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.
"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)
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.
W.B. Yeats wrote, "Whatever flames upon the night, man's own resinous heart has fed." Bacigalupi's imagined future Thailand, his characters, and his sure and economical prose bring weight and life to that assertion. The characters especially are memorable in a Dickensian way.
The dystopian future of the story is all too plausible. Coastal cities drowned by melting ice caps. Giant corporations supplanting governments and destroying human freedom in the name of ever growing profits. Warfare of the rich upon the poor, conducted with famine, and genetically engineered insects, parasites and viruses. Bacigalupi makes every challenge real and still leaves room for unexpected hope.
I was slow to warm to Jonathan Davis' performance, but once well underway, his clear and distinctive voicing, both for narration and for each character made the novel all the more engaging and memorable. In a way I seldom do, I felt I had missed nothing by listening to the book instead of reading it. Kudos to Davis, and brickbats for me who was so slow to notice his mastery.
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.
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 an outstanding dystopian work with a strong environmental flavor. Following catastrophic disasters relating to both energy sources and food production, Thailand leads a precarious existence as a partially-sheltered enclave. Power struggles between internal political factions interact with the machinations of foreigners. At the same time, the life of the wind-up girl of the title mirrors these tensions, and she is not quite what she seems. The characters are well-drawn, the tone is dark, sometimes horrific, and the storyline strong and unpredictable. It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel, given the level of maturity it displays. Italian author Paolo Bacigalupi is definitely one to watch closely in the future. The audiobook is narrated by Jonathan Davis who is simply superb.
No doubt, the first half of this book is paced more slowly than the last half. It was interesting, and very detailed, which sets a good stage for the latter half where things pick up exponentially. If you can be patient with an initially slow plot, you'll be ok. Coupled with this slower plot pace in the beginning, I also agree with the previous reviews that much of the content in the first half is unnecessary to the finish. It felt to me as if the last half of the book was written first, and the beginning of the book was added for context. I give the first half three stars, and the last half five stars.
The "prologue" by the author is great backstory, and you can really see the parallels and motivation behind his tale, based on his real life experiences.
The narration was good -- but some of the section breaks within chapters weren't noted by a long enough pause, or something. Two characters would be in a discussion one moment, and the next, it would be two totally different characters in a totally different place.... On a printed page, the section breaks are clear and anticipated, but this audiobook needed a little more of a pause in between to make it easier to transition from scene to scene. Aside from this nitpick, very very good narration.
Overall, it's a very interesting book comprised of a rich near-future world set in a compelling location, with love-hate characters. If you're patient with the first half, you'll be well rewarded.
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.
The good about this book: Jonathan Davis, who did a great job, as usual. The plot was intricate and fascinating, the characters were all very complex and multi-layered. It's a very scary and creepily possible sounding future, so this book was great, except for...
the bad: I could only listen to a little bit of this each day, and as result, it's taken forever to finish it. I know it's supposed to be dystopian, but good heavens...it was such a relentess bummer, I had to turn it off and go listen to some current news (war in Iraq, bank failures, rising foreclosures rates, jellyfish invasions, etc) just to lighten my mood. In addition, this novel is so crammed with repetitive exposition, it made me scream more than once in the car, "She's obedient and she doesn't like it...he's an incorruptible fighter and a hero to the people...he's afraid he'll get killed with a machete before he buys his clipper ship...I got it, I got it, I GOT IT!"
It took a lot of patience to finish this, so I can't exactly call it gripping--but it was a very fascinating trip.
I really did want to like this book. With an interest in Asian language and culture, I found the post-apocalyptic Thailand backdrop to be quite compelling. I liked the author's writing and felt that, while the cast was indeed large, I did care what would happen to the characters. The reader gave a wonderful performance, impersonating a wide range of voices from that of a shrewd American businessman to a young Japanese woman.
What kept me from finishing the book was the intense and endless depiction of violence. I know that I am more sensitive to violence than many, but I was still surprised that this was not mentioned at all in any of the other reviews. The book began right from the start with a gruesome factory accident and brutal sexual assault and never subsided. While I can tolerate some violence, I felt that the explicit descriptions of pools of blood and mutilation were unnecessary and far too copious. At least with a printed book I could have glossed over those paragraphs and potentially continued to read, but I constantly felt nauseated while trying to read.
After struggling with over 1/3 of the book--compelled to read on because of the unique story--I finally couldn't take it any more. I would assume that for the average reader this book should be tolerable, but a word of caution for those more sensitive to explicit depictions of gory violence.
Bacigalupi is very imaginative in The Windup Girl. Imagining a future where the growing of crops has been dominated by genetic engineers in the Midwestern US that release terrible plagues to ensure the viability of their own goods, he gives a chilling view of what might happen after petroleum reserves run out and global warming has flooded major cities. Very well written, from a variety of different viewpoints. I loved Jonathan Davis' narration--he did a very good job creating a unique voice for all characters and mimicking accents characters from various locales in Asia. The Windup Girl herself is very empathetic. As a warning, there are very graphic parts in the book, especially in regards to the profession the Windup Girl is forced into after she is abandoned by her original owner. Still, I highly recommend it. I gave it 4 stars because there were a few times when it seemed to drag a bit and was a little repetitive. But it's a great listen if you've got the time.
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