The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl

3.8 197
by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Recipient of the Sturgeon Award, Paolo Bacigalupi's writing has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and the environmental journal High Country News. His non-fiction essays have appeared in and High Country News, and have been syndicated into numerous western newspapers.  See more details below


Recipient of the Sturgeon Award, Paolo Bacigalupi's writing has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and the environmental journal High Country News. His non-fiction essays have appeared in and High Country News, and have been syndicated into numerous western newspapers.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
Not since William Gibson's pioneering cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer (1984), has a first novel excited science fiction readers as much as Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl…Readers of science fiction will recognize multiple influences on this excellent novel: Cordwainer Smith, J. G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, China Mieville and even, possibly, Margaret Atwood…Clearly, Paolo Bacigalupi is a writer to watch for in the future. Just don't wait that long to enjoy the darkly complex pleasures of The Windup Girl.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Noted short story writer Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories) proves equally adept at novel length in this grim but beautifully written tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation. Capt. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai of the Thai Environment Ministry fights desperately to protect his beloved nation from foreign influences. Factory manager Anderson Lake covertly searches for new and useful mutations for a hated Western agribusiness. Aging Chinese immigrant Tan Hock Seng lives by his wits while looking for one last score. Emiko, the titular despised but impossibly seductive product of Japanese genetic engineering, works in a brothel until she accidentally triggers a civil war. This complex, literate and intensely felt tale, which recalls both William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best, will garner Bacigalupi significant critical attention and is clearly one of the finest science fiction novels of the year. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In a future of rising water levels, bioengineered plagues, widespread food shortages, and retrotechnology, calories have become currency and the rediscovery of foods thought to be extinct leads to commercial success or spectacular failure. An encounter between Anderson Lake, AgriGen's "calorie man" in Bangkok, and Emiko, a genetically engineered member of the New People, sets off a cataclysmic chain of events. VERDICT This first novel by the Locus Award-winning author of Pump Six and Other Stories provides a captivating look at a dystopic future that seems all too possible. East meets West in a clash of cultures brilliantly portrayed in razor-sharp images, tension-building pacing, and sharply etched characters. Fans of the sf techno-fiction of China Miéville and Neal Stephenson should flock to this cautionary thriller.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School—In a future Thailand, calories are the greatest commodity. Anderson is a calorie-man whose true objective is to discover new food sources that his company can exploit. His secretary, Hock Seng, is a refugee from China seeking to ensure his future. Jaidee is an officer of the Environmental Ministry known for upholding regulations rather than accepting bribes. His partner, Kanya, is torn between respect for Jaidee and hatred for the agency that destroyed her childhood home. Emiko is a windup, an engineered and despised creation, discarded by her master and now subject to brutality by her patron. The actions of these characters set in motion events that could destroy the country. Bacigalupi has created a compelling, if bleak, society in which corruption, betrayal, and despair are commonplace, and more positive behavior and emotions such as hope and love are regarded with great suspicion. The complex plot and equally complex characters require a great deal of commitment from readers. Even the most sympathetic people have darker sides, and it is difficult to determine which character or faction should triumph. This highly nuanced, violent, and grim novel is not for every teen. However, mature readers with an interest in political or environmental science fiction or those for whom dystopias are particularly appealing will be intrigued. If they are able to immerse themselves completely into the calorie-mad world of a future Bangkok, they will not be disappointed.—Karen E. Brooks-Reese, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA

In just 300 pages, Paolo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl uncoils its intertwined stories of bio-terrorism, genetic engineering, civil war, food plagues, and slavery. Set in Thailand, this stark dystopian novel has been the beneficiary of a groundswell of enthusiasm in hardcover. In paperback, we expect it to do even better. (Hand-selling tip: Critics have hailed this fiction as "disturbing...beautiful, fast-paced, exciting...and also a novel of hope." And as a "complex, literate and intensely felt tale, which recalls both William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best.")

From the Publisher



“It’s ridiculous how good this book is. . . . Bacigalupi’s vision is almost as rich and shocking as William Gibson’s vision was in 1984 . . . I hope he writes 10 sequels.”
—Lev Grossman, TIME

“Reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner.... densely packed with ideas about genetic manipulation, distribution of resources, the social order, and environmental degradation ... science fiction with an environmental message, but one that does not get in the way of its compelling story.”
Sacramento Book Review

“This complex, literate and intensely felt tale, which recalls both William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best ... clearly one of the finest science fiction novels of the year.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A captivating look at a dystopic future that seems all too possible. East meets
West in a clash of cultures brilliantly portrayed in razor-sharp images, tension-building pacing, and sharply etched characters.”
Library Journal (starred review)

"When it hits its sweet-spot, The Windup Girl embodies what SF does best of all: it remakes reality in compelling, absorbing and thought-provoking ways, and it lives on vividly in the mind."
The Guardian

"Bacigalupi never slides into moralism or judgement ... Ultimately that's what makes this debut novel so exciting. It's rare to find a writer who can create such well-shaded characters while also building a weird new future world."

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Product Details

Night Shade Books
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Windup Girl 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 194 reviews.
StupidSchmuck More than 1 year ago
I bought "The Windup Girl" on a whim. After reading the back I decided to give it a try. Bacigalupi has invented a terrifying future. Filled with Blister Rust and famine. No longer does the human race rely on the old fossil fuel, that source is long gone. So is the idea of a global economy. What once took hours now takes weeks as humans ply the oceans as they once were in times long past. Airplanes are a form of archaic transport and even electricity is a rare resource. It's a world where the seeds of plants are worth mountains of gold and getting enough calories in a given day is an up hill battle. I found this story intriguing and hard to put down. It was well written and the author has the ability to bring his characters to life. Though many authors own that ability, it's still nice to read a book where you feel like you know how a character is going to react to a given situation. The idea of the heechy-keechy windup girls who move in a stutter of stop motion is so interesting. The only thing that gives away the biologically engineered human who walks among the crowds is their flutter of spastic movement. As if they are in a constant wake of a strobe light. This book is deep and will remain one of my favorites for a long time I'm sure.
Snuffle_Shuffle More than 1 year ago
The windup girl is a fascinating character with her odd movements and disposition, but the book is barely about her, which was disappointing. I found myself somewhat uninterested in the other characters and unsatisfied because I wanted to know more about the windup girl. The integration of Thai and Mandarin (I believe that's what it was) language was interesting but confusing at times. I was sadly disappointed by this book; it had a lot of potential (characters, setting, etc.) but I personally did not think it was executed as best as it could have been. An okay read all in all, but I think it could have been so much better.
RenLovesScary More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book tremendously! Bacigalupi takes you into a world where fruits are manufactured, gene ripped, and there is not enough to go around. Where living creatures are also gene ripped into working, living, breathing creations that are both loved and despised. I was lost in his world of yellow card immigrants, Megadonts and Cheshires (I want one). I'd love to see a second book of The Wind-up Girl. Wonderful read. Thank goodness for the release of Pump Six, a collection of his short stories. Tore through it in two days!
gezza More than 1 year ago
Like all avid scifi readers, I heard of Bacigalupi's Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel, and I certainly wanted to read it. I fairly recently read a great short story of his previously, 'Pop Squad', in Brave New Worlds (a very well written, disturbing dystopian story), and I wanted to read more of him. The Windup Girl is one of the best novels of any genre I have read, in many years. It deserves its Hugo and Nebula awards, as it is a masterpiece of futuristic world building, within the confines of Earth's future. It's characters are sensitively portrayed in detail, and the plot is intricate, surprising in its turns, and penetrating in theme. It is what any aspiring speculative fiction writer wants to achieve. It is a benchmark, a masterpiece. I don't use superlatives like these too often. The novel is that good. Perhaps the only criticism I can lay before you - and it is more a case of personal taste than a technicality - is that I am not overly enamored of the third person, present tense POV for works of any substantial length. It took me quite a while to avoid the distraction of this less-than comfortable style of writing (albeit, I accept that it was useful for enhancing the immediacy of the tension of the tenor of the novel). Even in Bacigalupi's case, I don't necessarily think pros outweighed the cons with regard to this matter. Given the mastery of the writing, plot, characterization and themes, this criticism is a small matter. The world building astonishes me. As I hinted above, Bacigalupi creates a future society within the context of a future Earth, but transformed beyond expectation. Genetics is the keystone of what technically (and culturally) drives society, in a backdrop of an energy-starved population. It smack of truth, given the inroads in genetics and the Monsantos of this world. It also smacks of truth with current issues with regard to environmentalism. What makes this particular powerful, however, is representing this future world in the microcosm of a future Thailand. This was masterful, and Bacigalupi clearly researched this part of the world meticulously. I use the term 'microcosm' lightly, because it turns out that this future Thailand is a special place, unique and more than just a representative of humanity-to-come - it is in many ways the center of humanity's universe. Bacigalupi paints his characters well, and not a single one of them is just noble and righteous. They are all flawed, due to the circumstances of their lives, and because, quite simply, they are human. Even the New People. The key characters, Anderson, Hock Seng, Kanya, Jaidee, and The Windup Girl (Emiko), are expertly drawn and attract reader empathy, and yet are scrutinized for their frailties, whether they were self-constructed or were thrust upon them. Anyone with a predilection for speculative fiction, and particularly dystopian themes, will be immersed in The Windup Girl, and will want to read more. If you have discomfort with the Third Person, Present Tense POV style, try hard to ignore it - it's still well worth it. Five sparkling stars.
spartac More than 1 year ago
If you enjoyed the world-building in Dune, you should be impressed with the interesting and different world Bacigalupi has created--and his writing style is exceptional.
Ferret_Mom More than 1 year ago
I had picked this book up and looked at it about a half dozen times then gently placed it back on the shelf deeming it too uninteresting for MY tastes. Then it pops up as a friends' read and makes me rethink my own stance, so I picked it up off the shelf again, didn't look at it, bought it and came home. I read everything else new I had picked up and then I settled down for what I thought would be a laborious read. I found myself frustrated feeling as if I had just stepped off a dirigible or Clipper Ship into a confusing place and time with no context of the times' past. It was unnerving to say the least. I have never read any of Bacigalupi's writing before and had no idea of his writing style so his world was very foreign to me in more ways than one. It's ok though, I got it finally... or at least I think I do. The world building leaves a lot to be desired since we have no explanation of this futures past except what is given via different characters memories. This can be somewhat confusing because in one instance I thought I had a reference of 500 years past the year 2000 but then another character speaks of stories his great grandfather told of foraging in the suburban areas after the fall of fossil fuels. I came to the conclusion it didn't really matter WHEN the novel was taking place but WHAT was taking place. After making this conscious decision I rolled with the punches and came out only slightly bruised. I am not really sure if I like this book or only think its ok, so I'm going with the 'like' option because I'm still thinking. I found the story itself paced slowly but that in a way is possibly intentioned by the author to convey a sense of place as well as leading us, the reader, into the mindset of the cities citizens because many of them are just sitting; waiting to see if they will work, will eat, will die, or will be killed. I found so many different varieties of life conveyed in this book and so many different subtexts it's hard to determine what if any of them were meant by the author or if it's my own need to quantify what I read. All in all a good Sci-Fi read. I say if you're still on the fence about reading it, go for it, you might find out you liked it despite your initial apathy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bacigalupi brings a fresh petspective to a genre that many thought only Stephenson could save...
PeterSabin More than 1 year ago
The extrapolation quality--the very warp and woof of science fiction--is both superb and all too conceivable. The social commentary implicit in the concept of 'yellow card' is also quite real (and sometimes ugly). Character development was consistently good and the complexity of the work contributed to my enjoyment. But foremost this is a darn good read. I look forward to other works by the author. Recommended highly.
Matt3223 More than 1 year ago
My rating is my opinion as a reader and how much I "liked" it... And this book surprised me... as I wasn't in to it near as much as I thought I would be. It was ok for me, but it's like it focused on the wrong areas... more windup girl! Almost felt like she was peripheral. I'll give a re-read one of these days and see what I may have missed first time through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rich, convoluted, beautiful! Well worth the time, and as good as the very best from authors like Bruce Sterling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An immersive and though provoking tale of our future. A future of all food companies running the world, rising oceans, and lack of fossil fuels. Definitly worth a read!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hugo award winner...doesn't disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tulane1 More than 1 year ago
Terrific distopian book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read many future worlds. You can believe that we might fall into such a state, but I actually felt hope at the end, despite all the terrible events. Emiko at the end has fought for and won control of her 'soul' by the end.
Alebelly More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Ties together multiple threads seamlessly, and with an energy and pacing that makes the book impossible to put down. The realization of the Windup Girl is incredibly powerful. It was a bit hard to get into, the whole 'kink-spring' thing took me awhile to understand, but understand it's the characters and their ambitions which define this book. A fantastic read. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A shattered future that is all too possible. Characters that you both love and hate. Good writing.
moonsweetie More than 1 year ago
Loved this!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Patricc More than 1 year ago
The glowing words said, it seemed just a tad too long for the story. Like it was stretched to add more to the book. The story was complex and enjoyable. It did not play down to the reader. A few items were left to your imagination and might require a Google or other search engine. A great read set in a future dystopia where food is the major form of currency and most food groups have been destroyed or affected by genetic design flaws. I was taken enough by this book that I bought another by the same author. "Shipbreaker." It turned out to be a bit simpler to understand, or it may be I was familiar with Bacgalupi's universe by that time. There is another book, "The Drowned Cities." It looks like it fits in the same universe. It is a dystopian world after the sea has risen and oil has run out. Plague has swept through the planet because of errors in genetic codes released into the wild by the giant food companies. Quite a well constructed and thought out universe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago