Paolo Bacigalupi The Windup Girl

ISBN 13: 9781597808217

The Windup Girl

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9781597808217: The Windup Girl
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Winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel, a new edition of the break-out science fiction debut featuring additional stories and a Q&A with the author.

Anderson Lake is AgriGen’s Calorie Man, sent to work undercover as a factory manager in Thailand while combing Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories.

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. Emiko is not human; she is an engineered being, 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 this 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 and forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly-acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

In this brand new edition celebrating the book’s reception into the canon of celebrated modern science fiction, accompanying the text are two novelettes exploring the dystopian world of The Windup Girl, the Theodore Sturgeon Award-winning The Calorie Man” and Yellow Card Man.” Also included is an exclusive Q&A with the author describing his writing process, the political climate into which his debut novel was published, and the future of science fiction.

Skyhorse Publishing, under our Night Shade and Talos imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of titles for readers interested in science fiction (space opera, time travel, hard SF, alien invasion, near-future dystopia), fantasy (grimdark, sword and sorcery, contemporary urban fantasy, steampunk, alternative history), and horror (zombies, vampires, and the occult and supernatural), and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller, a national bestseller, or a Hugo or Nebula award-winner, we are committed to publishing quality books from a diverse group of authors.

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About the Author:

Paolo Bacigalupi is the award winning author of adult and young adult fiction. His work has won the Hugo, Nebula, John W. Campbell, and Locus award among others, and been nominated for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. His short fiction has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and High Country News. Bacigalupi lives in Western Colorado with his wife and son.

From The Washington Post:

Not since William Gibson's pioneering cyberpunk classic, "Neuromancer" (1984), has a first novel excited science fiction readers as much as Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Windup Girl." I missed it last year when the book first appeared, but three recent events have made it a timely addition to the summer reading list.

First, just two weeks ago "The Windup Girl" was awarded the Locus Magazine Award for best first novel. Second, in May Bacigalupi received the even more prestigious Nebula Award -- given by the Science Fiction Writers of America -- for best novel of the year. Those are convincing literary endorsements. But the third reason to pick up "The Windup Girl" is for its harrowing, on-the-ground portrait of power plays, destruction and civil insurrection in Bangkok.

Even though the book is set in an imagined future, its depiction of the city during violent unrest feels astonishingly true-to-life. Inadvertently, Bacigalupi offers a window on what it must have been like in Thailand's capital during this spring's strife and bloodshed. Though he stresses in his acknowledgments that the novel "should not be construed as representative of present-day Thailand or the Thai people," its overall vision of this wondrous and decadent city is nonetheless very close to that found in such contemporary thrillers as John Burdett's "Bangkok Tattoo."

By the end of the 22nd century, the world has been ravaged by deadly viruses, the disappearance of entire species, the rising of the oceans and the loss of all power based on petroleum. Sailing ships and dirigibles transport goods. Computers still exist, but they are operated by treadle-power, like old-time sewing machines. Guns shoot "razor disks" rather than bullets. Factories employ megadonts -- genetically altered elephants -- to turn their dynamos. Even "the Empire of America is no more," while something unspeakable happened in Finland. Not least, gigantic corporations like PurCal and AgriGen have become supra-national forces, with their own armies.

The Thai kingdom has so far survived, in part because it has sealed itself off from the outside world, and through draconian measures managed to keep the food supply relatively safe. The Environment Ministry -- supported by the brutally patriotic "white shirts" -- maintains stringent border and biological security: It has been known to burn entire villages to the ground at the very first instance of deadly "blister rust," "cibiscosis" or "genehack weevil." However, in recent years, the Child Queen has allowed the upstart Trade Ministry to gain power and to encourage some small-scale foreign investment in the kingdom.

Pretending to be a developer of innovative "kink-springs," Anderson is in fact an agent of AgriGen, assigned to Bangkok to orchestrate a covert yet aggressive initiative by the Des Moines-based corporation. He employs Hock Seng, an aging but resilient Chinese who lost his shipping company, family and very nearly his own life a few years previous during the genocides in Malaya. Trusting no one, he dreams of re-establishing his name and wealth. By contrast, Jaidee, the so-called Tiger of Bangkok, is the pugnaciously idealistic captain of the white shirts, determined to preserve his country against the onslaught of foreign influence and corruption. His unsmiling Lt. Kanya suffers from some dark burden on her soul.

And then there is Emiko, the windup girl. Windups, or New People, are essentially genetically modified test-tube babies, creche-grown in Japan. In other countries they are branded and loathed as genetic trash, without true souls. All windups move with a herky-jerky gait, like puppets on invisible strings.

In essence, Emiko has been designed to be a supremely beautiful, compliant geisha. Obedience has been built into her DNA. Her skin has been made ivory smooth by reducing the size of her pores. Never intended to function in a tropical climate, Emiko has nonetheless been callously abandoned in Bangkok: Her patron decided "to upgrade new in Osaka." She was then bought by the unscrupulous Raleigh, a survivor of "coups and counter-coups, calorie plagues and starvation," who now "squats like a liver-spotted toad in his Ploenchit 'club,' smiling in self-satisfaction as he instructs newly arrived foreigners in the lost arts of pre-Contraction debauch."

Raleigh's nightclub soon features a very special sex show: Each night the brutalized Emiko must suffer the attentions of an inventively sadistic co-worker. Afterward, her body is for hire by anyone seeking a forbidden, transgressive thrill. The girl lives in near-suicidal despair.

Until the night she meets Anderson, who tells Emiko of an enclave of windups, "escapees from the coal war," dwelling in the forests to the North. Emiko soon dreams of fleeing her sordid destiny and making her way, somehow, to this village.

From the windup, the smitten Anderson learns of a mysterious Gi Bu Sen, who has developed a new blight-resistant fruit that has recently appeared in the Thai markets. Protected by the government and living in luxurious seclusion somewhere, this Kurtz-like farang can only be the renegade AgriGen scientist Gibbons, the greatest generipper in the world, long thought to be dead. He must be found and restored to the corporation. It is because of his genius -- and the kingdom's hidden storehouse of carefully preserved seeds -- that Thailand has been able to stay "one step ahead of the plagues."

As the novel advances, the political machinations grow increasingly tense. General Pracha, Minister Akkarat, a sinister adviser to the queen named Somdet Chaopraya, even the so-called "Dung Lord" all vie for power. Meanwhile, the increasingly troubled Lt. Kanya converses with a ghost, one who knows her secret. While Emiko may be the titular windup girl, Kanya is the novel's woundup woman, a human kink spring under intense psychological pressure. When everything begins to fall apart, these two will determine the fate of Krung Thep, the City of Divine Beings -- Bangkok.

Readers of science fiction will recognize multiple influences on this excellent novel: Cordwainer Smith, J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, China Mieville and even, possibly, Margaret Atwood, who proffers a similar vision of post-apocalyptic want, fanaticism and gene-manipulation in "Oryx and Crake" and "The Year of the Flood." Clearly, Paolo Bacigalupi is a writer to watch for in the future. Just don't wait that long to enjoy the darkly complex pleasures of "The Windup Girl."

bookworld@washpost.com

Reviewed by by Michael Dirda
Copyright 2010, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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