The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl

Book - 2009
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Winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel, the break-out science fiction debut.

Anderson Lake is AgriGen's Calorie Man, sent to work undercover as a factory manager in Thailand while combing Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories.

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. Emiko is not human; she is an engineered being, 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 this 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 and forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly-acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.
Publisher: San Francisco, Calif. : Night Shade Books, c2009.
ISBN: 9781597801577
Characteristics: 361 p. ;,24 cm.


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IndyPL_SteveB Nov 30, 2018

Multiple award-winning SF novel, creative and challenging.

In a dystopian future, global warming has raised the ocean levels and flooded many countries and cities. Artificial viruses, fungi, and genetic experiments of many kinds have run amok in the world, destroying basic food crops and killing a significant percentage of the world’s population. One of the few successful countries left is Thailand, which was able to build dikes to prevent flooding and had scientists able to develop food that would resist the genetic diseases. Even in Thailand survival is a matter of politics, money, and who you know -- although that can get you killed just as easily.

The characters are a mixture of entrepreneurs, soldiers, refugees, politicians, and criminals, each of which have hidden motives. The Windup Girl of the title is a genetically enhanced pleasure girl, illegally imported into Thailand, and constantly in danger of execution if she is found by the Environmental police. She has hidden abilities she doesn’t know about.

At any point in the novel, you can never be sure whether a particular character is a good guy, a bad guy, on whose side they are. In fact, like in many spy and political thrillers, “good” and “bad” have lost their meanings. Even “success” may not have any meaning deeper than simple “survival.” It's not a comfortable read but it sure is impressive.

Aug 23, 2018

I very much enjoyed the story, especially the setting in Bangkok of which I know nothing. It felt very alien. A few of the characters were a little dry but the narrator made it all come together for me.

Jul 28, 2018

severely over rated

PimaLib_ChristineR Apr 27, 2018

Somehow, from the title, I thought this was a Steampunk novel. Hahaha. No, definitely a straight dystopian sci-fi. Probably the first true sci-fi I've read in several years, but Bacigalupi made sure it won't be the last. To start: the world building is amazing. This is a future that we can all easily imagine. Global warming has raised sea-levels around the world, disrupting crops and drowning cities, while at the same time, the supply of fossil-fuels has dried up, leading to a "contraction" as long-distance travel becomes infeasible; and genetically modified foods have led to new diseases that wipe out existing crops and spread diseases to the humans who consume them.

The calorie companies now rival each other to develop new strains of disease resistant food, while at the same time developing new diseases to sabotage their competitors and drive up prices for the consumers. Genetic modification has also led to new species, including a breed of cat that has wiped out natural cats, and "windup" humans, who have been modified to move in a jerky manner to reveal themselves as "less than human."

The setting is Bangkok, Thailand, a city that is now below sea-level and relies on dykes and pumps. Here we meet an undercover Calorie Man, Anderson Lake, trying to discover the secret of how Thailand maintains independence from the calorie companies. Emiko is a windup girl whose Japanese owner has abandoned her in a country that would just as soon use her as fertilizer. Jaidee, the scrupulously honest captain of the White Shirts, the group that is tasked with keeping disease and illegal food and power from being used in Thailand. And Hock Seng, a survivor of a Malaysian purge of the Chinese, is a Yellow Card, working for Lake, but always keeping an eye open for a way to rebuild his former business empire. The story follows each character, as they are swept along in a larger tale of politics in a new world.

The plot is larger than any one character, and it isn't about a character learning, or changing. It's more about how each character is a pawn or a leader as the political tide changes in Bangkok. An absolutely brilliant and wide-ranging treatise on problems we may soon be facing.

Trigger warning: Emiko is a sex slave and there are two extremely cringy scenes of her being raped. I still see them as necessary in that they show how Emiko is considered less than human, and in explaining her actions later in the novel.

Dec 20, 2017

I’ve read a lot of sf, both recent and many of the classics. The Windup Girl is one of the best recent sf novels I’ve come across. It absolutely deserves the Hugo and Nebula awards it received.

The story is complex and multithreaded. The themes and subject matter are extremely mature. This novel is not for the faint of heart, but it’s well worth reading.

Aug 29, 2017

I had seen this book when it first came out and kept wanting to read it. I'm glad I checked it out of the library rather than buying it like I had initially planned. I love sci-fi but this was definitely not my cup of tea. I found the world building too slow and the author did not explain what Calorie Companies were until much later than I would have wanted. I spend the first third of the book being absolutely confused by what was happening. Overall I would not recommend it.

Aug 24, 2017

In the future, long after the primary sources of energy, oil and gas, have been mostly depleted, the world's governments collapse unto themselves. Energy now comes from natural resources and human energy, stored in bio-engineered 'kink springs' and measured in calories. Bioengineering companies have become as powerful as governments, and a combination of corporate warfare and environmental irresponsibility has resulted in most of the worlds natural foodstocks dying off or becoming biologically contaminated through hybridization. The world relies on bio engineering companies to create disease resistant, high calorie foods to feed humanity. And that's just the background setting!

This was really hard to put down. Bacigalupi has become my favorite 'dystopic' future writer. The stories seem outlandish when being described, but the world he lays out seems very realistic and possible once you get into the story. The writing reminds me of the British science fiction show 'Black Mirror', in that it shows the subtle horrors that the near future could hold. A terrifying future created by technology and industry rather than war. Once I read this, I had to read 'The Water Knife' from the same author, which also takes place in a 'soft dystopian' future. It wasn't until I started reading his short story anthology 'Pump Six' that I realized that each of these stories might take place in the same world, only at different points in the future and on different continents. Great stuff!

Aug 06, 2017

I didn't finish this - I was not intrigued enough to make time for this before I had to return it. I only made it through the first 50 pages.

Sep 17, 2016

I literally own two hats that are indicative of how much I despise talking politics with opinionated, fundamentalist republicans and democrats. I have one that says, "I'm with Her" and one that reads, "Make America Great Again." I don't really wear them I just repeat these statements and hardly anything else when I'm around either group. Growing up Mormon I run from any fundamentalists who claim to be the "right" party, religion, recovery group etc. I don't think this novel got everything right about the future we face thanks to GMO's, pollution, climate change, resource depletion, and over population. However I do believe this is probably the most likely scenario I've read to date. And if you really want to be scared into action read The Sustainability Secret at the same time.

May 11, 2016

This is the "best" concept of the last days scenarios I've read so far. I love his ideas, especially the clones.

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Jul 02, 2019

navy_owl_217 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

PimaLib_ChristineR Apr 27, 2018

PimaLib_ChristineR thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Aug 29, 2017

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Dec 12, 2010

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