My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is the Coen Brothers meets Blade Runner.
It’s the 23rd century and global warming has run amok. The great cities of the world are under water. Enormous corporate conglomerates genetically manipulate strains of wheat and rice to feed the world while extorting the last bit of cash and blood. Countries incessantly war over resources. Genetically created diseases ravish societies. And the Japanese genetically generate the New People, their perfect servants to support a rapidly aging and non-replenishing society.
Set in Bangkok, Thailand, the book follows the stories of four main characters “Song of Ice and Fire”-like: Anderson Lake, the American ‘calorie man’ coming for Thailand’s stock of genetic diversity, Hong Seck a Chinese Refugee from the US, Jaidee Rojjanasukchai a “white shirt” Tiger of Bangkok who works for the ministry that polices the health of the country and Emiko, a discarded “windup,” a genetically modified human turned into the perfect servant but now without a master.
The four main plotlines sort of wander along telling four parallel stories that cross over and intersect and explode in exciting ways while exploring this science fiction future of ecological devastation. This is not an uplifting or positive book — it is /very/ Coen Brothers where people are generally awful in an ever increasing tide of awfulness until the plot explodes on everyone in a mess of fiasco.
It definitely does move. As a book, it is well written, if not meandering at times. The problem is that the plot does meander and some of the stories don’t feel terrifically satisfying. The story of Emiko the Windup Girl is by far the best of the four stories in the book but the other three tend to fall flat at times without drive.
I knock it one star for occasionally losing its point. As a science fiction book its a thinker. A downer, but a thinker.