Monday, 5 May 2014

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Set in a future time when the world's plants and animals are subject to an endless cycle of disastrous mutations has put mankind's food supply at risk.  Amid all this despair, farmers in Thailand are growing crops lost to the rest of the world.  This has brought calorie man Anderson Lake to try and find the scientist responsible.  During his quest, he is introduced to Emiko, a Japanese created 'New People'.  While the Japanese embrace these creche grown beings, the rest of the world barely tolerate these windups.

Coming from an environmentalist background, I was most intrigued by devastation to the global flora and fauna.  A little snip here and little tinker there, and soon we have a cascading genetic crisis.  I wish there had been more emphasis on this part of the story rather than on the windup girl and the political crisis that developed in the country.  The one thing that most disturbed me  was the level of corruption in all branches of the government.  Bribes were required in almost every situation.  You want a package cleared through customs, you pay a bribe, you want to get the union to do the work they've been hired to do, you pay a bribe, you want to do just about anything, you pay a bribe.  As distasteful as this process is to me, it was fundamental to the development of this story.

This story really has me pondering how close we come to this type of disaster.  Currently the Emerald Ash Borer is devastating the white ash trees across my area of Ontario.  Loss of trees in the affected areas will be 100% (unless treated).  This is horrific damage from a pest that was accidentally introduced to the area.  Imagine if these pest had targeted a food stock instead of a tree.

I found this book was a bit hard to get into.  There was a new world to be introduced to as well as several sets of characters all with their own connections, ranks and priorities. Once I got past that stage, I rather enjoyed the story line.   This is a complicated world that  Mr. Bacigalupi has constructed and there are a few open story lines that could lead to a sequel, but as of yet, there is no hints of a follow-up.

Also by Paolo Bacigalupi:

Pump Six
The Ship Breaker
The Drowned World 

 Thanks to Night Shade Books for use of the cover image.

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