Saturday, August 3, 2013

windup girl

The third book I read in Italy was The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. This looks like Bacigalupi's first novel...  NOPE, some checking has dispelled that misunderstanding, he's got a few novels out--a few since this came out and a few before--he also has a number of short stories, which look like they make take place in this Windup Girl universe, which is why this story seems to have some nice backstory elements to it. The shorts stories are collected in a volume called Pump Six and Other Stories.

Bacigalupi's Windup Girl universe is an imagined dystopian future Earth, after some horrendous man-made events have flooded the oceans, starved the population, used up the remaining fossil fuels, ruined the world economy, and reduced what's left of functioning governments to pockets of ultra-protectionist tyrannies. The streets are dotted with technological advancements in genetic engineering and energy harvesting, along with a return to manpower, draft animals, and a crushing class system. This dichotomy provides a really interesting backdrop for Bacigalupi's story-telling, and his characters are seamlessly woven into this world he's created. The writing, and the storyline are very thoughtful; a mix of soft and hard sci fi.

The Windup Girl is a series of interwoven subplots that knit into a story of one such future city-state in Asia. There is mystery, love and romance, action, intrigue, big business, conspiracy, illegal genetic tampering, rebirth, industrial espionage, class warfare, nation building... the list goes on. This story is packed, but it all works. With all of the topics touched on, this is a story of people. Bacigalupi has developed a complex plotline, and some pretty cool tech, but the tale is really driven by how his characters react to the events around them.

Nice job. Read this book.

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