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 love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The Wind Up Girl is a strong work of dystopia science fiction filled with imaginative, vivid, and provocative ideas, settings, and characters that cast a horrible light on our present world here and now. The novel takes place in the capital city of a future Thailand that is barely holding out against global warming, scarcity of fuels and foods (calories), and prevalence of mutating, genetically engineered plagues that attack flora and fauna. Powerful genetic-agricultural corporations who control the world food and gene supply are itching to get their hands on Thailand's secret, "natural" seed bank. Genetically engineered people (wind ups), elephants, and cats play their roles (or break free from them). In this situation Bacicalupi tells his story from the point of view of several compelling characters whose schemes and dreams and destinies become ever more intertwined as the novel progresses.
Some reviewers have complained that the novel is too slow, especially in the first half or so, but I found it completely engrossing. Some reviewers have said that there are no likable characters, but found all of them very human and increasingly compelling. I sympathize with the reviewer who said that he'd have preferred shorter or fewer of the movie-type action scenes that kick in as the novel surges through its climax, although the reader, Jonathan Davis, does such a splendid job that I found myself excited rather than repulsed by the action.
Jonathan Davis delivers a virtuoso performance, convincingly reading parts for a Japanese wind up girl, an aging Chinese refugee entrepreneur, a Thai double agent, an American corporation operative, and more, his voice becoming appropriately tender or intense, cynical or ominous, jaunty or morose, depending on what's going on in the story.
All in all a fine listen!
I am not typically a sci-fi reader. I was simply tired of my usual reads and wanted something different. Although the reviews for this book are highly polarized - I loved it. Great story, many layers, unexpected twists, very well written and developed. The narration by Jonathan Davis is simply the best. Listening to him alone is enough reason to recommend this book. This is the first 5 star rating I have given in the 2-3 years I have been a member of Audible.com.
At first I thought the book was a little slow, then as events unfolded, I found myself thinking back to the earlier chapters. The characters were engrossing and very real and the future presented was believable.
This listen was good enough that instead of listening only on my commute, I would keep it playing after I got home.
The most important thing a science fiction novel must be is believable, if it can do that then it can get away with anything else and The Windup Girl pulls this off wonderfully. Paolo Bacigalupi has created a future world, Thailand, so dense and teeming with life, with heat, and with mystery that you can almost smell this imagined city, feel the sweat on your body, hear the noise of the over-cramped city. This is a fully realized world that never once loses its internal consistency; everything that happens is a natural extension of the world Bacigalupi has created.
What most stuck me about this novel was how terrifying the actual possibility of this world he creates is. While we imagine we have total control over genetically modified seeds and crops, or no matter how certain we are that cloning is perfectly safe, Bacigalupi taps into that uneasy feeling we all have deep down that we're not totally convinced we are masters of science. How do we know for certain that we aren't creating something that could go horribly, horribly wrong? Whose to say that a real company like Monsanto won't accidentally produce a strain of genetically modified wheat that winds up killing all the natural strains or infects some beetle that begins a plague? How can we really know all the possible consequences of our actions?
And this book is all about consequences and how each action effects another, seemingly unrelated action, how what one character does in an act of self defense can actually send an entire city into civil war. It's a valid point to think about because it speaks of responsibility.
One of Bacigalupi's great skills is in how he presents information in this world he has created. The names he's given to the various blights, diseases, companies, and people feel absolutely genuine: blister rust, cibiscosis, calorie-men, yellow cards, white shirts, kink springs; Bacigalupi gets the feel of this future just right. He also draws on a lot of recognizable themes from other great science fiction stories: I could sense he was inspired a lot from 'Blade Runner', 'Ghost In The Shell', and the brilliant but little seen 'Texhnolyze', but that he's also part of a new trend in science fiction to get away from urban American settings and make it a more global genre - District 9, Halo, and Junot Díaz's short story 'Monstro'.
This book is also part of another trend in science fiction where it takes its themes seriously to tell a story worth paying attention to: Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go' and McCarthy's 'The Road' both come to mind as stories that are warnings about our own future and, like any good sci-fi story, what it means to be human. And the final scene of this novel, the epilogue scene, is a wonderful scene where old meets new amid total devastation.
And though I am by no means an alarmist concerning the advancement of science, Paolo Bacigalupi makes a strong case for always siding with caution because you can never be to sure what trouble you might get yourself into. In that way this book is somewhat similar to Lovecraft's 'At The Mountains of Madness' in that you better be careful about messing with a nature you do not fully understand or else you might unleash something so terrible as to never be able to go back.
This is a fantastic novel full of great ideas, beautiful imagery (Bacigalupi is a helluva writer in that regard), and terrifying possibilities. The book is a tad too long, but never dull and no opportunity is wasted to continue building the Thailand in this story.
This book is excellent, and needless to say, Davis does his normally stellar job of narration, made even more incredible by his flawless handling of all the Thai and Chinese names. There isn't really a great way to describe this book. It's a meandering journey and I really had no idea most of the way where it was going, only that I loved the ride. It follows several different characters through turbulent events in a futuristic dystopian Bankok. I won't spoil anything else for you. Listen and love it.
Say something about yourself!
The Windup Girl is a great Sci Fi story. Really smart and engaging. A haunting look at a future where technology has surpassed our nature. Gritty and realistic. It well written, entertaining, and the narration is outstanding.
I would selectively recommend The Windup Girl. To those with strong stomachs, this is an escape from our reality. Paolo Bacigalupi's discriptions of a dystopian world is well conceived, with global plagues of man, flora, and fauna. He created new weaponry, energy sources, cartels, and social organizations. I found the the character development as interesting as his world as a whole.I would caution those who are sensitive to explicit sexual cruelty to feel free to jump over sections of this book, knowing that you didn't miss anything that would diminish the substance of the book. I would have preferred the graphic sexual scenes to "fade to black" and resume with the already well written anguish of Emiko, who couldn't help herself due to her genetic engineering.
I I felt for Emiko's tender feelings which were well developed throughout the book. Her inability at first to stand up for herself when her engineered buttons were pushed was anguishing. She desired to have self-determination. And her shame overpowered her programming to please others. She grew stronger throughout the story and became an integral part of the storyline. I didn't understand the title of this book until I was three fourths of the way through the story.
Jonathan Davis did a inspiring job through the myriads of characters, and especially as he presented Emiko's feeling to us. Kudos to Jonathan!
I definitely would like to see it on the big screen, as long as they cut the graphic sexual debauchery from the movie as I mentioned earlier. It was uncomfortable to listen to and I can't imagine seeing even 1% of it on screen.
I have to admit as others have, that the first half of the book was a bit confusing, even with the excellent character development. I had to backtrack multiple times to figure out what just happened to whom and try to figure out what it had to do with the story. Even so, everything did fall into place. And I don't have an alternative option for Paolo' choices. I liked the book. I was intrigued throughout the book. I listen to books in spurts each day, and then on the weekend I listened for eight to 10 hours while I work at home. During the long stretches of listening, I didn't mind needing to break for dinner or take other time-outs due to the intensity of the book. I enjoyed the book, story, and especially the Jonathan's reading.With my children, all grown up now, I kept reflecting on how the Windup Girl was engineered to be respectful and obedient to a fault. Just as we all attempt to train our own children to be. I saw in Emiko, what we would be like if we were never allowed to stand on our own two feet. She had disabilities, that at times were taken care of with caring concern, and times with impatience for the work they required, just like the real world. I empathized with Emiko's needs, and dreams. I applaud her endurance.Good Book!
Absolutely great book.
I loved the story, loved the characters and thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was so sad when it ended as I could listened to this story for much longer. It was hard to get into at first because I was slightly confused at all the different characters but once I got sucked in, I absolutley loved it.
Reading this book changed the way I feel about my grocery store, about the huge piles of delicious, inexpensive produce I see there. It will for you too.
This is a complex story, and as you-the-reader are trying to understand what is going on you are simultaneously learning what has happened to bring the world to this state. It is a dizzying experience. At first I could not decipher which of the characters was meant to be the protagonist and I felt some degree of distaste for them all. By the middle of the book, however, I loved each of them in some way or another - as much for their flaws as in spite of them. The ending was deeply satisfying, although I wish I could continue listening on and on.
Jonathan Davis is a favorite reader of mine and I chose this book largely because of him; he did not disappoint. The dystopian future Bangkok was an amazing setting for this engrossing story, and Davis' subtle, dexterous accents distinguish the characters without distracting from the narrative.
One of the best books I have read. Ever.