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Book review: The Windup Girl

by Paolo Bacigalupi

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The Windup Girl Image by Moshe Reuveni licensed under Creative Commons

This was a book that came highly recommended by a trusted source and no wonder! It feels like top-of-the-shelf steampunk and reads like some of the best fantasy fiction I know. The characters all have strong individual voices, and in the book’s 350-odd pages, a couple of characters go through intense internal conflict or develop and change subtly.

At first the title made me think of gears and clockwork and even the girl’s described movements seem almost steam-powered, but about a third way in I realized she’s simply a genetically engineered organism. Well, “simply” doesn’t really do it justice, because it is implied that her human genes were spliced with a number of other animal genes. One character jokes that she must have some Labrador in her to be so automatically and helplessly obedient.¬†Through the course of the book you realize how far-reaching the bio-engineering was – in many ways (some of them quite dangerous) she is the “improved human organism”, though she is not aware of this and her manufacturer certainly tries to train and punish out even the inkling of such a thought from all young windups. In fact, to further create a gap between windups and regular people, they are made more identifiable¬†(and therefore isolated and excluded from “normal society”) by their so-called heechy-keechy movements: a stutter-stop motion.¬† Continue reading

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