Friday, July 1, 2011
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
From the publisher: Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-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 a 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, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?
First line: "No. I don't want the mangosteen." Anderson Lake leans over pointing.
My Thoughts: This was a truly thought provoking piece of science fiction, or (a new term to me) biopunk. It is the winner of several awards including the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award both for best novel. I went into it thinking I would like it. However after the first horrific, detailed scene of sexual assault I was uneasy and disturbed. I finished the book, but that was always in the back of my mind. I think I would have liked it a lot more if not for these scenes. The point could have been made without so much detail.
Even though there were no actual "good guys" (with the possible exception of the windup girl) I found I liked the main characters for the most part even though they were usually up to no good. You could see where they were coming from, what their environment was contributing to their actions. The four main characters were:1. Anderson Lake, an American calorie man representative with a secret agenda. 2. Hock Seng, an elderly Yellow Card Man, who runs a factory for Lake. 3. Emiko, The Windup Girl. She is a Japanese artificially created human who, having been left behind by her patron, finds herself illegally in Thailand being forced by circumstances to work at a bar in the sex trade. 4. Kanya, a "white shirt," an officer of the Environment Ministry's soldiers responsible for protecting the city.
The story kind of twisted around on itself. The ending was a surprise.
My rating: B-
Quote: "We are nature. Our every tinkering is nature, our every biological striving. We are what we are, and the world is ours. We are its gods. Your only difficulty is your unwillingness to unleash your potential fully upon it."