The Windup Girl

Monday, February 28, 2022

The Windup Girl
Paolo Bacigalupi, 2009

Hugo Winner - 2010

Premise: In the near future after some kind of economic and ecological collapse, forces of corporate greed, national pride, personal honor, fear, self-preservation, and self-discovery clash in Thailand. 

I had trouble starting this review. I kept telling myself that I was conflicted about the book, but I actually just have two simultaneous opinions:

1: Despite a slow start, I found the world and plotlines fairly compelling by the end.

2: Holy heck, I did not need that much extremely violent rape to understand the dystopia, thanks.

It also hurt the book that it took forever to introduce a viewpoint character that wasn't (at least at first glance) a greedy asshole. However, despite a pretty bleak and violent worldview throughout, many of the characters get what they seem to deserve in the end, which I appreciated. 

However, as soon as any character seemed to be about to do something important or emotional, at least half the time the narrative cut away, only for us to find out later through someone else's perspective what happened. I can't decide whether that was an effective technique to create a sense that no one knows what's really happening or whether it was just really annoying. 

The titular wind-up girl was both kind of awesome and played into some truly weird and worrying stereotypes. Before you go, oh, but of course she (as a genetically engineered person) was built to be weirdly submissive and involuntarily sexual because the people who built her wanted that,  the thing about fiction is, someone's writing that situation in the first place. The author decides that the fictional people who created this fictional race of "New People" would behave like that, for the purposes it serves in this story. Which are unpleasant to say the least, and sometimes a little racist against the Japanese. 

At the same time, when she was awesome, it was probably the best writing in the book. Which is why it was frustrating to keep being yanked out to read about Anderson the corporate villain or Hock Seng spinning his own plans. Jaidee and Kanya are fine, their plots were good.

The ideas are cool, although we only learn about the world in glimpses. Something collapsed global trade. Something ongoing is causing many crops to fail except for the ones controlled by a corporate oligarchy. 

So some good, some bad, some weird. 

2 Stars - An Okay Book