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The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Paolo Bacigalupi

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3,2531841,702 (3.77)2 / 365
Title:The Windup Girl
Authors:Paolo Bacigalupi
Info:Night Shade Books (2010), Edition: (2nd), Paperback, 300 pages
Collections:Already read
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 (179)  French (2)  Polish (1)  Hungarian (1)  German (1)  All languages (184)
Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
The real attraction of this work is that Bacigalupi is an author who has embraced the dystopian menace that committing near-term speculative fiction entails these days (it's all-too-easy to imagine the worst) and pulls it off with some aplomb, by having characters who have the will to pull through in the wake of their personal lives being utter trash.

While Emiko, the "windup" girl of the title, is the character that most captured my imagination, to a large degree the real main character here is Bacigalupi's alternative Thailand. I don't really believe in the spring-driven technology that the people in the book use as a work-around, but I do believe that the political stresses of the actual country and society have been given a good symbolic treatment. ( )
  Shrike58 | Jul 30, 2014 |
Loved it, great vision of post-global warming society ( )
  eoinclifford | Jul 18, 2014 |
Best book I read in 2011! ( )
  ssimon2000 | Jul 17, 2014 |
I didn't know what to expect from this book. For some reason it made it's way to my amazon wish list (although I can't remember when or why) and I asked for it this year for Christmas and got it.

This is a dystopian novel set in the future where fruits have caught a virus...and so have people. The plague has killed many people all over the world...and the international companies are fighting for control over foreign markets.

There is a lot to this book and I enjoyed it way more than I anticipated. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
When it comes to sci-fi, I have plenty of caveats: plethoras of men, mounds of white people, all of the worth submersed in several provocative "ideas" built up by science and a great deal of solipsism. It took Le Guin's phenomenal [The Dispossessed] to give the genre a place in my further reading, and while this book doesn't measure up in terms of prose and thought experiments, it hits that international flavor that TD doesn't, something realistic future fiction should always aim for. Unless the narrative touches on a past filled with race wars before the main action hits, there's no excuse for piss poor representation.

The drawback, of course, is tropes, and as I haven't read any Thai lit and know the bare minimum about Thailand and its history/culture/contemporary business (I don't even know if Thai iced tea is really Thai or just some misnomer like French fries, I just really like the stuff), Bacigalupi could've molded my unfounded perceptions like putty. Lucky for me, he included a little thing about not interpreting his book as a true representation of Bangkok as it is now, something that left me free to enjoy the world he conjured up out of Buddhism and Megadont Unions and the very real threat of biowarfare waged between humanity and the world's genetic diversity. In terms of the ubiquitous "world building", this is some of the best out there, both in newness and familiarity.

While the characters themselves depend heavily on the culture around them for engagement, it is Bacigalupi's choices of personas that shine through the rather stock third-person POV. Out of the five narrators, one is white, two are women, and the "Western" culture is made the clear outsider in far more definite and understandable terms than simple whinging and obstinacy. Lesbianism is touched on as a normal aspect of living in a diverse world (I had to reread the first instance of its appearance to make sure of what I was seeing), and while none of the characters are supremely well crafted, their common humanity and will to do terrible things to survive is brought to the forefront. It is these terrible things that drive the plot through its contortions, all leading up to an ending that is one of the best open ended conclusions I've seen in a long time; that's a hard thing to pull off in a linear/non-experimental piece of work.

Finally, the dystopia. The word is all the rage nowadays, but rarely do I see it done in such a way that makes a true impact, where the excesses reaped today flourish inexorably as our ultimate doom tomorrow, humanity scrabbling for life on the sinking ship of the world with evolution as the only lifeboat. In short, I'm glad this won the awards it did, and seeing as how this is Bacigalupi's first book, I have a lot to look forward to. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Jun 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 179 (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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"No! I don't want the mangosteen."
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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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