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REVIEW: 'The WIndup Girl' by Paolo Bacigalupi

   Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand.  Undercover 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; 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, 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? Award winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.


   I think not having any really engaging characters is what hurt this book for me. I usually latch onto good characters and frankly I really didn't like any of them.

   The other thing that stands out to me is that it's only 360 pages. That's hard to believe, even though I have the book in my hands. It feels like it's about 3600 pages to me. As I read it I started thinking about all the awards and wondering how great of a sci-fi school book this would be as it was just a punishing a read as most of the literature in schools. Actually looking at the last several books I've read, I've probably read more than 3600 pages of reading in half the time it took me to push through this book.

   I swear I have never seen a book take so much time going over details and rarely explaining anything. That, most of all made me wonder how good or award winning the author deserves to be. In the end we have a book that is a job to read, with poor characters, too much explaining at the same time there isn't enough of the right explanation going on. I'd say most of the praise this book got was because of the 'message' it put across about 'where our future is going'.

   And one nitpicky thing:
   I found the use of the term "calories" pretty stupid. It's food, nobody is going to start calling it calories anytime soon. It's like a zombie book coming up with a different term for their zombies than zombies. It's food damnit!

Bottom Line:

   This book demonstrated what I often see with award winning books not equaling good books.  Sure the idea was interesting, but the execution was horrible in my opinion.  Flowering over descriptive narrative does not make a story good.  Maybe you will enjoy this book?... but I cannot recommend it.


  1. I generally like alternate future apocalypse type stories so I was fairly excited for this especially with all the hype surrounding it. I must say this book fell far below my hopes. I felt like I was reading a textbook at times given the dry writing and lack of any real excitement. The characters were bland and their struggles weren't all that engaging. I will say however that my review is not complete as I couldn't finish the book and stopped around page 80 or so. There is so much crammed into this book that as soon as I felt like I understood what was going on I realized I was actually more lost than I thought. I have a feeling this is one of those books that gets the critical acclaim bc of the message and the intelligence in the writing as opposed to the actual storytelling. I'd like to push through this book at some point in the future but I read for enjoyment purposes and quite frankly, I didn't enjoy what I read at all.

  2. I really did not enjoy this book.

    My biggest problem is that the book had no emotional center at all. No character was worth liking, let alone actually rooting for. I mean Anderson? Hock Seng? Emiko? The closest thing to a character to root for was Jaidee, and even he didn't really grab me before his inevitable demise. The plot didn't really present anything where you wanted to say "yay." I guess the theme was greed destroys all? But even that was muddled by the end.

    I also just didn't buy the world setting. As Xarran said, it needed a bit more explaining. The book was really more about the setting than about the characters, but it certainly could have been presented in a way that made sense. I'm honestly still not really sure what happened, and what I am sure of just doesn't seem believable to me.

    The writer just tried to do too much in 360 pages. It really might have been better to make this into a trilogy or something. or at the very least, focus on one or two characters.