The Windup Girl: A Review

Everything I hoped it would be and more. This morning John Robb referenced aspects of The Windup Girl and that brought it all rushing back.

Bacigalupi paints the picture of a world where the “calorie men,” representatives of the midwestern agricultural combines that released the blister rust plagues into the wild, whose “U-Tex” and other genetically-engineered crops are the only defense against the diseases created by the same men, and the sterility of which forces India, Burma, and the other starving nations of the world into semi-feudal servility. A world in which rising seas have swallowed New York, Mumbai, New Orleans, and Rangoon, and where only the coal-powered monstrous pumps of King Rama XII prevent the similar fate from befalling Bangkok. Where the combustion engine has been replaced by kink-spring power wound by men and elephant-derived megadonts, where the exertion of labor to power the world requires the fuel of food, and calories are the currency of the realm.

In the midst of this, a former Japanese pleasure construct – the titular “windup girl” – discovers instincts and desires beyond the total obedience and urge to please that has not just been bred into her, but programmed into the very fiber of her being. An accidental übermenschen trapped among a peoples who regard her as trash, she represents a future that she can’t even understand yet. Which, coincidentally, is precisely what Bacigalupi has written here.

It is a rich portrait, indeed, and Bacigalupi excels at the alternate history/speculative fiction techniques of hint-dropping and hastily-sketched background details that he doles out like candy along a forest trail. But you’ll want to go where he’s luring you.

2 thoughts on “The Windup Girl: A Review

  1. The only problem I had with this book is that it was not niecsce-fictiony enough, if that can be a critique. I have been to Thailand many times, and I actually found the discussion of the characters, the relationship between the Chinese to the Thai, the attitudes of the Thai to the farang and the intrigue that takes place all the time there to be very believable. I don’t speak any Thai, but I was completely immersed in this world because it is so accessible. It’s almost like he threw in the Windup Girl, the spring-guns and spring technology, the Megodonts and the Globally dominant seed companies as an afterthought, becausse for me this was just a good yarn that didnt really go anywhere until the last few pages. And because I love rambutan, I knew right off the bat that was the fruit he was describing. They are very tasty, but hard to get here.

  2. Recommended as something people should read. It’s $2.99 on Kindle, and well worth it.It’s a novelette, but an excellent one. It’s fantasy with explicit magic, but it’s not sentimental or condescending, and there are no mystic prophecies or talking swords to get in the way. And it’s strongly character and world driven, showing a man’s love for his daughter and how individual needs can hurt collectively and how monsters can save society.

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