The Windup Girl is the debut novel from author Paolo Bacigalupi and has won many awards, including the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus. It takes place in a future Bangkok and contains heavy elements of science fiction, dystopia, and biopunk, although it doesn’t land firmly in any of those genres. The story alternates between the perspectives of different characters (including Emiko, the titular windup girl) as Thailand is thrown into a tumultuous revolution, and follows them as they strive to achieve their own ends in the midst of a changing country.
A vivid setting
Everything in The Windup Girl, from the characters to the plot and everything in between, works beautifully because Bacigalupi has created a stunningly vivid setting. It’s not a nice setting—his future Thailand is filthy and oppressive. The heat is thick and heavy, and the grime and grit of factory floors and open marketplaces practically spill off the page. Poverty is rampant and people are desperate, and it all feels extraordinarily real because of the little details that Bacigalupi strategically places throughout novel to flesh out The Windup Girl’s world. Bacigalupi has a true talent for creating setting and atmosphere, and he uses this talent as the foundation for everything else he writes. He expertly integrates his fictional elements into a world that has all the history and science to make it feel real, and as a result it genuinely feels like The Windup Girl is a look into our own future—and it’s terrifying.
The Windup Girl tells more stories than just that of Emiko—Bacigalupi rotates between a few different viewpoint characters. While not all of these viewpoint characters are as developed as I would like, each of them is interesting in his or her own way, and each has a fascinating story that kept me engaged throughout the entire book. The stories of these characters begin to intertwine more and more as the book goes on, but they each remain distinct enough that they feel like separate arcs.
Bacigalupi presents a slew of intriguing ideas throughout The Windup Girl. He does an incredible job of lacing his story with small details—hints of past events, names of companies, and bits of cultural slang—that serve as a way of lending depth to its dystopian future. Bacigalupi also inserts fascinating characters and ideas that appear only briefly, which intrigued me enough to want to know more about the complexities of the world. Bacigalupi leaves his story open-ended enough to leave room for a potential sequel. Although The Windup Girl still brings enough of a resolution to its story that it feels like a complete work, I’d love to see a continuation of The Windup Girl’s story.
Why should you read this book?
The Windup Girl deserves all the praise it has received. It’s an incredible book; from the vivid setting to the fascinating characters, Bacigalupi has created science fiction at its absolute best. Few authors can muster a debut novel as stunning as The Windup Girl, and if Bacigalupi continues to put out work of this caliber, he will undoubtedly be able to cement his place as one of the most talented authors working in genre fiction today.