Bacigalupi is very imaginative in The Windup Girl. Imagining a future where the growing of crops has been dominated by genetic engineers in the Midwestern US that release terrible plagues to ensure the viability of their own goods, he gives a chilling view of what might happen after petroleum reserves run out and global warming has flooded major cities. Very well written, from a variety of different viewpoints. I loved Jonathan Davis' narration--he did a very good job creating a unique voice for all characters and mimicking accents characters from various locales in Asia. The Windup Girl herself is very empathetic. As a warning, there are very graphic parts in the book, especially in regards to the profession the Windup Girl is forced into after she is abandoned by her original owner. Still, I highly recommend it. I gave it 4 stars because there were a few times when it seemed to drag a bit and was a little repetitive. But it's a great listen if you've got the time.
Criminal Defense Lawyer. Musician. Geek.
I loved the concept for this book; it seemed like it would be right up my alley. But my god, it is slow. Horrifyingly slow. And miserably depressing.
After reading a number of the reviews (after throwing in the towel), it appears the book may pick up after the second half. Well, that's a very long listen for something that may, or may not, get better 10 or 12 hours into it. I gave up after my personal compulsory 3 hour listen. I feel pretty strongly if there hasn't been a hook after 3 hours, it's not worth my time. And, quite frankly, I feel like that is being generous sometimes.
I will say this; there are aspects of the book that are very well done. It is descriptive. I felt like I could envision this dystopian Thailand. But there was nothing there to grab me and draw me in. Great, we have this beautifully laid out dystopian vision; now what? Repetitive characterizations and heavy handed symbolism. On the plus side, the narration was really very well done.
A disappointment overall.
I already have! This was my second listen and I enjoyed it more this time. The plot is so thick that it took me a few times to really understand all the concepts that were presented. I will let it sit for a year or two and give it a third round. One of the few books that I have re-visited.
Memorable? The disturbing sexual scenes were memorable in a rather traumatic way.
Yes, he is one of my favorite narrators. He is not overly dramatic (read Scott Brick here... booo) yet knows where to place emphasis on what could be difficult to follow passages.
It's has taken me a long time to stew over this book and now that I have twice listened to it I think it is even more disturbing and worth the listen. The performance was flawless. Is it possible to create a world so alien to our own and then project the listener into that world without leaving us lost? Paolo makes me feel like I had been there and Jonathan reminds me of the sites and sounds. More than a credit well spend it was time well spent.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Despite my hesitation after reading some less-than-favorable reviews, I took a chance on this book and rather liked it. Bacigalupi's hard-edged, confident, cerebral prose resembles that of William Gibson. The novel takes place in an ecological dystopia some 200 years in the future, an era when fossil fuels are nearly exhausted, sea levels have risen, and genetically-modified plants and diseases have run amok, wiping out original species. Humankind has regressed backwards both in technology -- relying on specially-bred animals and stored energy springs for power, and using boats and dirigibles to get around -- and in civility, living in a world of xenophobia, factionalism, and human exploitation.
The events of the story occur in a future version of Thailand. In Gibson-esque fashion, Bacigalupi introduces a motley cast of characters with intertwining stories, a hustling North American "calorie man" desperately looking to make a quick fortune from the discovery of lost foodstuffs, a duty-driven officer of a militarized environmental protection force struggling to hold pestilence out of the Thai kingdom, a genetically engineered sex slave who's despised by a xenophobic population but possesses a strange power, and a once-wealthy Chinese refugee who now must make deals to stay alive.
I enjoyed the calm intensity that Bacigalupi brings to his story, the vivid sense of a declined world in motion, where people are nonetheless surviving and living their daily lives as best they are able. I appreciated that the author didn't try to lead readers by the hand, but left us to soak up his reality and a set of intrigues already underway. The Windup Girl's setting, texture, and level of literacy feel quite different from a lot of other science fiction books, but its images and scenes stuck with me more than most. Perhaps this one will be remembered for painting a stunning vision of the-future-in-the-hazy-distance for 2009, in the same way Neuromancer did for 1984.
Criticisms? Well, some readers have complained that the plot is slow-moving and the characters aren't very involving. The former charge -- arguably true in this case -- rarely bothers me in a good novel, but the latter is hard to deny. The characters, cogs in a complex plot, never quite become sympathetic (we hardly learn anything about the backstory of the American), and the only one I found truly interesting, the vile but mesmerizing Dr. Gibbons, doesn't get much stage time. Still, the book swept me up as its plot strands converged towards a blazing finale, and I would certainly consider Bacigalupi a writer to keep an eye on.
The audiobook reader deserves a lot of praise, with subtle but distinct differences in accent for the various characters.
This is like a Graham Greene novel, set in a future world in which bioengineering and energy shortages have altered everyday life a lot. The Kingdom of Thailand is a self-isolated nation whose independence from the "calorie companies" that supply the world's food (engineered so that customers can't grow it themselves and are stuck paying the calorie companies through the nose) is made possible by rigorous environmental regulations and prohibitions against imports like the title character.
There's scheming, double-crosses, conspiracies, corruption, spying and everyone is motivated by a desperate self-interest. Because there are so many characters, many of whom don't come together until the end, it takes this book a while to build up momentum. Once it does, though, it's quite exciting, and even when you're not sure where it's going, the narrator's superb performance, subtly modifying his tone of voice with each character's point of view, and adding lots of small touches (he'll narrated the description of someone going through a bag looking for something exactly as the person himself would speak while doing it, for example), make it all very vivid.
I'm only half way through and I'm sold. Hey..they don't pass out Nebula awards to just everyone! Both the story and the performance are excellent...I'm not a critic...I just love thoughtful, innovative, speculative fiction...especially if it's delivered well! And that's what you get... if you just click it!
To get a feeling for this book, Mr. Bacigalupi has released various short fiction stories on the web (calorie man, yellow card man). This is a fantastic book. Its about an uncertain time in the future where corporate greed and unconcerned use of resources by everyone has led to a partial reversion of civilization. There is a bit of getting use to listening to foreign names and words, but beyond that the story is very well laid out. There are branching stories intricately woven together. There are no cop-outs, sticky situations aren't magically resolved, and the ending is fitting with the feeling of the story.
I really, really liked this audio book. The narrator did a fantastic job with giving each character a unique voice. But the best part was the story, it was very intriguing and I found myself listening to this book every moment I had. Great science fiction.
I listened to this book twice. The subject is current although the technologies described to cope are in many ways less advanced than many of today's "green technologies." However, the book is not about technology but rather about outcomes. The Calorie Man is rather two-dimensional, but working in biotech myself for the past 25 years, I sadly find him extremely realistic.
New evolution, indeed! An outstanding effort!