The journey continues. Book #2 was completed last night. The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigaluipi, a fellow Coloradan.
I am still trying to determine what I want to post into each of these little thoughts about the books I have read throughout this year. How do I make this a good blog? How do I make this that folks want to read and come back and read and even comment?
I am not sure yet, and so I will wing it for now. Hopefully my writing will grow along with this blog.
The Windup Girl is a semi-post apocalyptic tale. The apocalypse this time around is not nuclear but rather food and fuel. The world is no longer able to sustain humanity’s need for fossil fuels, and so the world runs on alternative modes of transportation. However, the real crisis that exists in the book is that food, or calories are referred to by the characters, is hard to come by. Plagues, droughts, and various other calamities have devastated the world’s food sources. The large companies now produce calories. The Calorie Men are the needed and loathed people of this world.
This book was quite good. It has been a long while that I have read a book with this good of world building. The world felt new, inventive, and complete. Bacigaluipi does not set you up in this world. You are dropped into it. He doesn’t give you a history, ease you in the the slang of the world. You are put in there, cold-turkey. For some people, this approach does not work. They don’t like not knowing what the foreign slang is (such as farang). They don’t like not knowing how the world got into the state it is in. Personally, I like this approach as long as the author develops it enough in the text that the reader can, via context, discern the meanings of everything. Bacigaluipi does provide this, so after reading for awhile, you learn about this world. You get the partial history that you want, but do not need.
There are 4 main viewpoints in this novel: Anderson Lake (a calorie-man), Hock-Seng (his assistant), Jaidee/Kanya (Environment Ministry/white shirts), and Emiko (the Windup Girl). It is refreshing to see 4 viewpoints in a novel that are well-rounded characters. Or as people like to say, 3-dimensional. We see all of them, aside from Jaidee, go through various phases, change, and become different people.
By far, my favorite of the characters to read/watch was Emiko, the title character. Although her portions of the book are the fewest, as expected, most of the major events of the novel do hinge off of her or her actions. She is quite the tragic character, and you hope the best for her.
What did I thin of this novel, overall? It is quite good. It is rare when I read a novel that the world feels this “lived in,” the characters all feel like they could acutally be real people. I want to know more about thiw world. In the novel, we only really get to see Thailand. We don’t know much about the rest of the world, and it would be interesting to see other parts of the world. Are they in the same situation? Are they in better shape than Thailand is in? Worse? How did this all happen? Those would all be interesting stories. Yet, this is also not required. Some novels you feel that backstory is missing. I never felt that was missing in this book.
Which brings me to the question: do I want to read another book in this series? Do I want a sequel? That is hard to tell. I would be interested in reading more about this world, but do I want to read more about the characters in this novel. That is hard to tell. The story feels complete, finished. I would have to see what (if it is written) the next novel/short story would be about, and then judge it from there. Unlike Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, I would be open to it. Ready Player One I enjoyed, but I will not pick up another novel/short story set in that world. That story is done, and anything written after that I feel would just ruin what was set before it.
The Windup Girl is an above average novel. It won the Nebula for by SF novel and deservedly so. However, I would not recommend this novel to just anyone. It has some very graphic violence (rape) that would put off some readers easily. But that violence is the crux of this novel, so it is necessary and cannot be skipped or written differently.