Friday, February 25, 2011

The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

I know many of you are only going to have heard great things about this book.  It's why I read it.  It's how I managed to struggle to the end despite the gratuitous, unpleasant and degrading sex scenes.  And yes - I know there's worse out there, but personally I don't read them. It's a personal preference, but it's not the only reason I hated this book even though I concede it's all bad.  In fact it's tipped for a Hugo.  


A genetically created person, the windup girl, is dumped in Thailand, after certain almost post apocalyptic events.  Around the world a food corporation is calling the shots and countries are being devastated by designer plagues while Thailand struggles to hold out from their influence.


Yes, this is perfectly good, the plot is ok, I've heard some complaints it doesn't have a proper beginning or end, and that it just kind of stops, but I didn't think those ponts were completely unreasonable.  Moreover it's got an interesting feel and a great set-up.  At times it really did feel like an alternate world - or a future Thailand.


Not only did I feel like I was being preached at about the evils of the modern world by someone who didn't really understand the science behind the problem.  The sheer enormity of the mismatch made my teeth itch and slapped me out of the story, whenever I felt I might start to get involved with any of the rather unlikeable characters.  Now this is coming from someone who can read fantasy and science fiction, and not worry that our technology and that of the other world don't quite match up, but, for example, when a simple technology like seed sterilization is confused with sterile seeds (usually produced using hybridisation techniques) - then I just want to tear out my hair and go - please if you don't know any science, please avoid the detail, or at least bother asking someone who has a clue.


Basically this book is almost certainly going to get the Hugo.  Everybody I know loves it, it's a rollicking story with flawed humans in the wake of enormous disasters, and in particular a heroine (the artificially created Wind Up girl) who feels terribly out of place, but gains strength with adversity. 

I know, I shouldn't care about the science.  Or the fact that the book makes me feel "icky" and I just wanted to throw it over my shoulder, and kind of wish that I had.  Truth is some people like to be upset by their reading material - they think it makes them feel more for the characters.  And who am I to disagree?

Except I would like to say that while it's been dubbed "bio-punk," that seems rather a sadly incorrect description, because although the punk element is there, I would like to reassure readers that the bio certainly isn't.  Maybe "geopolitical punk" would be more apt?  It certainly seems to pull no punches there.

Actually if I'd gone into the book viewing it as geopolitical punk, maybe, just maybe, I'd have liked it. 

Review by Alicia Ponder

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