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[BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

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[BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by Hera [Sammy] » Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:56 pm

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Happy April, everyone! Hope you all had a fantastic Easter.
The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi
Book Blurb
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.
About the Author
Paolo Tadini Bacigalupi (born August 6, 1972) is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He has won the Hugo, Nebula,[2] Compton Crook, Theodore Sturgeon, and Michael L. Printz awards, and was nominated for the National Book Award. His fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's Science Fiction, and the environmental journal High Country News. His non-fiction essays have appeared in Salon.com and High Country News, and have been syndicated in newspapers including the Idaho Statesman, the Albuquerque Journal, and the Salt Lake Tribune. He was a webmaster for High Country News starting in 2003. His short fiction has been collected in Pump Six and Other Stories (Night Shade Books, 2008). His debut novel The Windup Girl, published by Night Shade Books in September 2009, won the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards in 2010.[3] The Windup Girl was also named by Time as one of the Top 10 Books of 2009.[4] Ship Breaker, published by Little, Brown in 2010, was awarded the Michael L. Printz Award for best young adult novel and was nominated for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.[5]

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Re: [BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by Hera [Sammy] » Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:28 am

Is anyone else struggling? I'm not far in at all but finding this one really grueling so far.
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Re: [BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by Athena [Georgeanna] » Sat Apr 14, 2018 6:08 am

Sammy wrote:
Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:28 am
Is anyone else struggling? I'm not far in at all but finding this one really grueling so far.
I was super struggling, to the point where I just put it down. Just couldn't jive with the writing style for some reason.
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Re: [BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by Hades [Forge] » Sat Apr 14, 2018 7:50 am

I struggled a bit at first, but I'm getting along alright now. 92% done.
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Re: [BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by Hera [Sammy] » Sat Apr 14, 2018 7:35 pm

Forge wrote:
Sat Apr 14, 2018 7:50 am
I struggled a bit at first, but I'm getting along alright now. 92% done.
Going to try pushing through it. That first factory bit is just so tedious.
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Re: [BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by Hades [Forge] » Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:27 am

All done as of last night. Just a brief couple of thoughts;
I enjoyed it, even though the book was slow to start. I think Bacigalupi does an admirable job of immersing the narrative in Thai culture; unfortunately I'm not sure that's always a good thing. It's a task for a (Western) reader to keep track of some of the different concepts that are floating around - the wais and kamma and phii and how it all fits into the universe that the story's set in, which is already a departure from our own. Had it been just a cultural shift, or a scientific shift, or a global economic and political shift, then it might have been less heavy going. As it is, I'm conscious that the combination of all of those elements make it a little hard to stay immersed in the narrative without mentally backtracking to make sure you understand what's actually being talked about in any particular scene.

I enjoyed the bulk of the characters, regardless of the fact that their sections were a bit disjointed and stretched out. A couple of points though;
  • I'm not sure that Bacigalupi always hits the right note with the Emiko's reaction to her own nature. The fact that she's very aware of those impulses which come from her genetic tampering sort of 'softens' their impact. I did enjoy her overall, and the sense of agency that comes from her growing understanding of what she's capable of. While we're on the subject of Emiko, can we also take a moment to acknowledge how misleading the title is? Emiko has her own arc going on, but this very much isn't her story - arguably it's Anderson's, for the most part, but at best it's a pick-and-mix of different people. From the title (and, let's be honest, the description of the book) I thought that Emiko would feature more heavily, or at least play a more integral part in the plot. That she didn't was ultimately disappointing, and I'm not sure we really got everything we should have from the existence of New People as a whole.
  • Jaidee was just plain interesting; a cheerful, inherently positive force of nature who accepts that he's a vicious bully on a regular basis. There's a lot of grey morality going on there, but it's the kind that convinces us Jaidee might genuinely be a force for good. To that end, I was disappointed that he died so early on, and that very little came from Kanya's taking over as captain and Jaidee's phii following her around for the rest of the novel. Ultimately her actions in the seed bank were for the good of the country as a whole, but she was far less compelling as a character, and even the fact that she eventually did the right thing felt like a little bit of a stretch.
  • Hock Seng got boring quickly. I empathised with the parallel between Emiko as the Inhuman Other and him as the Human Other, and how they were both hiding in plain sight within a society that wouldn't accept them, but oh man. After about the twentieth time of hearing about him being a sneaky toad and paranoid of everything, I was done with it. I don't think there was enough room in the narrative for him to do anything interesting, except slope around the factory plotting ways to rob Anderson.
  • Anderson was slightly more interesting, and in a novel about the intrigue of calorie men and the machinations of the big, bad corporations, he might have come into his own. As it was we touched on some interesting things with his mission overall and his potential feelings for Emiko (particularly regarding whether he protected her from Akkarat intentionally or not) but again, they didn't really get off the ground and he went and died before the end of the novel, so that sort of put paid to that, huh?
Speaking of Anderson and endings, the long-awaited encounters with Gibbons are a little underwhelming, and while the closing scenes offer a touch of hope, they don't really round things off in the way that I'd have hoped. I liked the idea that New People might have a future, but as a plot element it was just sort of there, appearing out of nowhere much in the same way that Gibbons and Kip did in their little boat. Likewise, his appearance in Kanya's story didn't really achieve much except for providing a lever through which to push the plot into further movement, and for a character who supposedly had so much impact in the development of both the calorie countries and the Thai kingdom, Gibbons seemed to do very little. The ultimate conclusion with the flooding of Bangkok and the scattering of the seedbank was nothing short of a relief, and I think if I'd been more invested in Kanya it would have been all the more satisfying, but Gibbons' 'glimpse of the future' didn't entirely do it for me.

As a final point, I have to praise Bacigalupi's depiction of his version of Bangkok. I loved the feel of the city, and I think it's little things like the attention to street vendors and foot traffic and tent slums that really tie it all together. It feels like what it is; a population-swollen holdout struggling to get by in a difficult world.

So, overall, not a bad novel, but certainly not what I expected given all the acclaim that's been heaped on it. The wooly plot elements and didn't-quite-make-it moments sort of put the kibosh on me really being into this one, but I don't regret reading it, and there were a handful of well crafted moments in there that kept me going.
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Re: [BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by Hera [Sammy] » Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:49 pm

Few words having finished it...
Generally, I agree with Forge so rather than repeat everything he's said, I'll just include a few departures from his thoughts and a couple of additions.
  • I actually really enjoyed the extent of the immersion into Thai culture, including all the various Thai terms that you're inundated with pretty much from page one. It definitely made the first handful of chapters a little more challenging but once I'd got to grips with certain terms, I really enjoyed the way they contributed to the overall narrative. I think painting a picture of Bangkok and the whole culture of the novel was probably the thing Bacigalupi does best here.
  • Fully agree that 'The Windup Girl' is a misleading title - really it should be called 'The Calorie Man' or something. Honestly, I'm not really the biggest fan of how Emiko was used as a character as whole and her repeated assaults and the detail with which they're described seemed a bit gratuitous at times. I think it must have something to do with Bacigalupi's overall style, but I definitely didn't feel as much empathy toward her as I felt I should have done given her situation. She was undoubtedly the character I felt most invested in but I still didn't feel overly attached to her or her story. Just constantly felt like I wanted more from it.
  • Leading on from that, I found the whole novel a bit clinical. I enjoyed it but I didn't find it emotive and I didn't feel overly emotionally invested in the story or in any of the characters. I think this could in some ways be seen as a success for Bacigalupi as he's clearly successfully portraying a very grim, dark and quite desperate setting. The focus is on business, survival and power balance and I think that can be said as much about the style of writing as the content itself.
  • Every Hock Seng chapter bored me beyond belief. We are constantly reminded that he's a paranoid, sneaky bastard with his own agenda. I don't think it helped that I found everything centered on the factory incredibly boring. Even the illness borne from the algae wound up being really underwhelming. It was a lot of page time for something that was only really relevant to the plot because it eventually kills Anderson.
  • I liked Kanya and Jaidee. To me they were the only characters that felt particularly multi-dimensional and I really enjoyed their interactions throughout. They provide some light relief from a cast otherwise focused on self-interest which started to get a little bit same-y for me.
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Re: [BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by PurpleShadows » Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:53 pm

I haven't bought this yet. Is it worth it?
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Re: [BC] April 18: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Post by Hera [Sammy] » Tue Apr 17, 2018 1:29 am

PurpleShadows wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:53 pm
I haven't bought this yet. Is it worth it?
Really depends on your tastes.

I enjoyed it but it wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping it would be. If you like cyberpunk/Sci-fi/biopunk/dystopian style stuff you’ll probably like it.
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