Paolo Bacigalupi; ‘The Windup Girl’
A novel set in Thailand in the near future, genetic modification of food crops has led to a breakdown of the natural system, modified or gene-ripped foodstuffs being the only ones available, but also prone to deadly outbreaks of blister rust and cibiscosis, rendering the food supply permanently suspect, the population short-lived, and stocks of seed’s with unmodified DNA the most valuable resource on the planet.
There is no main protagonist in this novel, instead it follows a variety of people around Bangkok, a city under constant threat of submersion by the ocean, an american agriculture company man, a refugee chinaman, a bought and paid for leader of the trade ministries biological police force, and several others as they play their part in and try and avoid the dangers of Bangkok as the city tears itself apart, both politically and physically.
The windup girl of the title is a simulacra, a ‘new person’ in good old Dickian style, here abandoned in Thailand by Japanese masters because it is cheaper to replace her than to buy a return air fare. A masterful symbol of the cultural gap between rich technological societies and poorer, agricultural based ones which somehow, strangely, doesn’t seem to say much.
A fantastic book, very well written and highly evocative of Thailand, but somehow it fell flat for me. Perhaps there were too many threads for the novel to have a main thrust, or perhaps it is more postmodern in its fracturedness, but it just didn’t hang together as it should have done, for me. To be honest, I’m unsure why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected to, I just didn’t. So there.
### edit 26/3/12 ###
For some reason, this rather crappy early review is by far the most visited page on this blog, and I really don’t know why. If anyone can enlighten me as to why this page gets so many hits per day, please tell me in the comments. Cheers!