I'm a fan of Joseph Conrad, but this isn't his best work. It's windy and over-written, and seems dated, unlike most of his work. It's not helped by the narrator, who sounds like an old fogey sitting in an armchair with a plaid rug over his legs, and who often seems to get the rhythm or emphasis wrong.
The story is of a young man on his first real command, and though it's told in retrospect at the end of his career the narration was out of sync with the story, which needed to be told more vigorously, and by a person you could imagine once was a man of action. I was disappointed - though clearly others thought different - and might have given it an extra star had it been read as it should have been.
Some have complained this is slow, or took a while to get into it, but I had no such issue. I was absorbed with the fascinating world Bacigalupi created and the wonderful detail. It's an ugly, harsh world, but it seemed realistic somehow, and written in such a way you can feel the sweat prickle at you and smell the fetid aromas of a world gone wrong. It's a world of dinosaurs resurrected from their genes as work animals, of dirigibles and the odd coal fired car because there remains no fuel. It's a future world ruined by greed and rampant technology, great climate shifts, rising oceans, and genetic engineering gone mad. There's a warning in this somewhere.
I read this going in and out of work for a month. I would sit in the train and peer out the window at the passing scenery while I felt a growing sympathy for the wind-up girl, and curiosity at Anderson's schemes, and how it would end up. I found myself appreciating the things we take for granted - fresh fruit and vegetables, so sensuously described here, and the energy we use so unthinkingly.
I felt it all beautifully written, and if I have any criticism it seems at odds with many here. I enjoyed the slow and inevitable build-up that pointed to some final resolution - which, when it came, seemed a little simplistic.
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