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.
This is not the type of book I usually read or listen to. I chose it because I wanted a change of pace over my usual read and because of the reader reviews .I am so glad I did. It is one of the best listens I have discovered on Audible.com and recommend it highly. I am not surprised to see it win an award. Can't wait to listen to his latest.
Love epic sci fi and fantasy, but hate looking of really good books. So many duds out there. I am gamer too.
Very good hard core sci fi in the world it is set, with a message that is not preachy, but a very slow moving story. If you like story over action then this a good book for you. The story follows characters who seem to have very little interaction that leads to a chain of events that reach the book's conclusion. The world is gritty and grimy, set between the few haves and the all the rest of the have nots. The wind up girl is not electrical/mechanical but is genetically engineered. Which to me makes her still human, but how she is 'programmed' that makes her the way she is. It is the simple fact that she is made that is how others perceive her. The narrator is very good, he can jump from an American male to an Asian woman without a hitch. His voice is clean and clear. Over all the book has the feeling that is should be great, but in the end is somehow lacking.
I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.
Narrated masterfully by Jonathan Davis, Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Windup Girl" is stunning and sweeping, with a vocabulary that sticks (particularly thinking in economic terms of "expansion" and "contraction" vs. "recession" etc.), and a story that is engaging at several levels, from character, to setting, to plot. This audiobook has me looking both for more stories from Bacigalupi and narrations from Davis.
The narration was superb, the writing was fluid and detailed, character development was spot on, but I just couldn't get into the first half of this book. I wanted to like this book, and kept waiting for a hook to capture my attention, but it never came, instead it just trudged along.
The story very slowly and often painstakingly unraveled in the first half, introducing main characters who I didn't care about, and situations that didn't spark an interest. Even the hook of the book 'the new people', took most of the book before anything of interest happened.
It seems that when something interesting in this book did happen, it was dropped rapidly in replacement of something boring. I had hope when something unique happened with a 'new person' and the discovery of a great ability, but was let down once again when it was not explored.
Characters such as Yates and the scientist seemed to have great potential, but were never developed, and items such as the windup spring, and northern territories had great potential but were left in the dust. Exciting areas like Calorie companies and Gene Rippers were barely investigated, yet internal conflict between bland government agencies were written to near exhaustion.
The second half of the book does pick up, with unique and new concepts about survival, ethics, and commerce, and introduces more action, but it couldn't save the book for me.
Optical Engineer from San Jose, CA.
Most definitely. Jonathan Davis is a fantastic reader, and he is particularly good at portraying the darker side of life, which this book is full of. For a male reader, I think he is amazingly good at portraying the emotions of the female characters.
It is very similar to Ship Breaker in its post-apocalyptic themes. On the intrigue side of things, I would say that it is similar to Alastair Reynolds books, but with a much less fantastic setting.
Jonathan Davis really brings the characters to life: their pain, their conniving spirits, their confusion, and especially their insanity.
I have come to realize that I don't personally enjoy this type of book as much as others. It isn't a very "fun" story, but this type of book never is. It has some very serious themes, and of course, lots of sexual content and a rape scene. It is a story of very complex motivations and conflicting goals.
A brilliant "biopunk" novel set in Thailand, in the post-petroleum age where genetic engineering has unleashed plagues on crops and people alike, and Thailand maintains its independence by preserving its sacred heritage seedbanks, untouched by Western "calorie companies."
The main characters are Anderson Lake, an undercover "calorie man" (which makes him a bad guy, basically, though he does have his occasional redeeming moments), and Emiko, the Windup Girl, a genetically-engineered "new person." However, there are several other POV characters in the book.
This is a pretty glum view of the future, and some of the technological changes struck me as unlikely, but for the most part, it was a convincing dystopia. The only problem was that none of the characters were entirely sympathetic (except Emiko, who was flat, personality-wise), and with the shifting POVs in each chapter, it's hard to get engaged with any of them. Only towards the end do all their separate storylines come together.
Also, be aware that there are a couple of viscerally described rape scenes, and the portrayal of Thailand (and other Asian cultures) is rather off-puttingly exotifying.
Nevertheless, for the story alone, it's still one of the best SF books I've read in years.
If you are looking for a concept that you will never forget...choose this book. It's been about a month since I listened to it, and when I cast my mind back to it, it's like remembering some strange dream that I had.
What an amazing writer, what an amazing mind. What a happy accident to have stumbled over Paolo Bacigalupi.
Usually I'm happy if I don't notice the narrator at all, but for The Windup Girl I'll make an exception. The reading actually enhanced the story for me, and I'll now seriously consider buying other Audible books just on the basis that they're narrated by Mr Davis.
Most dystopian visions suffer from either a lack of a credible transition phase from the present to the timeframe of the story or the description of the future is too shallow and sparse to convey a sense of believability that leads to immersion in the new world. In The Windup Girl, PB delivers what can be described as a textbook example of how to "do it right." In this case, global warming has led to rising oceans (placing littoral communities at risk) and environmental collapse. Man has already compounded the problem by attempting to "gene hack" plants for the food supply which has led to new and potentially fatal diseases. Cheap energy sources are also gone; while electricity is still available, the world operates in a quasi-mechanical state where human and animal energy is utilized. Because of disease, nation states have isolated themselves which has led to global economic collapse. The story begins in the early stages of a new expansion and takes place exclusively in Thailand.
Part of the appeal is the depth and breadth of the varied elements that go into crafting a complex societal structural. PB captures all the various elements in their gory detail: nationalistic protectionist behaviors, foreign nationals regarded as undesirable aliens, greedy imperialistic foreigners out to steal national resources, along with the common folk with retention of religious superstitions such as Buddhism, purveyors of vices, and the governmental infighting & politics. Into this milieu comes a "cereal" man who is secretly pursuing seed stock that may provide new genetic backgrounds resistant to disease and a "windup girl" who is an example of "new people" or genetically engineered humans produced by Japan to cope with their declining populations and at the same time, regarded by the Thais as abominations without souls.
While the early sections suggest a love story (a la West Side Story) between a foreigner and the windup girl in a land where neither is warmly received, the deeper exploration is the human struggle for stability and sustainability under conditions where little is sustainable. With the ever evolving biological threat, even that which is regarded as human may not survive. The dilemma is between the preservation of practices because of familiarity, comfort, and historical legacy versus the need for adaptation by both the individual and society. Refreshingly, all the expected human foibles are present. There are no winners, only the recognition of genetic survival as the only truly long term goal.
The narration is simply superb with comprehensive range of genders, ages, and ethnic groups. The flow and dramatic presentation is most appropriate and viscerally adds to the listening experience. Kudos to the narrator for an audible science fiction masterpiece.