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The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi Paperback

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The Windup Girl   Paolo Bacigalupi   Paperback

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi


The Windup Girl is a biopunk science fiction novel written by Paolo Bacigalupi and published in September 2009. It was named as the ninth best fiction book of 2009 by TIME magazine, and as the best science fiction book of the year in the Reference and User Services Association's 2010 Reading List. This book is a 2009 Nebula Award and a 2010 Hugo Award winner (together with China Miévilles The City & the City), both for best novel.This book also won the 2010 Compton Crook Award and the 2010 Locus Award for best first novel.

About The Windup Girl

Anderson Lake is an economic hitman and the AgriGen Representative in Thailand. He owns a kink-spring factory trying to mass produce a revolutionary new model that will store gigajoules of energy. The factory is a cover for his real mission: discovering the location of the Thai seedbank. He leaves the running of the factory to his Chinese manager, Hock Seng, a refugee from the Malaysian purge of the ethnic Chinese. A businessman in his former life, he is plotting to regain his former glory even as he lives from day to day. He waits patiently for an opportunity to steal the kink-spring designs kept in Anderson's safe, and embezzles copiously. Emiko is a Japanese-designed windup girl (a humanoid GM organism, used as a slave, and programmed to seek a master and obey him; windups call themselves "New People") abandoned by her Japanese master. As such, she is illegal in Thailand. Raleigh, a sex club owner, gives her some measure of safety by bribing the police to let her live, but at the price of forcing her to work in his club, where she is routinely abused and sexually humiliated. Among other genetic modifications, Emiko has a genetically altered pore structure, which makes her skin extremely smooth but prone to overheating -- a life-threatening problem in the hot climate of Thailand. One of her customers tells her of the secret seedbank and a mysterious man named Gibbons. Anderson gleans this information from her and, in return, tells her about a refuge in the north of Thailand where people of Emiko's kind live together. This becomes fixated in her mind, and from then on she sets her mind on paying off Raleigh and escaping to this refuge. Anderson's factory is destroyed by a rogue megadont (a GM elephant used to run the power train). Also destroyed are algae baths, which are critical to the manufacturing process, and whose spares are costly and must be smuggled into Thailand via dirigible. Anderson orders Seng to fix up the factory as soon as possible, threatening him with the loss of his job if he doesn't do so. Hock Seng's job is made difficult by the fact that he has failed to bribe the customs officials, as he had embezzled the bribe money. Knowing that his time has come, he makes a money-for-plans deal with the Dung Lord, a gangster.

Jaidee Rojjanasukchai, an upright and courageous captain of the White Shirts (the enforcement wing of the Environment Ministry), intercepts the dirigible containing, among other things, Anderson's much needed spare tanks, and destroys the contraband. This raises the hackles of the white, foreign trading community in Thailand and they pressure Akkarat to make Jaidee back off. To 'persuade' Jaidee, known as the Tiger of Bangkok for his muay thai skills and courage, and an icon among the white shirts, they kidnap his wife. Jaidee submits and makes a public apology. False charges are made against him and he is condemned to monkhood for 9 years. Unknown to Jaidee, his wife has already been murdered. A triumphant Anderson and his main collaborator, Richard Carlyle, negotiate with Akkarat for access to the seedbank and lowering of the trade barriers. Akkarat refuses, saying there are limits to his greed. Jaidee, determined to track his wife's murderers, escapes from the monastery and infiltrates the Trade Ministry. He is caught, killed, and his mutilated body is deposited in front of the Environment Ministry. As the white shirts revere him as a hero, they declare him a martyr, and rise up against the Trade Ministry. General Pracha appoints Lieutenant Kanya, Jaidee's protege, as the new Captain and unleashes a reign of terror on Bangkok. Meanwhile, Mai, a child labourer in Anderson's factory, has discovered that her fellow workers are falling to a new plague that had previously made the algae tanks malfunction. She reports this to Hock Seng, who arranges to have the bodies disposed of surreptitiously. As the white shirts take control of Bangkok, he steals all of Anderson's petty cash, takes Mai with him and tries to escape. Meanwhile, Anderson has become close to Emiko.

Anderson discovers Hock Seng's flight and goes into hiding with Richard Carlyle. Kanya, who is Akkarat's mole, discovers the new plague and sets about trying to contain it. (We learn that years earlier Kanya had been rescued as a young girl by Akkarat when her own home village was destroyed in the course of containing a genehacked plague.) She reluctantly seeks help from Gibbons, who is revealed to be a renegade AgriGen scientist. Gibbons is a brilliant geneticist and the last hope for the Thai defense against the plagues. He easily identifies the new plague and gives clues to Kanya. Anderson and Carlyle meet with Akkarat and the Somdet Chaopraya, who is the regent to the young Thai Queen and the most powerful person in all of Thailand. Anderson offers to supply a new strain of GM rice and a private army to repel the white shirts in exchange for access to the seedbank and lowering of the trade barriers. He also introduces the Somdet Chaopraya to Emiko. When the Somdet Chaopraya's acts prove too humiliating, Emiko snaps and kills the Somdet Chaopraya, Raleigh and eight other men. Then she seeks refuge with Anderson. Because she has killed such a powerful man and all of his bodyguards, Akkarat assumes Emiko to be a military windup and accuses General Pracha of assassinating the Somdet Chaopraya. He also proceeds to arrest Anderson and Carlyle as suspects in the assassination conspiracy. Emiko escapes in the nick of time. Kanya traces the origin of one of the plague victims to a village near Bangkok, and from information she gets there is able to identify Anderson's kink-spring factory as a possible source. She sterilizes the village with lye. Hock Seng fails to steal the kink-spring designs, so he decides to capture Emiko for ransom. He takes Mai with him.

Kanya is informed of the suspected assassination plot by her handler. Recognizing the harm the incident could cause, she visits the Japanese company that designed Emiko, learns of the true facts, and tries to explain it to Akkarat. But Akkarat has already decided to blame General Pracha for the assassination as a pretext for regime change and mobilizes his reserves to destroy Pracha and the white shirts. Anderson is released and discovers that he may have contracted the new plague. Hock Seng encounters Emiko in Anderson's apartment and holds her at gunpoint. Anderson and Carlyle arrive at the same time. They make a deal: Hock Seng would be patronized by AgriGen and Emiko would remain with Anderson. Eventually, Pracha and most of the top Environment Ministry men are killed. Akkarat, now all-powerful, appoints his spy Kanya as the chief of the Environment Ministry. He also opens up Thailand to the world, and grants AgriGen access to the seedbank. Kanya, who acts subdued at first, reneges and executes the AgriGen team in the seedbank. She then proceeds to move the seedbank to a safer place with the help of the monks. With the hidden arsenal in the seedbank, she orchestrates an uprising and coup d'état. She destroys the levees, flooding Bangkok. Bangkok's people and the capital relocate to the site of Ayutthaya, a previous Thai capital. There is now a new Tiger, a grim, unsmiling woman (Kanya), and it is implied that the Child Queen now reigns without a regent. Hock Seng is allowed by Kanya to leave Thailand with Mai to start a new life. The plague slowly kills Anderson as Emiko nurses him through the agony. She is alone in the flooded city when Gibbons arrives with his androgynous (kathoey or "ladyboy") companion. He promises Emiko that he will use her DNA to engineer a new race of fertile New People, thus fulfilling her dream of living with her own kind.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi



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