The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi Rothdas book review RSS
4.5 Stars

A surprisingly enjoyable read. The story is set in a future where humanity has been knocked down by a combination of global warming, bio-engineering gone amok, and the collapse of the petroleum economy. In particular, it is set in a post-Collapse Thailand, where people struggle on in the face of the disasters of the previous age and the pressures of the current age. Various western and asian powers have achieved a new equilibrium and are once again expanding. The most threatening are the imperialistic calorie companies, which are both the cause of the original crop plagues and the best source for new plague-resistant seeds. The calorie companies would like to crack open Thailand to their products, so they can bring it under their control like they have the rest of the region. In particular they want access to a rumored Thai seedbank, which contains untold genes from before the collapse.

Despite the grim setting, and the somewhat dark story line, I found the book to be upbeat. Humanity has hit the worst case scenario from our own times, but is still struggling on and making progress. Unlike the similar Oryx and Crake, there is definite hope for at least a marginal victory in the end. I liked the wais and the delightful little details of Thai culture and food, the ever present heat, and the constant awareness of energy budgets. The titular Windup Girl wasn't that interesting (sci-fi writers plz no more sex robots thank you), but several of the other PoV characters were. I particularly liked Anderson, an undercover agent of the calorie companies in Thailand. It's always a good sign when you starting imagining how a character-type could be worked into an RPG setting.

While the book does have its conceits (it is basically spring-punk, with all energy coming from manual labor, and no wind or solar at all) and it does go on for a bit longer than the story really supports, it is an enjoyable read with plenty of interesting detail and a sturdy envisioning of a post-collapse world.