Review “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi

6597651Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release Date: September 1st 2009
Pages: 359
Spoilers: NO SPOILERS!
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

I’ve been wanting to read The Windup Girl ever since I started working on my thesis for University. My thesis was about dystopian literature and I had to look through a lot of lists of dystopian novels to pick the right ones for my thesis and The Windup Girl was on one of those lists. The Windup Girl was not suitable for my thesis, but I still really wanted to read it and finally I have!


“Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko…
Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.
What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.”

The Windup Girl is set in the future where epidemics destroyed the world and where famine kills hundreds of people every day. It’s about a few different characters that tell the story of how the world has come to this state and how they must survive in the new climate and with corrupt governments. Interesting about this novel is that it is set in the Thai Kingdom and personally I have never read a dystopian novel set in an Asian country, so that made me want to read it even more.

I had quite high expectations, because this novel has won a number of prizes, amongst them a Nebula Award and a Hugo award. I was a little disappointed when I read the book, not because it was bad, but because I was really interested in Emiko, a human grown in a laboratory called a Windup. I thought there would be more of her in the novel, but she doesn’t really play a big role in the novel. The novel focused less on the Windups and more on political issues and the epidemics.

This is complicated

The characters were quite interesting, however there were a lot of different storylines and characters and I thought none of them were fully developed. I had the feeling that I never really got to know them, especially Anderson remained quite mysterious and I still don’t know what his intentions were and what kind of man he was. And I think that is a shame, because there are plenty of hints telling me that he is really interesting and special, but those hints stayed hints and I never got to see the whole picture.

I really liked the setting, because most dystopian novels are set in the west and The Windup Girl shows a dystopian story in a different part of the world. During the story you never really know where it is going and we never really get the full story of what is happening. In the future Thai Kingdom there is a lot of corruption, which makes it for everyone unclear what is really going on and what secrets are staying secret. This is not really annoying when you’re reading the book, but in the end there are still so many blanks, that it keep you wondering about what was really going on.


Paolo has a very good an compelling writing style, however there was one thing that really annoyed me and that was the use of Thai, Japanese and Chinese words in the novel. There were many words that weren’t translated and it made the story hard to understand sometimes. I did look up some these words, but there were so many that at some point I stopped. It would have been better to have a glossary in the back, so readers can look those words up.

All in all I would recommend the novel to anyone who likes dystopian novels and would like have a different setting. I did enjoy reading this book and I do think that it will stick with me for some time.

Excited for the book? Order it here:

Ellen Jansen

Ellen is our newest blogger, writing book reviews and occasionally other stuff. She finished her bachelor of Literary Studies in Utrecht and in september she is going to do a masters in Amsterdam. Ellen is also a compulsive book buyer and buys far more books than she can read.

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