Djinnjer's Reviews > The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
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's review
Sep 25, 11

bookshelves: 2011, bookclub, sciencefiction, reviewed
Read in February, 2011

The world's premise was interesting -- a post-oil world afflicted with massive climate change, man-made agricultural plagues, and the collapse of the global economy. I liked the Tiger of Bangkok and his right-hand, Kanya, and Hock Seng, the refugee, was interesting and sympathetic if not particularly likeable. Here ends the positive part of this review.

The title character was a Japanese-created wind-up girl, who was brought as a translator to Thailand where she was abandoned and forced into sex shows due to local fear of wind-ups (a fear that persists despite the assertion that obedience is 'bred into' the wind-ups, which, ew). She is very obedient but perhaps not a great translator, judging by her gently broken English. As a result, she reads more like a Western stereotype of a Japanese woman than a character in her own right. It doesn't help that there are no 'real' Japanese women to compare her against. There are two fairly graphic rape scenes, the second of which forwards the plot when the victim finally snaps. The first seems to be there just for titillation.

And then there's the obtrusive use of Thai throughout. I don't understand why an author would sprinkle foreign words into internal dialogue. If characters are thinking in their native tongues (and I'm presumably reading their 'translated' thoughts), there's rarely a reason for an 'untranslatable' word to be introduced. Either write around it, or find a way to introduce and define it in a dialogue with someone who wouldn't immediately understand the word, so the character doesn't sound crazy.

In most respects, I agree with Jaymee Goh's review on Beyond Victoriana. Though I had no clue what a rambutan was either, and I don't live in a world where produce has been so utterly ravaged by genetic warfare, so I forgive the Western character his fascination.
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