The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was torn between 4 & 5 stars and rated up, because I usually hate dystopian settings and yet the author managed to overcome my bias.
The dystopian setting for Windup Girl is all-too plausible, and drives the plot, but the author wisely focuses on the characters' individual stories and motivations to make it real.
Anderson Lake is the primary character and he is an Iowa "calorie man", an agent of one of the powerful agricultural companies whose genetically modified seeds and plagues have devastated the world. He is working undercover to try to get to the Thai government's secret seed bank.
Emiko is a discarded "windup" - a genetically manufactured non-person designed to be a slavish toy for rich Japanese men. Stranded in Thailand, she is constantly in danger of being mulched by white shirts who regard her kind as a symbol of the evil of genetic tampering.
Hock Seng is a yellow-card Chinese-Malaya refugee of ethnic cleansing by "green headband" Muslim Malays.
Jaidee Rojjanasukthai is captain of the white shirts, the Environment Ministry's enforcement police. A muay thai champion, he fights a losing battle against invasive plagues and government corruption.
About those characters: at first I was mad at the story because it seemed to use the common stereotype of superior white man moving in world of shifty and corrupt brown/yellow people. The the story subverts the stereotypes.
Despite the dark themes, three things made me appreciate this novel. First was the South East Asian setting, well-done and written with authenticity. Second were the cool ideas(like storing energy in batteries). Thirdly and most of all, was the sensibility. This is a story of virtue subverting vengeance, conscience overcoming corruption.
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