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The Windup Girl Paperback – May 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Noted short story writer Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories) proves equally adept at novel length in this grim but beautifully written tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation. Capt. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai of the Thai Environment Ministry fights desperately to protect his beloved nation from foreign influences. Factory manager Anderson Lake covertly searches for new and useful mutations for a hated Western agribusiness. Aging Chinese immigrant Tan Hock Seng lives by his wits while looking for one last score. Emiko, the titular despised but impossibly seductive product of Japanese genetic engineering, works in a brothel until she accidentally triggers a civil war. This complex, literate and intensely felt tale, which recalls both William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best, will garner Bacigalupi significant critical attention and is clearly one of the finest science fiction novels of the year. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—In a future Thailand, calories are the greatest commodity. Anderson is a calorie-man whose true objective is to discover new food sources that his company can exploit. His secretary, Hock Seng, is a refugee from China seeking to ensure his future. Jaidee is an officer of the Environmental Ministry known for upholding regulations rather than accepting bribes. His partner, Kanya, is torn between respect for Jaidee and hatred for the agency that destroyed her childhood home. Emiko is a windup, an engineered and despised creation, discarded by her master and now subject to brutality by her patron. The actions of these characters set in motion events that could destroy the country. Bacigalupi has created a compelling, if bleak, society in which corruption, betrayal, and despair are commonplace, and more positive behavior and emotions such as hope and love are regarded with great suspicion. The complex plot and equally complex characters require a great deal of commitment from readers. Even the most sympathetic people have darker sides, and it is difficult to determine which character or faction should triumph. This highly nuanced, violent, and grim novel is not for every teen. However, mature readers with an interest in political or environmental science fiction or those for whom dystopias are particularly appealing will be intrigued. If they are able to immerse themselves completely into the calorie-mad world of a future Bangkok, they will not be disappointed.—Karen E. Brooks-Reese, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; First Edition edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597801585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597801584
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (672 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paolo Bacigalupi is a Hugo, Nebula, and Michael L. Printz Award Winner, as well as a National Book Award Finalist. He is also a winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and a three-time winner of the Locus Award. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and High Country News. He lives in Western Colorado with his wife and son, where he is working on a new novel.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

229 of 261 people found the following review helpful By average on September 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Thai generip terror.

It Bacigalupi ever writes anything that is sweetness and light, that right there would be likely proof of the Many Worlds Theory and the fact that you had slipped into an alternate universe.

The setting is Bangkok, or, colloquially, Krung Thep. It is also a near future dystopia. The city now houses many displaced Chinese refugees from a Malaysia turned fundamentalist muslim fanatics. (See his story Yellow Card Man for background) Bangkok itself is only kept from drowning by engineering and technology.

This is a post-oil world, with very little petroleum technology available, remaining. No evidence of solar tech, either, really. Power is provided by human labor and genetically engineered highly efficient animals pourding kinetic energy into springs, which then can be used to power machines. Treadle computers, even. Countries have shrunk in upon themselves as a result, but are beginning to look outward again, with ships, and dirigibles. This makes this setting rather unlike the mass-media or AI ridden future India and Brasil etc. of Ian McDonald's devising.

Particularly nasty are the 'calorie companies' - organisations that have the ability to manufacture crops in large supply: but their crops are sterile, so you always need to go back for more. That is if bugs and plagues 'weevils' and 'blister rust' do not get them. Much dirty, violent dealing in support of this activity (see his story The Calorie Man) and there are mentions of it going horribly wrong in other countries. One of the questions this raises is how they manage to stay around - why, with such hatred of them, are the calorie men and women not mercilessly hunted and slaughtered. The only intimations you get of this are economic power, based in the USA.
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113 of 128 people found the following review helpful By William A. Greiner on September 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is hard to follow up the review by Blue Tyson...it covers the book very well so I will try not to repeat it.
As a reader of SF for many years,it is a rare moment that a book comes along that is shocking in its originality.
This a story set in a bleak world, but a world with hope as the characters struggle to find meaning and a future in this world.This is a world of corporate domination as groups fight for what is left in a decaying world.
But if anything ...this books central core is what it means to be human. That to be human is to make choices you may not like and that these choices define you for who you are.These characters must make those choices and that is what really makes this book great.
Be warned...this book does leave open a possible sequel but this book in itself is a stand alone story. Major plots are resolved in the end...but there are some questions to be answered.I have a feeling there is more to come.
This an author to watch...the only author that comes close to comparison is Ian McDonald.
This book is a must for all SF fans..enjoy and join me in hopefully a short wait for the next book.
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81 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Liptak on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Paolo Bacigalupi's debut novel The Windup Girl is a frightening, realistic and brilliant look at the near future of the world. Taking place in Thailand at some point in the future, Bacigalupi paints a picture of a world that is caught between several major problems: climate change has affected the lives of many people around the world, and in turn, has brought a rise in global agricultural corporations, and global energy resources have been depleted, forcing major changes in the way people live their lives, and how a world-wide economy functions with different resources. Corporations have run amok with trying to maintain their profit margins, and released a number of plagues upon the world that devastated the planet's ecology upon which we all depend, and because of their actions, remain just a single step ahead of the latest mutation of blister rust and other assorted plagues. Thailand is a country that has thus far weathered the storm - the Royal government has maintained a fierce isolationist policy to keep the country from succumbing. As a result, Thailand has a precious resource that western companies desperately want: a genebank, containing thousands of new strains of crops that could be utilized to combat the ongoing struggle against plagues and hunger world-wide.

The story follows several discrete storylines and characters, each with their own motivations and demons. Anderson is a `calorie man', a westerner who ostensibly manages a factory that manufactures kink-springs, a renewable power source. Jaidee is a member of the Environmental Ministry, tasked with maintaining a barrier between Thailand and the rest of the world and the dangers that it poses.
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55 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Giles Gammage on July 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dirigibles. I knew we were in trouble as soon as the story introduced dirigibles. They've become a sort of billboard for an entire class of bloated speculative fiction, an all-too literal metaphor for lardy, lumbering stories flogging thinly-veiled allegories of modern ills--Goodyear blimps for the beard-and-ponytail set. My advice to authors is, you see a zeppelin lumbering into the airspace over one of your stories, show no mercy--shoot that sucker down. Kill your darlings, as Faulkner said. You'll be glad you did.

Mr Bacigalupi's novel has rightly won praise and awards for its original blend of futurism and steampunk, a kind of retro-future that preys on modern fears, but the whole structure is a bit like a dirigible itself--the impressive-looking frame mostly just holds a tub of gas.

"The Windup Girl" is set in Thailand, in a near-future where pretty much every bad thing you're worried about happening, happened. It's a kind of scrapbook of apocalyptic newspaper headlines. Oil and gas have run out, leaving civilization dependent on muscle power and a bit of coal (peak oil fears, check!). Airplanes and cars have gone the way of dinosaurs and mammoths, which is ironic, since thanks to genetic engineering, mammoths ("megadonts", sorry) are back in fashion as a source of muscle. Oh yeah, zeppelins are back in too. Sigh.

Speaking of genetic engineering, geneticists at a "calorie companies", a bunch of evil corporations located in Des Moines for some strange reason, have deliberately created super-parasites and crop blights, to wipe out the world's food sources and make everyone dependent on their genetically-modified (GM) products (GM food fears, check! Large, faceless company fears, check! Fears of Midwestern states, che--wait, what?!).
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