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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
3,9242161,311 (3.75)2 / 408
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. 113
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Another novel about a dystopian future with strong environmental themes.
  4. 71
    Zodiac by Neal Stephenson (CKmtl)
    CKmtl: Fans of one of these works of Ecological SF may enjoy the other.
  5. 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.
  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. 30
    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!
  8. 30
    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....
  9. 10
    Mosquito by Richard Calder (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Two powerful stories strike an eery chord...
  10. 32
    Bangkok 8 by John Burdett (ahstrick)
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English (210)  French (2)  Polish (1)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  All languages (215)
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
An entertaining read, although I would have liked to have understood more about how the world fell into the control of the Calorie Men. The only thing I struggled with (spolier alert) is that if all windups have the speed etc, why it took Emiko so long to break out of her training, after the experiences she had to go through with Raleigh... ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
The realism of Paolo Bacigalupi's dystopia is undeniable. Gritty, depressing, at times sweltering, it somehow allows for shimmers of hope. Or is that a mirage amidst the sweltering climes of 22nd Century Bangkok? What I know for sure: Emiko. Hock Seng. Anderson. Kanya. Jaidee. Characters I'll always remember. ( )
  apomonis | Jun 2, 2016 |
The Windup Girl has such a complex setting I honestly can't summarize it without feeling like I'm doing it an injustice. It's a bleak dystopia with global energy and food shortages, which happened when all the major farming corporations rendered their product sterile through genetic modifications as a means to corner the market. Now people look at the world in the form of calories, a walk across the street might not be worth the calorie expense, and the world is fueled by elephants and wound springs.

That is a gross simplification, and I can do no better with the characters. There are several, from all walks of life, just trying to get by in this world. Anderson runs a spring factory, winding up the springs that propel bikes, boats, and anything else that requires power. Hock Seng is an Asian man who works in his factory, a once-rich trader who now lives in the Yellow Card slums. Jaidee and Kanya are White Shirts, the local equivalent of an over-zealous police force. Then there is Emiko, who is a windup girl - an ultra-realistic Japanese-produced robot (of a sort) who would be mulched by the White Shirts if they ever found her out.

None of these characters are perfect. Other than Emiko, some people may have a problem finding a character to like, as all of them have ambiguous morals. That's exactly what I liked about it, though. It's a desperate time, and there are no virtuous heroes here. The plot is the same way, in that it meanders and plods along, and considering the vast majority of modern literature is predicated on plot and character-fandom, I'm surprised the book is as popular as it is. With that said, I personally adored the novel. It's complex, it's multi-dimensional, and maybe a little overwhelming at fist, but in the end I found it intensely satisfying, and I think it'll stick with me for awhile.

Note: The edition I read also had two short stories associated with the book. "The Calorie Man" and "Yellow Card Man." The first one is great, and would also get 5-stars individually, but Yellow Card Man was somewhat predictable. ( )
  Ape | May 27, 2016 |
Anderson Lake is an economic hitman and the AgriGen Representative in Thailand. He owns a kink-spring factory trying to mass produce a revolutionary new model that will store gigajoules of energy. The factory is a cover for his real mission: discovering the location of the Thai seedbank. He leaves the running of the factory to his Chinese manager, Hock Seng, a refugee from the Malaysian purge of the ethnic Chinese. A businessman in his former life, he is plotting to regain his former glory even as he lives from day to day. He waits patiently for an opportunity to steal the kink-spring designs kept in Anderson's safe, and embezzles copiously.

Emiko is a Japanese-designed windup girl (a humanoid GM organism, used as a slave, and programmed to seek a master and obey him; windups call themselves "New People") abandoned by her Japanese master. As such, she is illegal in Thailand. Raleigh, a sex club owner, gives her some measure of safety by bribing the police to let her live, but at the price of forcing her to work in his club, where she is routinely abused and sexually humiliated. Among other genetic modifications, Emiko has a genetically altered pore structure, which makes her skin extremely smooth but prone to overheating—a life-threatening problem in the hot climate of Thailand. One of her customers tells her of the secret seedbank and a mysterious man named Gibbons. Anderson gleans this information from her and, in return, tells her about a refuge in the north of Thailand where people of Emiko's kind live together. This becomes fixated in her mind, and from then on she sets her mind on paying off Raleigh and escaping to this refuge.

Anderson's factory is destroyed by a rogue megodont (a GM elephant used to run the power train). Also destroyed are algae baths, which are critical to the manufacturing process, and whose spares are costly and must be smuggled into Thailand via dirigible. Anderson orders Hock Seng to fix up the factory as soon as possible, threatening him with the loss of his job if he doesn't do so. Hock Seng's job is made difficult by the fact that he has failed to bribe the customs officials, as he had embezzled the bribe money. Knowing that his time has come, he makes a money-for-plans deal with the Dung Lord, a gangster.

Jaidee Rojjanasukchai, an upright and courageous captain of the White Shirts (the enforcement wing of the Environment Ministry), intercepts the dirigible containing, among other things, Anderson's much needed spare tanks, and destroys the contraband. This raises the hackles of the white, foreign trading community in Thailand and they pressure Akkarat to make Jaidee back off. To 'persuade' Jaidee, known as the Tiger of Bangkok for his muay thai skills and courage, and an icon among the white shirts, they kidnap his wife.

Jaidee submits and makes a public apology. False charges are made against him and he is condemned to monkhood for 9 years. Unknown to Jaidee, his wife has already been murdered. A triumphant Anderson and his main collaborator, Richard Carlyle, negotiate with Akkarat for access to the seedbank and lowering of the trade barriers. Akkarat refuses, saying there are limits to his greed.

Jaidee, determined to track his wife's murderers, escapes from the monastery and infiltrates the Trade Ministry. He is caught, killed, and his mutilated body is deposited in front of the Environment Ministry. As the white shirts revere him as a hero, they declare him a martyr, and rise up against the Trade Ministry.

General Pracha appoints Lieutenant Kanya, Jaidee's protege, as the new Captain and unleashes a reign of terror on Bangkok. Meanwhile, Mai, a child labourer in Anderson's factory, has discovered that her fellow workers are falling to a new plague that had previously made the algae tanks malfunction. She reports this to Hock Seng, who arranges to have the bodies disposed of surreptitiously. As the white shirts take control of Bangkok, he steals all of Anderson's petty cash, takes Mai with him and tries to escape. Meanwhile, Anderson has become close to Emiko.

Anderson discovers Hock Seng's flight and goes into hiding with Richard Carlyle. Kanya, who is Akkarat's mole, discovers the new plague and sets about trying to contain it. (We learn that years earlier Kanya had been rescued as a young girl by Akkarat when her own home village was destroyed in the course of containing a genehacked plague.) She reluctantly seeks help from Gibbons, who is revealed to be a renegade AgriGen scientist. Gibbons is a brilliant geneticist and the last hope for the Thai defense against the plagues. He easily identifies the new plague and gives clues to Kanya.

Anderson and Carlyle meet with Akkarat and the Somdet Chaopraya, who is the regent to the young Thai Queen and the most powerful person in all of Thailand. Anderson offers to supply a new strain of GM rice and a private army to repel the white shirts in exchange for access to the seedbank and lowering of the trade barriers. He also introduces the Somdet Chaopraya to Emiko. When the Somdet Chaopraya's acts prove too humiliating, Emiko snaps and kills the Somdet Chaopraya, Raleigh and eight other men. Then she seeks refuge with Anderson.

Because she has killed such a powerful man and all of his bodyguards, Akkarat assumes Emiko to be a military windup and accuses General Pracha of assassinating the Somdet Chaopraya. He also proceeds to arrest Anderson and Carlyle as suspects in the assassination conspiracy. Emiko escapes in the nick of time.

Kanya traces the origin of one of the plague victims to a village near Bangkok, and from information she gets there is able to identify Anderson's kink-spring factory as a possible source. She sterilizes the village with lye. Hock Seng fails to steal the kink-spring designs, so he decides to capture Emiko for ransom. He takes Mai with him.

Kanya is informed of the suspected assassination plot by her handler. Recognizing the harm the incident could cause, she visits the Japanese company that designed Emiko, learns of the true facts, and tries to explain it to Akkarat. But Akkarat has already decided to blame General Pracha for the assassination as a pretext for regime change and mobilizes his reserves to destroy Pracha and the white shirts. Anderson is released and discovers that he may have contracted the new plague.

Hock Seng encounters Emiko in Anderson's apartment and holds her at gunpoint. Anderson and Carlyle arrive at the same time. They make a deal: Hock Seng would be patronized by AgriGen and Emiko would remain with Anderson.

Eventually, Pracha and most of the top Environment Ministry men are killed. Akkarat, now all-powerful, appoints his spy Kanya as the chief of the Environment Ministry. He also opens up Thailand to the world, and grants AgriGen access to the seedbank. Kanya, who acts subdued at first, reneges and executes the AgriGen team in the seedbank. She then proceeds to move the seedbank to a safer place with the help of the monks. With the hidden arsenal in the seedbank, she orchestrates an uprising and coup d'état. She destroys the levees, flooding Bangkok. Bangkok's people and the capital relocate to the site of Ayutthaya, a previous Thai capital. There is now a new Tiger, a grim, unsmiling woman (Kanya), and it is implied that the Child Queen now reigns without a regent.

Hock Seng is allowed by Kanya to leave Thailand with Mai to start a new life. The plague slowly kills Anderson as Emiko nurses him through the agony. She is alone in the flooded city when Gibbons arrives with his androgynous (kathoey or "ladyboy") companion. He promises Emiko that he will use her DNA to engineer a new race of fertile New People, thus fulfilling her dream of living with her own kind.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
"She ends up as a sex slave, routinely raped for the entertainment of the
high and mighty. If you don't want to read about someone having a bottle
jammed into them, you may want to skip this one. " says James Nicoll. Here's another review that says there's a lot of sexual violence, a lot of Orientalist and racist tropes, not much agency for the female characters...Yeah, at this point I'm not even going to try this book. I enjoy Bacigalupi's ideas about possible futures, but until he learns how to write stories that don't depress and enrage me to no end, I'm putting him on my "won't read" shelf.
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 210 (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 (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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"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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