The Windup Girl
Title: The Windup Girl
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Paolo Bacigalupi presents us with a devastating vision of the world that could be should we allow the corporations with their production of GMOs to control our food supply as they seem disturbingly intent upon doing. He also reminds us that change and suffering are constants in human existence.
Everything is under extreme tension in Bacigalupi’s Thailand city of Krung Thep. Seagates guard the city from inundation, but during the monsoons must be augmented with coal-fired pumps, which add to the environmental degradation, which in turn has led to rising ocean levels. Starvation is held at bay with genetically modified foods, which are susceptible to toxic diseases. Everything created to solve one problem creates another.
So many millions have died since the disappearance of cheap energy and safe food crops that the departed must wait and wait and wait for suitable bodies to reincarnate. They hang about waiting, sometimes engaging in conversation with the living.
And the tension spring is the primary power supply for almost everything. Trains are powered by them, but the vast majority of people travel no faster than a bicycle. A vehicle from the “expansion” era travels at speeds almost incomprehensible for the people of Krung Thep and are as rare as snow leopards.
There are new beings in this world. Cheshire cats, genetically engineered as a birthday gift to a modern Alice, have supplanted the domestic feline. There are new people, too. People made of recombined DNA of animals and humans to exhibit the obedience of dogs and the strength and speed of the swiftest and strongest of animals. There are also flaws deliberately engineered into these people. They cannot reproduce and their cooling system is deficient causing them to overheat quickly.
But they are human in shape and thought and feelings. Most everyone regards them as less than human, without souls. It is the old argument. That which has no soul is less than and can be created, exploited and disposed of without consideration, without karmic consequence.
Is this a story about the tension between good and evil? It could be, but The Windup Girl is not that simple. It is a story about choices and about the consequence of choice. Ultimately, the characters must make choices they can live with and in that way are all, including the windup girl herself, exactly like the rest of us.