The Windup Girl

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 4, 2010

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Nine people attended this discussion at the North Village Library. Our topic was The Windup Girl, the first novel by Paolo Bacigalupi. This novel had recently won the Hugo and Nebula awards, and its author had just been announced as the Guest of Honor for ArmadilloCon in 2011. The book is a near-future story set in a world where fossil fuels are running out and calories are the new currency. Biotechnology has enabled the creation of entirely new species including artificial humanoids who are essentially slaves. Four of us had read the author’s short fiction before. All of us started The Windup Girl, and five finished it.

One reader felt that the author “knocked it out the the park” with this book. He enjoyed every minute of reading it. He felt all the characters met their appropriate endings. His summary of the book was “splendid.” A couple of others used worlds like “remarkable” to describe the book.

We felt that the author had a clean prose style and a vivid imagination. The worldbulding was detailed and well thought out. The future Thailand where the story takes place is conveyed well. Many of us found that the book read quickly. Some people noted that Bacigalupi’s short fiction had explored a few of The Windup Girl‘s speculative biotechnology concepts.

The book’s narrative structure caused some of us to have trouble getting into it. The story is told from the points of view of many characters, and it takes a long time to establish the overall story. Even those who loved the book felt the story was diffused at the beginning. One person quit reading because he couldn’t discern a linking plot by page 100.

About a third of us simply did not have fun with the book. Those readers didn’t enjoy being with most of the viewpoint characters. And the future of this world was so unremittingly depressing that they did not want to learn more about it.

Some people in the group wondered if the author wrote about this grim future in an attempt to prevent it rather than predict it. We also discussed the implications of this book’s concept of patenting living things.

Overall this book provided us with a thought-provoking discussion. After the meeting, many of adjourned to a nice dinner at Chili’s.

—A. T. Campbell, III