Random Ruminations Remotely Related to wRiting.

‘The Windup Girl’

I finished a book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything much longer than six thousand words. Audible makes it easy and I just listen while I work.

Here’s my review of ‘The Windup Girl’ by Paolo Bacigalupi. I heard this novel mentioned several times at World Con and thought I would give it a try.

What it’s about:

In the not so distant future global warming has melted the polar caps and raised the level of the oceans. Wet and dry seasons are prolonged and unpredictable. The story is set on an island in Thailand. There are walls around the city keeping the ocean out.

All seeds are controlled by the large calorie corporations. Agrigen, the evil American corporation is the one mentioned most often. They have hacked all seeds to have only limited generations of reproduction, to force the world to keep buying their seeds.

The Japanese have developed artificial life technologies and refer to their creations as Windups. There are different types, designed to perform certain tasks. The author mainly mentions to human soldiers, domestic servants, and military dogs.

There is limited power. Most generators are wound by people or a large elephant-mammoth sounding thing called a megadont. Probably ‘gene ripped’ from those animals.

Anderson, an American eco terrorist, is running a spring (stored power) factory while trying to find Thailand’s source of uncorrupted seeds. While there he falls in love with a Japanese Windup girl.

Prejudice has not died with the changing world and much of the book addresses the social and ethnic stratification in the city where the story takes place.

What I thought about it:

It was an interesting story. The author tells his tale with descriptive, absorbing language. His characters are realistic and believable. Many of the players in the story are sympathetic while others are easily disliked.

His world is realistic and detailed. He knows Thailand well. I believe he lived there for three years before or while writing the story. The plot is compelling and has its twists and surprises. I am reasonably happy with the ending.

The story gets an R rating for language, violence, sex and sexual torture.

I can live without torture and don’t understand why some of the books of recent success spend so much time with it. It was necessary to the the plot in the book and seems realistic in the situation.

What annoyed me was the anti American undertone. The calorie companies were all American sounding corporations. Americans were always portrayed as self centered, money and power grabbing, with an attitude of manifest destiny toward world domination. Americans came in and were brash, disrespectful and demanding. The author has one character describe their language as ugly.

The developing attitude in our cultures of “if you’re human you’re bad” irritates me. And I’m not going to apologize to any nation or culture for being American. I’ve been in enough parts of this world to know what we have going for us and what we don’t.

I think Japanese is a beautiful language. French and Spanish have their moments. But I’ve heard Thai and to me it’s not pretty. And in America we have the idea that oriental people are cultured and refined. After three years living in Hawaii I learned that there is no culture who is polite and refined when loading onto the bus or grabbing for bargains at the grocery store.

I give the story four out of five stars. I think it’s well worth anyone’s time who is willing to put up with a little swearing, some violent sex, and megadonts squashing the snot out of people when they go on a rampage.
Philip ‘Norvaljoe’ Carroll is an Army trained orthotist who still believes that Hawaii is a foreign country, is proud to be American, but believes that all cultures are ok, as long as they don’t practice female infanticide or torture.

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