What Else Is Matt Reading? (#2): The Windup Girl

It’s time for the second installment of “What Else is Matt Reading,” where I admit to the world that Chung Kuo is not the only thing I read with mini-reviews of other novels. Paolo Bacigalupi’sThe Windup Girl was recommended by a good friend of mine, who thought I might appreciate the environmental themes and and semi-apocalyptic setting.

The Windup Girl takes place in a not-too-distant future, where fossil fuels have been depleted and food production is controlled by a small number of megacorporations. In the absence of carbon fuels, the primary fuel sources are “kink-springs” that store potential energy generated from elephant labor. Protagonist Anderson Lake fronts as a Bangkok kink-spring factory owner to hide his true employment as food corporation agent on the hunt for unique Thai foodstuffs. When Emiko, a genetically modified slave girl called a windup, proves to hold a clue to the location of the Thai seedbank, well, you know: everything goes nuts.

I visited Bangkok (and Ayutthaya) on a trip through Asia a few years ago, and Bacigalupi’s depiction of a future Bangkok feels entirely authentic. Characters have depth and the story stays fresh and unpredictable. Themes of environmentalism ring true without coming off as preachy. It’s a shame there are no sequels, because this could’ve been the start to some fantastic worldbuilding.

To Chung Kuo fans, especially those who appreciate the Eastern-influenced setting, I wholly suggest The Windup Girl. I give it 5 out of 5, umm.. Tolonens? (I need a CK-inspired rating scale.)

Up next on “What Else Is Matt Reading”: The City and the City by China Mieville.