The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi fulfilled the “Cli-fi (climate fiction) Book” for the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. Wow, did this book ever fit the category. This post-apocalyptic, hard sci-fi book about the destruction of crops and food sources scared me speechless.
Well, almost speechless. I like to talk.
Imagine in if you will Bangkok in the not-so-far distant future. The country has kept itself afloat (literally) during plagues and floods. The city is walled in to keep the ocean out and resources are scarce. That’s the setting Mr. Bacigalupi gives us, then adds political issues, industrial espionage, and the morality of genetic tinkering with foodstuffs, animals, and humans. He packed so much into the novel. I’m still trying to sort it all out.
The story scared me. This is my second Cl-Fi book. I read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood two years ago and felt uncomfortable with the realism in her dystopia. Mr. Bacigalupi gave me those same vibes. The world seems balanced on a precipice. Genetic engineering happens. We all know it. But what’s happening in those food labs we don’t know about? Both authors explore science gone mad and destroying the planet. All because scientists and industry can’t leave it alone. In both books, it blows up in the scientist/industrialists’ faces. And boom, global apocalypse.
The added political problems, including the country’s sovereignty, industrial espionage, refugees, and nationalism also scared me. Did I mention Mr. Bacigalupi threw everything into the book? That’s what made it real. And terrifying. The world had been ravaged by genetically altered plants that don’t self-seed. Companies who owned the formula to make the seeds ruled the planet with all the money and power. And the author added the plight of Chinese refugees into the mix along with a political structure for Bangkok that was unstable. How could they even hope to remain a sovereign nation when their Environmental and Trade ministries ended up at war? The power-hungry seed brokers were there to reap the benefits.
I’m not going to spoil. But the realism of the novel should shake people, make them think, get them to act. We are destroying our planet and it’s out of the hands of the individual. (So semi spoiler here. The ending was satisfying to see that sometimes we have power, we just don’t realize it.)
And the title. I’m still not sure why he chose The Windup Girl. The genetically engineered human, Emiko, had a big part in the book, but not enough to warrant the title. Hubby and I have been discussing it. He’s a sci-fi nut, and this book was right up his alley. I’m a lit nerd so I look for all the deep meaning in the language. He likes the plot. And a good monster fight. Which this book did not have, unfortunately. I wonder if the author implied that Emiko is the future of the human race.
I did not love the book. It was detailed and scary and overwhelming. But it was also well-written and thought-provoking. Like most sci-fi, it was plot-driven. I love a good character book. I wonder what the story would have been like if it was told from the Windup Girl’s point of view.
I give The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi four ngaw (a red fruit that might be a Rambutan which I need to go find and try.)