Yet another geek blog

22 May 2011

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

An excellent piece of traditional cyberpunk. (It makes me feel very old saying that).

The structure of the book is pure William Gibson. It follows five characters of different political and social positions whose lives affect each other. This allows a whole world to be detailed very economically.

The novel asks a question that our society is currently unable to face up to: What happens when the oil runs out? Obviously, a horrific drop in population and a shattering of political units as people fought over remaining food supplies. What there is not (as lazier writers often assume) a return to the stone age. This is because science does not disappear, it gets passed on like any other knowledge. Technology does not disappear, there just is not any power to run it. So, there are computers that are powerful enough to analyse a genome but they are powered by sewing machine treadles. LED screens are shocking extravagances and the Internet is unthinkable.

The real villain, as always is human nature. In the book, genetic engineering and capitalism form a toxic mix. Nations wage war on each other by creating plagues that destroy crops and then selling the victims sterile grin. But this is not inevitable. There is a government minister in the book who understands that rebuilding trade links can bring peace and prosperity to the whole world. Meanwhile, a genetic engineer ponders how easy it would be to make humans longer lived and immune to any disease. Interestingly, both of these characters are villains of the story.

The paradox of human nature is reflected in all the characters of the book. They all refuse to give up hope and fight for survival. They just cannot help fighting each other at the same time.


posted by Yet Another Geek @ Sunday, May 22, 2011


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]


If you use Firefox, and install Adblock, you miss out on this stuff: