The Windup Girl: Way Too Wound Up

Another book post, originally for my Recent Sci Fi and Fantasy class. I toned the snark, though I really have it in spades for this book.

Oh, and spoilers.

This is one of those cases where, even though my personal feelings may get in the way, I am going to try really hard to be constructive in my comments about this book.

The world-building in The Windup Girl is extremely detailed, building a futuristic-yet-old-fashioned Bangkok from the ground up. You get a deep sense right away about what has happened to this world to make them rely on methane gas and deal in calories as well as money. The problem for me personally was that this wasn’t a world that I really wanted to visit. Normally I love visions of real places twisted and reimagined for a certain future or an alternative past. That is part of the escapism that comes with reading books, after all. But Bacigalupi’s Bangkok was not a welcoming place to escape to. I mean, of course the places in books aren’t always pleasant. I wouldn’t want to visit Panem or Divergent’s Chicago any time soon. But even though the settings were foreboding, the stories of the people that lived there were rich and enticing enough to draw you in. I suppose that I really didn’t want to visit Bangkok because I didn’t want to spend time with the people that lived there.

I didn’t form connections to any of the characters. To me it just seemed like most of them were there to propel the politics of the story forward, and that was it. I don’t feel like Emiko, for being the title character, was featured nearly enough. And Anderson, who you would think would also be more important, doesn’t get enough page time either. I didn’t care to read about Jaidee and Kanya, though I know that they were necessary to forward the political plot of the book. And I also didn’t care about Hock Seng, who also I believe features in the short story “The Yellow Card Man”. In fact, I kind of wanted him to die at the end. Not too fond of Hock Seng. In the end I wanted this book to be more character-driven and not agenda-driven, to be more about the actual windup girl and her struggles, and the calorie man and his struggles. I didn’t quite buy Anderson’s weird interest in Emiko, then writing her off so quick, going back and forth between looking like he actually cares and then throwing her out with the trash, only to be nice to her again when presented with the opportunity. I could write a whole separate post on that one, but I’m choosing not to.

While I can appreciate the time and craft that went into the intricate world of The Windup Girl, after finishing the book I was just left with a vague impression of “what just happened” combined with “did I miss something?” I didn’t care that Bangkok was ruined. I didn’t care about the government change or the multiple slaughters and past genocides. To me all of this was so vague, combined with too many foreign words and different historical references that I just felt lost the entire time reading. And that is not something that I like to feel when reading a book.

(I think I tried to be constructive here. Really I tried.)

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1 Comment

  1. Agree. The world seemed like a corporate construct, the kind of place you’d maybe enjoy reading about in a FORBES business article but not the kind of place you’d appreciate visiting in fiction. It had a sense of distant realism, but empty of any emotion or motivation I could relate to.


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