The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl

Read Time: 3 Minutes

This is one of those books I have been putting off for years. I started it (in Kindle form) back when it first came out and a few times since but could never quite bring myself to read more than a few chapters. I don’t really have an answer to why more than I struggled to connect with any of the characters or story.

I stumbled back on this as an “also bought” on another title I was looking at. When I saw it was available for around $3, I figured it was time to give it another try. It made it easier to get into, but all the way through the book I still couldn’t shake the feeling I could drop it and move on at any time and wouldn’t really care.

The premise of the story is interesting; set a few hundred years into the future where petrol-powered vehicle are no more, and most plant life is under attack by genetically engineered bioweapons that have devastated pretty much everything they’ve infected.

A race to perfect the next resistant strain of anything edible is now on, and countries will stop at basically nothing to control the calories.

Told from the perspective of a number of different characters, we’re exposed directly into Thailand of the future. Mostly, desolate slums, oppressive heat, and police-state enforcement of laws and morality.

None of the characters are all that complex, but instead the hints and titbits we get of their backstories are the most we see from a development point of view. Even the titular character, the Windup Girl (Emiko), seems mostly superfluous to the plot until later in the book, and mostly exists as a way to drive home just how horrible the world of the future is.

Emiko is “new people”; genetically engineered to be perfect and utterly servile to her human masters. Dumped by her former owner and left to her own devices in a country hostile to her kind, she survives only by people a target of sexual abuse and torture in a dubious strip club.

We do get more history and growth from Emiko than the others, who are fairly surface-level characters. The only other character I would have liked to have gotten more information on was (doctor? I think) Gibbons; a very minor character that we only meet briefly but whose impact on the world is immense.

The narration of this book was good, though the tempo at which Jonathan Davis read was painfully slow. Taking an already slow-paced book and reading it slowly didn’t do it any favours for me. I found that I had to double the playback speed, and even then, it felt like the story was crawling by.

Do I regret spending the money? No. It was interesting enough as a story and I am glad that I finally got around to experiencing it. Will I give it another listen in the future? Unlikely. I’m not as inspired to check out any of Bacigalupi’s other works either as I once was.


Science Fiction, Dystopian, Genetic Engineering, Hard Sci-Fi, Male Narrator
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