Friday, March 13, 2015

The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

I picked this book up at the, you guessed it, at the Baltimore Book Fair. I picked it up purely on the cover art. It looked pretty neat, and I thought the title, The Wind Up Girl, was unique. What could this book possibly be about? 

When choosing books, I usually gravitate towards historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy. Many times, it's a combination of genres, like mystery-fantasy or mystery historical fiction. Usually my tastes are never purely science fiction. This topic, "biopunk," as I researched the background of this book, is something different than what I'm used to reading. It's real science fiction, ya know?

The story follows 3-5 individuals who reside in the Thai kingdom. Due to global warming, the land is sinking, but keeps it at bay with levees. Instead of gas and coal, food is the currency, and epidemics of all sorts are a moment away. 

The main characters are a white man by the name of Anderson, and Emiko, a "wind up" girl. Anderson works for a calorie company and is undercover to seek out new foodstuff for his company. He works in a factory where these big elephant type things called mega.... something, are the only things big enough to control the machines who create energy. There is some deal with Algae that infect the other characters later in the book and cause chaos in the factory. 

Emiko is a "wind up," a non-human made for the pleasures of humans. They are sex slaves, they are toys and they are soldiers. After her former owner left her in Thailand, she goes to work for a strip club (I think it's sex performance art), and there are a few graphic chapters where Emiko is forced to do things against her will. She hates it, but she is also programmed to enjoy it too. 


I read the book, but I have to tell you that as soon as I put it down, I didn't remember half the stuff that happened. So, I went on good reads to read up on it again, and became intimidated by the reviewers who put a whole heck of a lot of thought into reviewing The Wind Up Girl, with bold essential questions and themes... 

I'm into that, but you know, not reallll into that. I did not think about any of that when I read the book. The only character I thought was interesting was Emiko and I was worried how she was going to get out of this messed up situation that was Thailand. There is a lot of political drama going on, and one of the other characters dies in the book after the government broke their promise to him. I don't remember their names but I appreciated that Bacigalupi used political corruption in many parts of the world as inspiration.  

Anyway, politics change in Thailand in a huge way, and people are violently killing each other. Anderson, who I should give two shits about, but don't care about at all, wants to find the seeds in order to keep his job as a Calorie man at this mega corporation, in you guess it, America. Emiko clings to Anderson for dear life because she knows that Anderson is her way out of the mess her past owner left her in. 

To quote Star Wars (the few quotes I know), Bacigalupi's social commentary is "strong with this one." Bacigalupi's futuristic, dystopian society is practically dripping with what he thinks our culture is turning into. 

I like my books to be easy reads and engaging. (Which I guess doesn't make me a very good English teacher). I think The Wind Up Girl had a lot to say about the future of our world and how we need to get our act together or else, buuuutttttt...... it was hard to follow for me. I don't know if it was the Asian politics, or the idea of foodstuff and calories, or the epidemics, or even the diversity of characters, but it was a tough book to read right before going to bed. 

I may give it another try again the future. You know, if I run out of books to read. 

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