four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
47-July-Aug-2010
user_rating: 
0

A-The Windup Girl.epsThe Windup Girl won the 2010 Nebula Award for best novel and was named one of the best books of 2009 by Time magazine. The novel is set in the same world as Bacigalupi's award-winning short stories "The Calorie Man" and "Yellow Card Man."

The Story: Science fiction readers often encounter dystopian futures where the depletion of fossil fuels has led to the end of our energy-intensive way of life. Bacigalupi has created a new kind of future: here, empty skyscrapers fill the skies and computers are run by cranks, yet genetic engineering continues apace, as those powers with access to dwindling energy sources (like American biotech corporations) seek to consolidate their advantages. Another such power is Thailand (the book's setting), which has remained independent because of a strict environmental ethos. The Windup Girl follows several characters through the struggles of this dystopian world, including Emiko, the "girl" of the title, who is genetically engineered to be sexually submissive yet still longs to be free.
Night Shade Books. 300 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 9781597801584

SFsignal.com 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Bacigalupi perfectly captures not only the heart of this fabled country and its people, but also the core essence and contradictions of all humanity. And there's no better story to read than one which does all that." Jason Sanford

Sci Fi Wire 4 of 5 Stars
"The Windup Girl is as much an artifact composed of incompatibles as Emiko herself: a contrivance designed to contrive; a New Story designed to array us with the flood of the new. I think it is an important book, and a fine one." John Clute

Strange Horizons 4 of 5 Stars
"[O]ne of the most urgent, textured science fiction venues seen this decade, in that respect easily worthy of being ranked alongside Ian McDonald's India or David Marusek's North America. ... I can't recall another novel that has articulated the same vision of what it means to be human in the present moment with the same force." Niall Harrison

Io9.com 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While Bacigalupi's blending of hard science and magic realism works beautifully, the novel occasionally sags under its own weight. ... [A] lot of these problems feel like the narrative throat-clearing of somebody whose next work will be more polished and well-paced." Annalee Newitz

Critical Summary

Reviewers seemed to struggle with The Windup Girl, but in the same way one struggles with a great work of art. All were bewildered by the world Bacigalupi has created and by his ability to create characters that effectively dramatize its many differences from (as well as crucial similarities to) our own. Yet all felt the need to dwell upon some aspect of the book that did not quite sit right with them--whether it was the intense (though not gratuitous) violence or the sleights of hand Bacigalupi uses to craft the plot. Perhaps such reactions were not surprising, though, for a book that many hailed as a masterpiece of the unsettling.