Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl: Gene-hacked life forms in a calorie conscious world

Battles are raging for reading time in the Butterfield household as we fight over the same copy of The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. A present for my husband, I quickly got sucked into to the dark and twisted world of the Contraction, the post-oil world, ravaged by environmental destruction, wars and disease. Light bed time reading, eh?

Well,  it’s the plants you see…

The woman hands across the ngaw, and Anderson almost laughs with pleasure. Not a single one of these furry fruits should exist; he might as well be hefting a sack of trilobytes. If his guess about the ngaw’s origin is correct, it represents a return from extinction as shocking as if a Tyrannosaurus were stalking down Thanon Sukhumvit. But then, the same is true of the potatoes and tomatoes and chiles that fill the market, all piled in such splendid abundance, an array of fecund nightshades that no one has seen in generations.In this drowning city, all things seem possible. Fruits and vegetables return from the grave, extinct flowers blossom on the avenues, and behind it all, the Environment Ministry works magic with the genetic material of generations lost.

I’ve only made it to chapter 4, but I’m brimming with excitement over this already, I just had to share.
The setting is extremely compelling and I’ve only just been introduced to Emiko, the windup girl – the characterisation of a person built to serve the needs of an aging Japanese population, and I mean built a gene at a time, is absolutely gripping. This is one intense little package of 500 pages. The first chapter alone picked me up and walloped me straight into dystopic Thai market places before assaulting me, well, the lead character, with a Megadont straight out of the Pleistocene.

The storytelling is graphic, the detailing intense. My desire to learn about gene-hacked fruits and plagues of the future? Unquenchable. So I’m writing this while my itchy fingers wait for their turn to flick the pages of The Windup Girl.

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