February 09, 2013

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

This is a very bleak steampunk themed look at a dystopian world.  I like dystopian books normally, but I had a lot of trouble connecting with this one.  It had some good premises, but unrelatable characters.

In the future the world's wealth is measured in calories.  Human bings have messed too far and now food is scarce, there are terminator genes in the food, and several mutated diseases and bacteria abound.  There are also new creatures that have been bio-engineered, even people.  Among them there is Anderson, a calorie man who is the Thai realm looking for a seed bank and the treasures it could hold within, to return to the big corporation he works for.  And then there is Emiko, a windup human who was left for trash when the Japanese business man who owned her decided he didn't want her anymore.  She makes her living hiding from the authorities who hate her kind and whoring herself out at a sleazy bar.  Together these two will cause upheaval in the city and start a new future that could be more frightening than the one they are already living in.

Emiko, despite her degrading experiences and unique situations I couldn't really get a feel for.  I felt pity at times, but that's about it.  And I'm not sure if this is the reaction I was supposed to have.  After all, she is a wind-up and considered not a real person by society.  So maybe that was the author's intent.  Anderson was also not that great of a character.  I couldn't really feel out his motives.  Same with pretty much everyone else in this book.  None of them had clear cut thought processes or even inspired sympathy.  And finding a glimmer of hope in them was near impossible.

I liked the different ideas presented in this book.  Certainly messing with the food system is a scary thing and even eerily similar to some of the experiments companies are doing already.  To add in changing the genetic makeup of humans too just seems logical.  But as for the actual telling of this story I was confused on so many things.  There are just so many unanswered questions on how the world got to the place it did in this book.  And then the plot itself is just so rushed around jumping between different characters that it was hard to follow.  I was never quite sure who was on who's side, doing what, and why.  And I should warn that there are a lot of graphic areas of this book involving sex, violence, murder, rape and sickness.  And it is explicit and described in-depth.

Not really too my taste but it had a lot of unique concepts.  I'm sure someone who enjoys science and dystopians would enjoy it very much.  But I need to relate to the characters if I'm going to enjoy a book.

The Windup Girl
Copyright 2009
359 pages

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