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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 (3600 )
5 star
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3.6 (1993 )
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Story
4.0 (1981 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Jason Coffin 09-30-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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    "Hard to believe this is a debut work."

    Great narrator - reminded me of Muller. I absolutely loved the story. Follows 4 characters during a revolution in the future. The future however felt believeable and scary. I actually saw an ad yesterday about using algae for fuel. It kind of spooked me out. You do have to pay attention to the details in the beginning, but it is worth it in the end. Congratulations for Paolo, he has a bright future.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David sandy hook, CT, United States 09-30-09
    David sandy hook, CT, United States 09-30-09 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "get caught up"

    Its a very REAL book. you get to know and care about the windup girl and her plight. you can almost smell the slums and factories. I will listen to this again real soon, just to get the stuff I missed.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Dukes Richland, WA 12-12-13
    L. Dukes Richland, WA 12-12-13 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Astoundingly good, but not for the faint of heart."
    What made the experience of listening to The Windup Girl the most enjoyable?

    This book is wonderful at many levels. The author's writing style is really captivating. I was hooked from the first pages when he describes Lake encountering a rambutan at the market - how it tasted, felt, looked. The story is also remarkable. I happen to love post-apocalyptic fiction and Southeast Asia. I think he nails both. There are no heroic characters in the story - no one can afford to be heroic in times like that. In spite of that, the characters are all engaging (while not necessarily likeable), and some you expect to be villians are not villians at all. My feelings about the story changed constantly, and kept me completely engaged. It is hard going at times - a brutal and vicious world where day-to-day survival is a challenge. I liked it that the farang (foreigners) were NOT the good guys. I have spent some time in Bangkok and the images the author paints really make the book shine. The cultural conflicts and differences between the Thai, Western, and Chinese Malay characters were also right on the mark, and made the story that much more interesting. I loved the reader as well. I will look for more of his stuff.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Windup Girl?

    I remember two in particular - the discovery of rambutan in the market (I love rambutan too), and the description of the spring factory that uses the megadonts to power all of the machinery. The author does an exceptional job of creating the technology base used in this dystopian place.


    Have you listened to any of Jonathan Davis’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I immediately recognized his voice and had to rummage way back in my brain to remember that he read Snowcrash (another dystopian story) by Neal Stephenson, another favorite author of mine. What a great range of voices he does. How can he sound so authentically American, Thai, Chinese, British, and Japanese all at once. Even his female characters are entirely believable.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Definitely not. It is a complex and intellectually and physically very intense. I listen on my drives to and from work in twenty minute chunks, which was about right.


    Any additional comments?

    I was so disappointed when the story ended. Would love to her more about the Windup Girl. I am not surprised this book won both the Hugo and Nebula and in fact, that was how I came to choose it. I will be reading more of Bacigalup for sure.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Liam 03-22-13
    Liam 03-22-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Starts slow but bear with it"
    Where does The Windup Girl rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Most of the audiobooks I've listened to so far are my favourite books so that may not be the best indicator of the story itself.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The machinations of Hock Seng -- his history and his character. Of all the characters in this book, he was the most compelling to me.


    Have you listened to any of Jonathan Davis’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I listened to Snow Crash just after The Windup Girl. I would rate this one slightly higher. I think it was probably a more demanding performance and he handled it just as well.


    Any additional comments?

    The story started slow for me. It seemed, while I was listening, that the slightest thing would distract me and minutes would go by before I paid attention again. I put it on the shelf for awhile but came back to it. I'm glad I did because once I got past the opening, the story was compelling.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Guinnevere Burlington, VT, United States 12-10-12
    Guinnevere Burlington, VT, United States 12-10-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Best. Narration. Ever."

    This is a wonderful, dark, completely absorbing story about a time and place different from our own yet plausible as an alternate future born of today. For example: the devastation of famine, disease and violent conflict caused by corporate (and nationalistic) genetic modification, and subsequent control, of food crops and animal husbandry. You don't need to be a science fiction or fantasy fan to thoroughly enjoy this book. You WILL be sucked in and fascinated. It is about much much more than the perceived main character though she provides an intimate window into the times. My one and only hesitation to give this book an overall 5 star rating was the author's ever-so-slightly narrow development of said main character and the fixation on her repeated humiliation. While necessary to the story it was played out almost gratuitously. I also didn't think his forward reflected much of anything in the book even though he describes his inspiration for writing it--but that's neither here nor there.

    Anyway, Jonathan Davis is just STELLAR! He can narrate anything and anyone. A man with a gentle American accent who left in my memory the distinct voices of Thai and Japanese women (to name just a few characters). I mean: when I think back on the listen I hear the sound of foreign women's voices speaking, not his. That is how good he is. It's unreal how talented, actually, and I cannot recommend his work highly enough.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    james 11-23-12
    james 11-23-12
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    "Creative Plot, Successful Narrarator"
    Would you listen to The Windup Girl again? Why?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Windup Girl?

    Memorable? The disturbing sexual scenes were memorable in a rather traumatic way.


    Have you listened to any of Jonathan Davis’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    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.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 01-30-12
    Michael 01-30-12 Member Since 2011
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    "One of the few I've chosen for a second listen"
    Would you listen to The Windup Girl again? Why?

    Yes, I'm listening to it again now. The story is filled with details that are sometimes easy to miss especially early on as you're acclimating to a world that is truly foreign. The authors depiction of a culture and environment and the narrators incredible performance is both captivating but mesmerizing to the point that I often got lost envisioning situations or characters while the story moved on. Obviously this requires some focus, and that's a good thing!


    What did you like best about this story?

    Bacigalupi creates a window into world that has already been made to deal with a past oil crisis and global warming and is now dealing with the repercussions of our future genetic manipulation of nature. Humanity is living on a razors edge of it's own making and each characters storyline offers a point of view from the precipice that leaves you craving for more and more.


    What about Jonathan Davis’s performance did you like?

    While I could only really detect about 5 primary voice types the narrator stayed true throughout the 'reading' to each characters voice characteristic - to the point that I could instantly tell which character was speaking even as the chapter was just opening. And by 'reading' Davis's performance was more akin to acting in each role, his performance was incredible in this book.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Nothing extreme, but a lingering, visceral reaction for sure. This book will leave a lasting impression on me.


    Any additional comments?

    I think this is my first real review of a book on Audible, but maybe not - I've listened to a lot of sci-fi here and may have fired off one before now and just forgot - I just haven't run across an audio book like this and really felt it deserved a review!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Bettendorf, IA, United States 01-04-12
    Mark Bettendorf, IA, United States 01-04-12 Member Since 2010

    Father,Husband,Photographer,Book Fiend. 1st Audiobook was 1776 byDavid McCullough;listened while putting up Xmas lights in snowstorm-Hooked!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "excellent"
    What did you love best about The Windup Girl?

    Everything: story was fantastic as was the performance


    What about Jonathan Davis’s performance did you like?

    Not only is Mr. Davis an outstanding narrator, he lends a distinct voce to each character. Pitch perfect.


    Any additional comments?

    What I loved most was the lack of contrivance in The Windup Girl. Nothing felt

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer 12-16-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Calories: Who would of thought..."

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-27-11
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-27-11 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Original, troubling world creation"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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