Sunday, October 24, 2010
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Bacigalupi's characters are three dimensional and well drawn, but I found it hard to sympathize with all but the windup girl and the female White Shirt. Both of them are victims who seem caught up in circumstances. And while each commits acts which are violent and even criminal against other humans, both have a genuine desire to do the right thing. They are just protecting themselves the only way they know how. The lack of a central "hero" left me a bit empty at the end.
The book is paced very well and the world building is top notch. Bacigalupi has done his research on Thailand and created a wholly real and believable future world. In truth, it doesn't seem so vastly different from what one might expect to see in a Developing World country today, except for the gene replicating and windups. There are dirigibles here and a few other steampunk tropes, but the time period is not Victorian and neither are the people, so it's not really steampunk genre. It's more slipstream, often compared to William Gibson. In many ways, the world here is if anything less developed than our own, relying on megodonts (giant mammoth/elephant type creatures) to power the city through their leg power, travel around mostly on bikes, ricshaws and a few cars. It just doesn't seem as far future as one might anticipate, which only serves to make it all the more powerful.
Bacigalupi wisely sticks to English dialogue, subtly hinting what language his characters are speaking when necessary. He mixes in ethnic Japanese, Chinese and Thai phrases from time to time to add to the authenticity, and even uses some key native words throughout to lend to the feeling of being inside the mind of peoples who think in such terms.
Bacigalupi is a talented writer from whom I look forward to reading much more in the future. His future is a bleak one, which may have contributed to my disappointment with the lack of a pure hero. But his writing craft is solid and the book thoroughly engaging. Recommended.