In a world where energy companies rule the world, which is not hard at all to imagine, Anderson Lake works as a calorie-man in pursuit of the seedbank that has seeds for new types of foods that he hopes to profit off in a highly corrupt society. In Bacigalupi’s bleak, dystopian world where calories and energy are at the profit centers, fossil fuels are no longer used and the most successful companies produce large springs that supply the world’s energy. The corruption is a disease that has spread from business to government and all the way down. We follow a diverse cast of characters as we watch Bangkok fall into civil war and eventually drown as the levees are destroyed in a time when climate change has impacted the sea levels. This book is interesting from beginning to end as we watch the tone go from miserable to depressing to somehow unbelievably hopeful.
I found The Windup Girl to be the most intriguing book we have read as a class so far. Strictly going off of the story, I found it to be an incredibly captivating book that was able to effectively weave a number of stories and characters together into one overarching plot. As a person with a very short attention span and who has only recently, like within the last 5 years, fallen in love with books and reading, I am somewhat new to science fiction. For the most part, I am the kind of reader who has trouble focusing on the overall story and getting immersed in a book when the characters have names that do not exactly stay in my mind. At first I found characters’ names like Akkarat and Hock Seng to be difficult to remember. I had to make a conscious effort to either try to commit these names to memory or write them down when I first see them. However, I simply cannot critique this book based on my own limited comfort zone of what proper names should be no matter how confusing or hard to remember they might be.
In my limited experience with science fiction novels, I have learned that one must enter into the story with the understanding that names, places, events, etc. may not register in your mental Rolodex. The winding and weaving style of storytelling also had me a bit lost in the beginning. I read the first few chapters thinking that the book would simply follow Anderson Lake as the protagonist and that would be that. This threw me off at first, but I found by chapter 10 the confusing names and weaving plot line started to become more of a positive aspect to the book because it added a certain unfamiliar mood that I think must be established in science fiction. I believe that an aura of the unknown must be present for your imagination to fill in the gaps in the societal differences. For instance, I suppose it would be harder to get your imagination rolling on a futuristic book when as a reader you simply follow along a character with a recognizable name living in a recognizable city working for companies we have all heard of.
With this being said, I found whatever issues I had with the book easy to get passed. The more thought I put into the world that Bacigalupi created, the more it started to take form in my mind, and, for me, the book really took off from there. The author created a work that encompassed basically everything from politics, friendships, relationships, sexual slavery, to climate change. While it was a difficult read at first, I am definitely glad that I persisted through and finished the book. I think the true sign of an effective piece of literature is that it makes you think during and after the read. The Windup Girl does just that.