The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Reviewed by Bernadette
Given that modern genetics has developed to the point that scientists can extract genes that code for fluorescence in a jellyfish and insert them into miceís DNA in order to make the mice glow green, one might wonder how the field of genetics will impact life in the future. In the world of Paolo Bacigalupiís futuristic sci-fi book The Windup Girl, the manipulation of genes has lead to the global take-over of bioengineered crops and blights designed by profit-hungry calorie companies. The only thing getting in the way of their complete monopoly on food is Thailand, which through the fanatically stringent Environment Ministry, secret genetic bank, and one inexplicably sophisticated genetic hacker, has resisted the calorie companies until now. The protagonists—the calorie man Anderson Lake, the Chinese refugee Hock Seng, and the simultaneously enhanced and burdened wind-up girl Emiko—outline the battle for Thailand as they each struggle to survive.
Overall The Windup Girl is a strong book. Its amount of pseudoscientific jargon is bearable and is used as a means rather than an ends, which is refreshing in the sci-fi genre. The novel has a slow start, but taking time to develop complex conflicts and alliances between individuals pays off in the climax of the book where Bacigalupi leaves the reader as clueless to the next event as his characters. Equally as interesting as the conflicts between characters are the conflicts amongst the individual character. Will Emiko break her subservient habits? Will Hock Seng learn to care for others? The Windup Girl is thoroughly enjoyable because of its strong characters and unpredictable tension-filled plot.
Readers are advised that the book may not be for those who are squeamish; there are several scenes in which Emiko is sexually humiliated and abused.