The Windup Girl

I finished the audiobook of The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi multi-award winning novel about life in a dystopic Thailand after global warming and genetic engineering have wrecked much of modern society. Bacigalupi is a wonderful writer and it is an imaginative story, worthy of the praise and awards that were heaped on it after the book’s release nearly two years ago.

The Story

The story follows the intersection of a half-dozen-or-so key characters who have all found themselves in the Bangkok. While each character has a great deal of depth, it is really the city and—through the limited lens we’re allowed—the world that Bacigalupi describes that are the star.

Often, the story told in a novel falls into one of two categories: an epic tale starting from small events leading to world-changing epochs and their aftermath or (and this is case with The Windup Girl) we are given but a narrow window into a greater world. Bacigalupi gives hints at the various events that brought about the lives we are presented in this story though very little is given as to where those lives go afterwards. We are just presented with a glimpse on the crossroads of these characters. While I found myself wanting more of their stories, I want to know more about the rest of the world even more so. I want to know about the inner workings of AgriGen. I want to know just what went down in Finland. And I want to know if life in Japan is as luxurious as it sounds when compared to the rest of the world in The Windup Girl.

Audiobook

The audiobook is performed by the excellent Jonathan Davis. The first audiobook performance I listened to of his was Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, one that remains a high mark of narration in my mind. His wide range of accents and voices truly feels like a cast of performers. Unfortunately, unlike Snow Crash, the pace felt too slow in The Windup Girl. Davis’ pauses and cadences went beyond dramatic and bordered on tedious at various points. The book isn’t a particularly long novel but yet the performed at such a slow pace, the audiobook was terribly long. For reference, Snow Crash is 480 pages and the Davis-performed audiobook just over 17 hours where as The Windup Girl is 361 pages and the audiobook by the same performer is 19 and a half hours long1. Though I’m a fan of Davis’ work and look forward to listing to more of his reading, this particular performance drug on more than I cared for.

Slow pace aside, the audiobook is good and the story is great. I highly recommend it and truly hope that Bacigalupi takes us back to this world again very soon.

  1. I’m aware page isn’t a standardized metric, but I can’t account for that increase in length other than very slow performance. []