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.

10 thoughts on “What Else Is Matt Reading? (#2): The Windup Girl”

  1. Enjoying the reviews thanks Matt! Just wanted to point out that the author is Paolo Bacigalupi, not Mieville. Looking forward to hearing what you thought of The City and the City, which I also loved

  2. Hope you enjoy(ed) The City and The City, Matt. A few sci-fi (ish) / dystopian recommendations for you:
    Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer (first in a trilogy)
    Wool – Hugh Howey (first in a trilogy)
    Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

  3. I don’t think we are going to see the end of this, sadly.

    All Chung Kuo news has completely dried up. I do understand we are only just now coming out the other side of a major global pandemic which has left many things in disarray, but still you would have expected some tiny morsel of info from somehwere, even if it is a quick note to reassure the fanbase. Not a snippet to be found anywhere however.

    Even David Wingrove has gone radio silent on his Facebook page (I do hope he’s okay BTW).

    It’s such a shame because we managed to get to book 12 with only 8 more to go. We’d come so far, though it had taken a very long time to get to this point, it has to be said.

    I feel this is now where the journey ends…

    1. I got news! Mister Wingrove wrote to me: Books 13 (Song of the Bronze Statue) and 14 (White Moon, Red Dragon) are about to go into production so I’m envisaging a spring publication. Not before time, I know!

  4. White Moon, Red Dragon has been published. As far as I know, the last two volumes of the second edition don’t yet exist as ebooks. Sadly, David Wingrove has had an uncertain work schedule during the last year. Hopefully, better times lie ahead.

  5. Six volumes of the second edition left to go!

    China on the Rhine (15)
    Days of Bitter Strength (16)
    The Father of Lies (17)
    Blood and Iron (18)
    King of Infinite Space (19)
    The Marriage of the Living Dark (20)

    Avast there, today we hunt the white whale!

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