Most of the books I have come to review so far have fallen in to my hands in one of two ways: either I see the book on the shelf and because it looks interesting I pick it up, or the book is recommended to me either by a friend, family member or by the library itself. A recommendation by my local library led me to this latest novel, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.
Publishers Weekly probably summarized the book best when they wrote:
Starred Review. Noted short story writer Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories) proves equally adept at novel length in this grim but beautifully written tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation. Capt. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai of the Thai Environment Ministry fights desperately to protect his beloved nation from foreign influences. Factory manager Anderson Lake covertly searches for new and useful mutations for a hated Western agribusiness. Aging Chinese immigrant Tan Hock Seng lives by his wits while looking for one last score. Emiko, the titular despised but impossibly seductive product of Japanese genetic engineering, works in a brothel until she accidentally triggers a civil war. 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.
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Personally, I found this book very difficult to read; I really had to struggle to get through it. I am not a fan of these kind of political type stories so I was very disappointed when I realized that’s what this was.
Now I am not saying this book is badly written – far from it in fact. The book is excellently written. The characters all inhabit a kind of gray morality, none of them being either truly a hero or a villain. They are all looking to survive in a cruel world and things like morals and rules can get in the way. There is no real winner or loser.
The plot seemed a bit erratic a first but as the book progressed you begin to realize how everything threads together. It it truly a well written book even if this kind of thing isn’t my cup of tea.
Fans of William Gibson and other authors who write of a future dystopia will enjoy this book. Also recommended for those who like a good political tale.