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The Windup Girl | [Paolo Bacigalupi]

The Windup Girl

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover 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; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman.
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Publisher's Summary

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover 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; instead, 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, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, 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? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of The Calorie Man (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and Yellow Card Man (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.

BONUS AUDIO: In an exclusive introduction, author Paolo Bacigalupi explains how a horrible trip to Thailand led to the idea for The Windup Girl.

©2009 Paolo Bacigalupi; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 2010
  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 2009
  • Best Books of 2009, Publishers Weekly
  • 10 Best Fiction Books of 2009, Time magazine
  • Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy 2009, Library Journal

"This complex, literate and intensely felt tale, which recalls both William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best, will garner Bacigalupi significant critical attention and is clearly one of the finest science fiction novels of the year." (Publishers Weekly)

"The Windup Girl will almost certainly be the most important SF novel of the year for its willingness to confront the most cherished notions of the genre, namely that our future is bright and we will overcome our selfish, cruel nature." (Book Page)

"A classic dystopian novel likely to be short listed for the Nebula and Hugo Awards" (SF Signal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (3479 )
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  •  
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 11-03-10
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 11-03-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    377
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    "Outstanding - great story - fabulous narration"

    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.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Msaly1 05-18-10
    Msaly1 05-18-10

    Semi retired CPA, Sarah's mom, corgi mom, avid traveler, political junkie, somewhere north of ATL

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful surprise"

    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.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Powell, WY, United States 09-30-09
    Chris Powell, WY, United States 09-30-09 Member Since 2007

    Love epic sci fi and fantasy, but hate looking of really good books. So many duds out there. I am gamer too.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hard core almost at it's best"

    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.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 09-28-09
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 09-28-09 Member Since 2001

    I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    389
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    Story
    "Stunning, sweeping, and masterfully narrated"

    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.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean Gately Scottsdale, AZ 09-28-09
    Sean Gately Scottsdale, AZ 09-28-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    Overall
    "A Wound Up Review"

    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.

    31 of 35 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Nelson Marietta, GA, United States 03-25-13
    Dave Nelson Marietta, GA, United States 03-25-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Amazing Story"

    The world that Paolo Bacigalupi has created is a fantastical one, capturing the world in the midst of great change. In it we are shown how even though everything is changing culture does not change as fast as the world around it.

    Jonathan Davis does an amazing job narrating this story; I am totally blown away by his performance. He fills the characters with so much life, making them each a vivid character with their own desires and fears. His ability to create a palpable difference between the different Asian cultures is fantastic.

    I really enjoyed the science fiction aspects of this story, the new words, the blending of different languages, new creatures, and most of all interaction between the different characters. Every character expresses their desires and fears as the story moves along at a perfect pace, almost all of the characters are both hero and villain, living in some shade of gray. Good stuff.

    There are some very brutal scenes in this book where I feel the author went WAY overboard, to the point that I almost stopped listening and deleted the book, but instead I turned the player up to 3x speed and got past them, it was worth it (but I think it would be a better story leaving some things to the imagination instead of spelling them out in horrifying detail.)

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ohtochooseaname SAN JOSE, CA, United States 04-27-12
    ohtochooseaname SAN JOSE, CA, United States 04-27-12 Member Since 2006

    Optical Engineer from San Jose, CA.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Intrigue"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Windup Girl to be better than the print version?

    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.


    What other book might you compare The Windup Girl to and why?

    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.


    What does Jonathan Davis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Jonathan Davis really brings the characters to life: their pain, their conniving spirits, their confusion, and especially their insanity.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Halethorpe, MD, United States 03-17-12
    David Halethorpe, MD, United States 03-17-12 Member Since 2010

    Indiscriminate Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great biopunk novel, though not unproblematic"

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julia Venice, CA, United States 07-21-11
    Julia Venice, CA, United States 07-21-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Stunning."

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fredrik Pettersen Florida, United States 05-29-10
    Fredrik Pettersen Florida, United States 05-29-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    90
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    14
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    3
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    "Great book, made even better by a skilful reading"

    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.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 267 results PREVIOUS12327NEXT
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  • John
    Liverpool, United Kingdom
    2/10/11
    Overall
    "Breathtaking"

    I'm two thirds the way through this novel, but I feel sufficiently confident thus far to post some comments. It's easy to appreciate why it has won significant awards.
    Whereas I did not enjoy other works by the author, I may have to re-read and give them a second chance after this book.
    It's hard not to use superlatives to describe 'Wind-up Girl'. From the start, this book is, in my subjective opinion, fascinating, stunning and visionary. I think some significant credit is also due to the excellent narration of Jonathan Davis (who, I'm noting, does a good job on several other books)
    A twenty second century Bangkok is richly described and experienced through the lives of the central characters.
    By moving between several characters whose lives intersect the novel keeps a freshness going between chapters.
    It's not a hard science SF novel, in that the author does not get bogged down in the science of genomics, but neither does he commit any major howlers in his inferences and extrapolations. The characters are well fleshed and the story has a realistic progression. An entirely original work, though with perhaps more than a nod toward the works of other great authors such as Phillip.K.Dick. I anticipate that this will see a major cinematic adaptation at some point.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • VicHoon
    Rayleigh, United Kingdom
    1/17/12
    Overall
    "Glacial."

    After investing 5 hours I have given up with this audiobook. There is way too much time dedicated to slow exposition as back stories are built. A simple activity such as hiding some cash in a hidey hole inside a bamboo wall takes about 15 minutes to achieve. For some reason I am stuck with the impression that most character conversations have to involve someone shrugging. It's a shame because the Asian post-civ setting is interesting but yes, I get it: Malaysian, Thai and Chinese people are deep thinkers whose complex cultural rules need to be navigated carefully. The trouble is that Bacigalupi hammers this home page after page after page (i.e. minute after minute after minute), at the expense of actual plot development. I perked up a bit at the introduction of the Windup Girl character, but she's barely in the first five hours of this story.
    All the characters appear to be mired in their own personal misery, in a society that offers little joy. Fair enough if you like the semi-apocalyptic, post-civilisation genre, but there are other authors (Alistair Reynolds leaps to mind) who could convey the same mood but in a fraction of the time, and without sacrificing the depth that Bacigalupi seems to prioritise over action.
    If there's an annotated version of this audiobook, I suggest you try that instead, unless you have infinite patience.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Bury St Edmunds, United Kingdom
    6/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Warning before you start listening"
    What disappointed you about The Windup Girl?

    This book was written in the present tense and narrated with remarkable lethargy. I wish I had listened to a sample first but the reviews were so good I just bought it. I normally listen to a book a week but I found I had only managed five hours in 3 weeks after I started listening to this. Slow plot development, laboured irrelevant descriptions of situations and all in the present tense. I have decided to give up at the 5 hour mark.


    Has The Windup Girl put you off other books in this genre?

    No, love the genre.


    How could the performance have been better?

    It was just too lethargic.


    You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Nope.


    Any additional comments?

    Present tense narrations should be flagged with a warning.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Holmfirth, United Kingdom
    4/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great story - Narrator on Valium"

    Jonathan Davis MUST have been paid by the minute. I can't imagine any other reason for the glacial narration. Fortunately my Audible app lets me change the narration speed. I found "1.5 times" was about right. As a result, this was a considerably shorter book than I'd expected!

    Now, the story: The Windup Girl is a fable of a world without fossil fuels, where mega-corporations claim Intellectual Property rights over genetically engineered cereal crops while millions starve. It's a story set in world where gene-hacked sub-class are quite literally, lower than trash.

    It's story of contamination, where disease, superstition and revolution spread in the same way as suspicion, fear and depravity.

    The Windup Girl exists in a place of poverty and decay, where your next mouthful of fresh fruit might see you coughing up blood in the gutter, and where the corrupted remnants of the police have become the most feared gang in the district.

    It's challenging. Especially because of it's heavy reliance on Thai culture. So don't expect an easy page turner. That said, I absolutely loved it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rachel
    Dromahair Leitrim, Ireland
    8/22/12
    Overall
    "A wonderful, involving read"

    This book just grabbed me from the beginning. Although I didn't have huge sympathy for any of the characters, the world created - in the not-too-distant-future - is all too horribly believable. The results of global warming, over use of fossil fuels and genetic modification in the hands of giant corporations (Monsanto anyone?) have left Thailand as one of the only Asian countries that still has some freedom, with rampantly mutating diseases being kept at bay by harsh methods and humans only just managing to get enough to eat. The American 'calorie man' is a kind of spy, seeking genetic information, whilst getting involved with a japanese windup girl - a genetically modified human designed to help the aging population of japan. The story escalates as characters lives interweave and crisis piles on crisis for the people of Bankok. A satisfying, well plotted and beautifully narrated story, I was sorry when it finished.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    WOKING, United Kingdom
    8/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I was unable to engage with the concepts"
    Would you try another book written by Paolo Bacigalupi or narrated by Jonathan Davis?

    This book was so far into the realms of fantasy that I was not able to connect with the central concept. I think it takes a certain kind of thinking to latch on to the general theme and to want to read more. If you have this kind of thinking,it is probably enjoyable but not for me.


    What was most disappointing about Paolo Bacigalupi’s story?

    I could not hook into the concept and the theme of what was presented.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Narration skipped from one concept to another. Not really the narrator's fault


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Felt unable to understand it and was sorry that I had downloaded it as I felt it was not within my realm of understanding.


    Any additional comments?

    None

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Philip
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    6/12/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An excellent book to take a chance on"

    A beautifully write and intriguing story. Twists and developments to keep your attention. Narration is brilliant.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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