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.


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. []

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *