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Book Review: The Windup Girl - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Book Review: The Windup Girl [Jan. 31st, 2011|12:30 pm]
I gave The Windup Girl a 3/5 review on Good Reads. The ideas behind this book are fascinating, but I have problems with the execution. The notion is a post-environmental collapse world where the measure of commodity is calories. Thailand has thrived by isolating itself from other countries, but a portion of the Thai government wants open trade while those currently with the upper hand want even more isolation. The Windup Girl, Emiko, is a genetically-engineered person and as such is considered a soulless machine (despite having no machine parts) by the Thais. The story follows her, an American business man, a Chinese refuge, and a branch of the isolationist government, alternating between chapters.

There is a lot going on in this book, and many people get bogged down and confused by it. I found it a bit of a slog, but that's not the reason for the relatively low rating. I have several problems with the book, including:

- While the central idea of the book is that calories are the main commodity, we see very little of the impact of such commodification. Yes, there are alternate fuel sources and treadle-generated power is used to run computers, but there is never an analysis of whether the payment in calories is worth the expenditure of calories for a particular task. This really bothered me, because without it the world is just another post-abundance dystopia.

- By the end of the story, nothing has really changed except the venue for where the same conflicts are going to be fought. That's frustrating.

- When a writer foreshadows an event not once but several times, and that event only comes into play in the epilogue, it feels tacked on and not terribly satisfying.

- Some events had no follow-through. At one point Emiko is captured, but the next time she appears she's back to her regular life and there's no discussion of her capture or escape.

In all, great idea, stumbling execution. I'm glad I read it, as a book doesn't have to be perfect to be worthwhile.

[User Picture]From: zodarzone
2011-01-31 07:08 pm (UTC)
3/5 is a "relatively low rating?" Always considered it meant something was average, but depends on the scale being used. Or is it generally getting 4 or 5 stars so, in comparrison, this is low?

It sounds like a very subjective method of valuation. Is payment made in food? Taking into account the limited lifespan of food (by either expiration or ingestion), that in itself would significantly change how "money" is considered.

And that unresolved foreshadowing thing and plot hole - that's just bad writing and unforgivable in a novel. Movies I'll let some things slide because of the nature of how they are constructed, but a novel should be tight. Anything ambigious or unsaid in a novel should feel like it was intentional on the part of the writer, not like something was cut out.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-01-31 07:31 pm (UTC)
It's generally getting 4 to 5, which is why "relatively low." It's one of those books that's gotten HUGE buzz and been given great reviews. It's interesting enough to deserve some of it, but not as much as it's gotten.

Payment is made in paper money, which is never demoninated by anything but colors. So there's no connecting to calorie values.

The other problems are definitely huge.
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[User Picture]From: aiela
2011-01-31 08:56 pm (UTC)
I couldn't finish it, which is why I lent it to Ferrett in the first place. I did enjoy Ship Breaker, but his half of the novella he did with Toby fell flat for me, too.

I WANT to like Paolo's writing, I just haven't been able to much get into it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-02-01 12:54 pm (UTC)
Honestly, the more I think about it the more irked I become by the unexplored ideas. I don't mind books that are challenging, but such gaps are unacceptable.
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[User Picture]From: bbwoof
2011-02-01 04:43 pm (UTC)

Did this book write itself?

I'm pretty sure that this is the first book review that I've ever seen that made no mention of the author's name. You must have been REALLY disimpressed with the execution here!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-02-01 06:40 pm (UTC)

Re: Did this book write itself?

Oops, sorry! Paolo Bacigalupi is the author - I copied and pasted from my review on a book site that had a link and didn't even think about it.
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