book review: the windup girl

I’d been waiting to read Paolo Bacigalupi’s book The WIndup Girl for months upon months. I don’t know why exactly I was waiting. And then I found a cheap DRM-free ebook version and bought it for my trip to China. It worked perfectly.

So this is a science fiction story set in Thailand. There’s a calorieman who’s trying to figure out where this new fruit came from and there’s a windup girl who’s trying to get a better life for herself than being a sex toy at a horrible bar/whorehouse. Their stories intersect.

It felt very much like a William Gibson novel in its commingling of technologies and cool stuff going on. There’s a whole lot of political upheaval that takes place in the book, moreso than in a William Gibson novel, and the worldbuilding is neat. It’s post-oil so there are cycle-powered computers and using big animals to turn springs to store energy. There’s bioengineering of foods to survive plagues and of people. The windup girl is designed to be basically a geisha, so she’s designed to be uber refined and beautiful. This means doing stuff to her genes so she has unimaginably small pores to preserve the porcelainness of her skin. Since the rich people who’re supposed to own her would have climate control that’s not a problem. It is a problem when you’re dumped in Thailand to fend for yourself and your body can’t sweat to regulate its temperature.

It’s a good book. I think it won some awards this year [UPDATE: it won the Hugo]. I do like seeing SF that isn’t taking place in a Western future.

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