28 November, 2021

LitStaff Pick: The Books We Didn’t Want to End

The Windup Girlwindup girl
Paolo Bacigalupi

I picked up this book from the library when it won both Nebula and Hugo awards, and it turned out to be fantastic. While the ending of The Windup Girl satisfies much of the story arc, I was truly sad when it ended for I wanted – I want – more.

The “windups” are “race” of genetically spliced, human organic automatons, grown in a test tube and developed to be obedient and efficient. Despised by almost all other cultures as soul-less monstrosities, the windups are characterized by a herky-jerky motion when they move, but they have independent minds and can muse and wonder about their condition and their place in society, even as their genetic engineering render them virtually totally obedient – and therefore, easily exploited and just as easily discarded. However, the windup girl of the title, Emiko, is just one small part of a large yet focused story.

In The Windup Girl, Paulo Bacigalupi has spun a near-future Earth that has been ravaged not by war, but by famine, loss and greed and he challenges us to imagine a world where the basest of human nature threatens to call the shots. Bacigalupi’s writing is rich yet concise. He allows actions to provide much of his explication, and his details are sharp, drawing a very clear picture of his vision of this future world. Characters are complex and yet have very simple motivations. Redemption for Bacigalupi’s characters – when there is any – come in drips and dabs, but that is perhaps what gives such small glimpses of humanity so much impact.

Should Bacigalupi decide to expand on what he has already brought forth, then I will feel absolutely compelled to be reeled back in – despite the squalor, corruption, and greed of this future, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

—Sharon Browning

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