Sunday, June 9, 2013

Book Recommendation: The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi

[Something that I learned over the last two weeks: Computer problems are infinitely more stressful when they occur during the same week as a big move. However, now that I am in Louisville and my life is re-gaining stability (ie, finally having a permanent address), then I hope my blogging routine can go back to normal.

And no, my computer problems haven't been fixed yet, so no images in this review, at least not at the moment.]

So, back to our regularly scheduled programming...aka, The Windup Girl. I've already gushed about Paolo Bacigalupi's other books (Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities), so it was only a matter of time before I picked up this one. Like the other two novels, The Windup Girl takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting--a collapsing world where petroleum is almost non-existent, and where genetic engineering of crops has led to food monopolies and rampant disease strains (Monsanto, anyone?). It's an amazing, intelligent novel, albeit one that requires a lot of patience.

There are two things you should know before picking up this book:

1. This book is not an easy read. (If you don't read a lot of adult books, then this will be a huge adjustment.) It's heavy with details, and readers are thrown into a foreign, futuristic world without any form of a dictionary. But if you're a patient reader, then all of the strange words and concepts will become more familiar, and although the level of detail makes this a difficult read, it's also one of the book's greatest strengths--the worldbuilding is incredibly vivid and so well-constructed. And while I'm discussing the worldbuilding, I should also mention the foreign setting--the book is set in Thailand, and from what I've gathered with a brief internet search, the author does a good job of incorporating Thai culture into the story. (Well, okay, I did see some dissent on this. One person accused this book being 'a story of white people in an exotic world,' which is a fairly ingenuous thing to say, seeing as only one out of the five POV characters is white.)

2. This is not a story about good people. The plot is driven by survivalism and greed. And while the characters are highly complex and not incapable of virtue, do not go into this book expecting to cheer for the characters. (This has never been a turn-off for me, but I know other people feel differently.)

Paolo Bacigalupi is the master of thoughtful, complex post-apocalyptic literature. If that's what you're looking for (and you're not bothered by either of the things I mentioned above), then there is a very good chance you will love The Windup Girl.

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