The Windup Girl

Paolo Bacigalupi
The Windup Girl Cover

The Windup Girl


Bio-ethics anyone? This book is based on a future that is traumatized by the effects of genetic engineering - plant and animal -- through plagues and food shortages. The location is Bangkok, Thailand. The story is told with fiver unique voices -- Anderson Lake, the white calorie man from AgriGen; Emiko, the Japanese Windup Girl, who is a genetically engineered woman, i.e., one of the "new people"; Hock Seng, a "yellow-card" Chinese who runs the factory that is cover for Lake's real reason for being in Bangkok; Jaidee, a whiteshirt captain who is perhaps the only non-bribable whiteshirt and known by the people as the Tiger; and Kanya, the Leutenant under Jaidee.

Thailand has sealed itself from the rest of the world. After a civil war, control of the country is divided between two generals -- one runs Trade and the other Environmental Protection. Trade is supposed to be strictly monitored and limited and no products are to be used or sold that have not been blessed by Environmental Protection. Both serve the girl-Queen. But, everyone except Jaidee is susceptible to being bribed.

Lake replaces Yates who started a factory to make what sound like energetic springs (springs, not gas, are the primary energy sources). While Yates was dedicated to developing the process, Lake uses the factory as cover for his attempts to seek out the Thai's protected gene pool that is uncontaminated and being used to develop food that is resistant to diseases that resulted from gene manipulation. Also making an appearance is a right wing religious group that arose in opposition to genetic manipulation.

Emiko, and others like her, were designed to be assistants - in all ways - for rich Japanese men. But apparently in creating her, the genestrippers took a few shortcuts, as she, and others like her, have some pretty fascinating skills that come to the surface when she finds herself in a dangerous situation. Emiko stands out in a crowd. Not only is she Japanese, she also walks with a hurkey-jerky, tick-tock style that brands her as one of the "new people." She is not legally present in Thailand and her "keeper" pays a lot of bribes to keep the white shirts from taking her away. To pay for her keep, she performs in his club.

Hock Seng is around 70 years old and a survivor. He is quite paranoid. He is looking for a way to win favor and once again have a family.

Kanya may be the most interesting character. She was a small girl when the white shirts burned her village to stop the spread of disease. She vows revenge. However, she comes to love Jaidee and to understand many things that as a young girl were not obvious. She becomes a Tiger in her own right, although perhaps she becomes a bit crazy after Jaidee's troubles.

It was fascinating how the stories of these five intertwined. None was completely bad, although Lake was close, and none was completely good, although Jaidee was close. They struggled with what to do in tough situations and, on ocassion, choose a course of action that was against their self interst.

In sum, this is a multi-layered and complex story that provides a lot to think about in relation to many of the issues confronting us today.