The Windup Girl

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

Anderson Lake, foreign company man seeking the secrets of Thailand’s genetic wealth. Emiko, genetically modified not-quite-human, abandoned by her Japanese patron to struggle to survive illegally in a country that scorns and fears her people. Tan Hock Seng, Malaysian evacuee striving against the odds to not only survive in an unwelcoming land but to rebuild the wealth and influence he once held in his homeland. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai, captain in the Environment Ministry and folk hero, protecting the nation from the ravages of genetic mutations, plagues, and foreign influence. As these individuals and the powers they represent are thrown together in the city of Krung Thep, Thailand, loyalties are tested, boundaries are tried, and revolution stirs on the horizon.

The Windup Girl was not at all what I expected, but it was a fascinating read. The futuristic setting is unique, dealing more with genetic manipulation and diversity than with weapons and such, but handling the genetic factor in a way I’ve never seen before. It’s thought provoking in itself. The way in which Bacigalupi intertwines various characters and perspectives is integral to the story and adds great depth–and though I can’t say I actually like any of the characters, they are all well written and full of interesting complexities. I think the author’s choice to set this is Thailand is intriguing; it brings quite a clash of various cultures and ideals into the mix and is well executed. Speaking from a literary standpoint, one of the most interesting features of The Windup Girl was Bacigalupi’s use of present tense. Usually, this is extremely awkward to read; I have set aside several otherwise-excellent books in the past simply because I could not bear the awkwardness of the tense. However, in this book, the use of present tense seems completely natural and flows almost unnoticeably. I will note that in terms of sexual content, language, and wanton violence, this book is definitely adult audience only–I would say 21+. Still, in terms of creative, original, and thought-provoking science fiction, The Windup Girl is quite excellent.

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