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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Currently reading: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

I'm reading The Windup Girl somewhat belatedly, as it's now much too late to vote for the Hugo Awards. Maybe I'll have a bit more to say about the book tomorrow, but meanwhile I'll just observe that I can see why it won the Nebula Award for best novel and must surely be a favourite for the Hugo Award.

The narrative seemed to start rather slowly, though perhaps that was just me being impatient until I got to know and care about the characters - Bacigalupi depicts events in almost excessive detail, and this was a bit hard to take in the early pages when I had no handle on the people these things were supposedly happening to. However, I've slowed down, I've given the book some close attention without too many other distractions, and I'm getting to know these desperate people and their struggles to survive in a bleak 22nd-century Bangkok that Paolo Bacigalupi portrays with colour and texture. The characters are often reduced by their almost Hobbesian circumstances to cunning, dishonesty, and treachery, but in many cases you can't really blame them, given what they are up against in various ways.

Have any of y'all read it?

Edit: Some last comments, now I've finished the book: first, I do think this would be a worthy Hugo Award winner. I continue to like the way we are led to sympathise with a cast of characters who are all very flawed people but whom we are led to understand, and to see why they act as they do in order to survive in a harsh environment. At one point, it looks as if the book will lead to a happy ending for the main characters, but then there are some (logical) plot turns, and nothing so simple takes place. Some survive, but not all. Life goes on, though with changes (and with hints of a sequel, of course).

I met Bacigalupi in Montreal last year, but did not know his work at the time. He's an impressive talent whose career will be worth following.

1 comment:

Ebonmuse said...

I read this book and didn't care for it; there was one gaping plot hole that I just couldn't ignore. The book is supposed to be set in a world where there's been a global fossil fuel crash, forcing society to revert to human and animal muscle power to wind springs, pedal turbines, and so on. My complaint is this: Why on earth is there no solar, wind or tidal power? Bacigalupi never addresses this, and I was thinking about it on virtually every page.