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The Windup Girl Hardcover – September 1, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 747 customer reviews

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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.

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 361 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; 1st edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597801577
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597801577
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (747 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Paolo Bacigalupi was an unfamiliar name to me, but this novel received frothing praise and an unusually good cover, so I gifted it to my dad knowing I'd eventually get a crack at reading it (books are good like that).

This is a debut novel, and a quick glance at Bacigalupi's previous work reveals a volume of short stories that includes titles like Pump Six, Yellow Card Man and The Calorie Man. He has been crafting this world for a while now, the culmination of which is The Windup Girl. It's a cynical but splendidly imagined projection of the near future: fossil fuels are rare and exorbitantly expensive; global warming has raised sea level and weather patterns are volatile; misadventures in bioengineering have ravaged the world with plagues of viruses, bacteria, fungus and insects; corporate interests gain power as regional governments succumb to revolt.

This apocalyptic Thailand is plausible but miserable. You will not gasp at the majesty of steampunk invention here - you will likely gag. Windup's Bangkok is full of feral cats, religious and political fanatics, refugees and opportunistic businessmen. The resident crime boss is named the Dung Lord, and he vies for power along with Trade Minister Akkarat and General Pracha, the victor of a military junta at the narrative's outset. The cast of characters are all hard-bitten, all nursing personal grievances, all hopelessly driven to do what they end up doing. Anderson Lake (a great name for this anti-hero, but they're all good) is an American agribusinessman sent to Thailand with the objective of gaining access to the Kingdom's jealously-guarded seed stock. While pursuing this goal, he becomes entangled with Emiko, the genetically-engineered courtesan of the novel's title.
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