Calvert’s Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Calvert’s Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Published by Night Shade Books on 2009
Genres: Fiction, Hard Science Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 359
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

If I had to sum up the Windup Girl in one word it would be ‘disappointing.’ There is so much potential in the post-Contraction world that Bacigalupi created, but the story itself just falls so flat. The idea of a world destroyed by GMOs and mindless energy consumption having to fight for new strains of produce in order to feed itself, of genetically engineered plants, animals, and people becoming necessary for human survival but considered abominations is just so fascinating. I wanted to know more about how the end started, who thought to create seedbanks in the first place, what happened in the cryptically referenced incidents in other countries. I wanted to see Emiko, the genetically engineered New Person [derogatorily referred to as Windups and Heechy Keechy] become something: a revolutionary, a martyr, a messiah, an independent person. Instead I got 350+ pages of politics, wheeling and dealing, corporate machinations and greed, and rape.

Unfortunately, what promised great post-apocalyptic science fiction centered around a female POC instead delivered political fiction with slight fantasy flavoring focusing mainly on middle-aged white men [a feat given the setting of future closed bordered Thailand]. I am no stranger to slogging through politics heavy novels [I’m looking at you A Dance With Dragons], but I do like to know to expect that, and to have intervals of pretty much anything else to break the monotony. With the Windup Girl, not only did the titular character not appear until about a third of the way through, but she did not play a particularly important role either. In fact, the entire concept of the New People could have been removed from the novel with almost no effect.

I kept wanting the book to get more interesting. I wanted to love this book. But it just wasn’t what was promised, took too long to get any type of interesting [two thirds of the way through], and was simply all around disappointing. There are dozens of things I could pick apart and criticize, but I don’t want to write that and I’m sure you don’t want to read it.

pj - calvert

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