters and interweaves different plot lines very well. I don't think he does plot that well, to be honest. But first, on the juggling aspect. Dang, this guy is amazing. We see how one character's actions impact five other ones in the next chapter, all while leading up to the next point of action. It's astonishing and really quite lovely. I think that's predominately what kept me reading this book. Seeing what would happen next, even if I didn't care about the next person's thoughts.

Now, on the aspect of plot... If you take a step back and think about what happens in the book, it's all very bland with a complete lack of direction. It's just masses of people running around with their own ideas of plots in their mind, other people countering those plans, and in the end, just everyone trying to survive. But for a clear plot? Meh, not so much. Who was the major players? They hardly even appear in the book. What was the climax of the story? Barely relevant.

This book did a pretty good job of showcasing survival. And that's pretty much it. No, wait. It did introduce new concepts in scifi that I haven't seen before. But those are only mild, with flaws. For example, how is a windup person heechy-keechy but also super fast in movement at the same time?

I wish he placed more emphasis in exploring the idea of gene ripping or the windup people or something in this new world. Instead, he focuses on the bare bones methods of survival in this world.

Not impressed, even though I felt there was so much potential in this world and story. It wasn't bad, just not good. And the historical stuff bothered me a little too much.

Glad I read it, but it still gets two stars.
Would probably recommend to someone who has a better history of Thailand and Malaysia and likes science fiction. Hmm.. but also isn't bothered by stereotypes either. Y'know, I might not recommend it to anyone other than a scifi lover with nothing left to read. ( )
1 vote NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
I picked up this book because the premise was fascinating: in a futuristic Thailand, calories are more precious than anything we can imagine today. Calorie companies and governments and other factions struggle for power, even as people struggle to survive in the background of daily life, searching for scraps of food that aren't infected by plagues or mutated into killing bites of food. And in the middle of the story, a windup girl, genetically engineered for perfect obedience, finds herself overheating in this burning city as she struggles to survive.

Ugh, I ultimately didn't like this book because I thought it couldn't portray the world and characters as well as it should have.

One of the biggest problems, for me, was the backdrop of the story. Set in a supposed futuristic world, the setting was more like a direct imitation of history. And I'm just not historically literate enough in Thai or Malaysian history to understand the finer points of the story. This is a major sticking point for me because he tries to integrate the very culture of the countries into the book. But since he does next to nothing introducing any sort of historical background, he essentially relies on the reader to know history prior to reading the book. A lot of things went over my head culturally, including languages, certain references to religious aspects of the culture, the integration of different ethnic groups over time, etc. It was pretty frustrating because I could see that I was missing a lot, but there wasn't much I could do besides go do some extracurricular reading (and please, my time is limited as it is).

So lack of historical integration aside, I also had major problems with stereotyping. The first hundred pages in, I honestly thought the author just decided to take all the largest stereotypes of about the ethnic groups and shove them into a story. It was like taking a piece of history and shoving stereotyped characters into it - and overall, it didn't feel very... reverent to the history. Especially the mentions of slaughter and whole destruction of villages. Although the author writes that it's all set in a futuristic world, it's obvious he's drawing on historical references - but pays no attention to sensitivity when writing about it. That bothers me quite a bit.

Those things aside, which are only a little bit of the author's actual skill in writing, I guess I would also say that I only felt the mildest of attachments to the characters. If they lived or died, eh. It didn't really matter to me. Which is a bit of a problem, in my opinion. And did they really have different personalities? Not really. Everyone is paranoid, everyone is scheming, everyone is being played. Dialogue also wasn't anything of note - predominately because his dialogue was used so minimally and only then to further the plot line. That isn't a bad thing, and I think it was fine. But all of those things just lead to characters that are just characters trying to survive. And none of them with a special place in my heart.

See, Bacigalupi just does plot well. Hmm wait, no let me qualify that. He juggles scenes with different characters and interweaves different plot lines very well. I don't think he does plot that well, to be honest. But first, on the juggling aspect. Dang, this guy is amazing. We see how one character's actions impact five other ones in the next chapter, all while leading up to the next point of action. It's astonishing and really quite lovely. I think that's predominately what kept me reading this book. Seeing what would happen next, even if I didn't care about the next person's thoughts.

Now, on the aspect of plot... If you take a step back and think about what happens in the book, it's all very bland with a complete lack of direction. It's just masses of people running around with their own ideas of plots in their mind, other people countering those plans, and in the end, just everyone trying to survive. But for a clear plot? Meh, not so much. Who was the major players? They hardly even appear in the book. What was the climax of the story? Barely relevant.

This book did a pretty good job of showcasing survival. And that's pretty much it. No, wait. It did introduce new concepts in scifi that I haven't seen before. But those are only mild, with flaws. For example, how is a windup person heechy-keechy but also super fast in movement at the same time?

I wish he placed more emphasis in exploring the idea of gene ripping or the windup people or something in this new world. Instead, he focuses on the bare bones methods of survival in this world.

Not impressed, even though I felt there was so much potential in this world and story. It wasn't bad, just not good. And the historical stuff bothered me a little too much.

Glad I read it, but it still gets two stars.
Would probably recommend to someone who has a better history of Thailand and Malaysia and likes science fiction. Hmm.. but also isn't bothered by stereotypes either. Y'know, I might not recommend it to anyone other than a scifi lover with nothing left to read. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
The actual future Thailand with its "steampunk" technology is quite interesting. A society where oil has failed, that apparently even the internet and computers have failed too. No cell-phones. Dirigibles have made a come-back and bio-technology has become a two-edged sword. Cloning and other scientific devices have created new strains of plant diseases and human diseases too, that keep scientists busy and are one step away from destruction.

Meanwhile there are political implications in all of this: We meet a corporate spy of sorts, Anderson who we later find works for a mega corporation, Agri-Gen, and further struggles with the Environmental Ministry and the other areas of Bangkok. Meanwhile political pressures lead not only towards civil war powder keg, but giving up the ideals of the culture for the disgrace of profit.

Sounds good, huh?

The writing style is what I hate the most about this book. The author introduces many Thai terms and lets the reader only infer their meaning. There's no second person, no third-person narrator that nods and knows these terms. Having a glossary would have helped (as Frank Herbert did in his opus, Dune).

Page 69: Balances on planks and slips past women sweating over steaming pots of U-Tex glass noodles and reeking of sun-dried fish....ones who have bribed either the white shirts or the slum's pi lien, ..."

Through inference I figured out the white shirts are from the Environmental Ministry, keepers of bio-tech and protectors of the rights of Thai (at least I think so, I may be wrong on that point). U-Tex and others have created disease resistant rice, apparently. I'm still not sure what "pi-lien" is, really. We can figure from context that it is some kind of low-life, bums, etc.

Writing Style:

Another criticism is the writing style. Every other chapter has a new character and you could even skip every other chapter to read through that character's adventures. Trouble is, you have to recall back what was said and there's some measure of annoying flipping back and forth.

Don't get me wrong, this could work in some books, but not this one.

( )
  jmourgos | Sep 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 184 (next | show all)
The book is set almost entirely in the City of Divine Beings in Thailand, sometimes rendered as Bangkok, or Klong Thep, its harbour area. After an environmental fall where sea levels have risen - the city is surrounded by levees - the proudly independent Thais feel under siege from the technology of a resurgent West. Gengineered diseases, deliberately created or not, abound, people live in fear of their (re-)occurence. Among other animals and plants, cats have been swept away, their niche overtaken by almost invisible gengineered creations known as Cheshires. In this Thailand anything technological is frowned upon and subject to bribery for acceptance. Machines - even down to hand guns - are powered by mechanisms known as kink-springs or, for heavy work, (this being Thailand) megodont, genetically modified elephants. It is a reasonably convincing vision of a future rendered difficult and more threatening than even our troubled present.

The windup girl of the title is one of the less-than-human clones engineered by the Japanese to deal with a worker shortage and known as heechy keechy by the Thais. She has tell-tale jerky movements, an inbuilt inability to sweat except through her hands and is conditioned to please and obey (spot the fantasy here.) On his leaving Thailand her original owner sold her into a kind of slavery where she is subjected to regular sexual degradation in the floor show of an exceedingly seedy night club. (This aspect reminded me a little of one of the narrative strands in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.)

The novel is by no means flawless. We have four viewpoint characters - not all entirely convincing - one of whom is killed halfway through and whose narrative is taken over by a fifth who is ultimately the agent of change. Perhaps she should always have been the focus of the relevant strand.

While Bacigalupi may have intended our windup girl to feature more prominently, and she does kick off the dénouement, she is more or less a side line character and not involved in the resolution which, rather than being about something more interesting, degenerates into a shoot-em-up civil war. In the early chapters characters spend a lot of time talking to each other. Later chapters do however become shorter and snappier as the action takes over. Despite its setting and several Thai or Chinese main characters it feels a touch Western triumphalist in overall tone but Bacigalupi's Thailand did appear well researched.
added by jackdeighton | editA Son Of The Rock, Jack Deighton (Mar 9, 2011)
 
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 (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paolo Bacigalupiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chong, VincentIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horváth, NorbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lacoste, RaphaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Podaný, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Anjula
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"No! I don't want the mangosteen."
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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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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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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.… (more)

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