I've been wandering around the periphery of this book for a while without actually reading it. After a couple of ill fated attempts at reading nonfiction history (clearly, I'm not cut out for that kind of effort and kudos to those brave souls writing history books for us uneducated masses) I wanted to read something as different from Roman Britannia as possible.
I pulled up my copy of The Windup Girl and started it with my morning tea (one bag of Twinning's Everyday and one bag of Twinning's Orange Crush) and American Spirit. I didn't stop until I was finished, sometime in the midafternoon. You know how everyone writes reviews that say, "OMG I couldn't put this book down it's better than chocolate covered sex LOL"? I'm not saying that here. It's absolutely the perfect book I needed to read a couple of days ago, but it's not an absolutely perfect book.
I think the author put a lot of thought into the world building. The post-oil economy based on joules and the caloric conversion thereof was very well thought out and the implications of organizing markets around different values of different types of potential energy are deftly implemented. The long arm of classic cyberpunk is felt throughout the storyline, but it's quietly unobtrusive and provides a welcome context for the interpersonal dramas that drive the story.
Redemption is a major force for the main characters, and the Buddhism that is intertwined through this Thailand of the future makes it very easy for the author to reflect on past transgressions, sacrifice and redemption. In fact, it makes it too easy. Speaking for myself, I would have liked to read about more maneuvering in the political and technical spheres and less about the dharma of the leading cast.
At the same time though, this was a novel and welcome interpretation of the cyberpunk genre and I'm glad that this novel is widely accepted as part of the recent cyberpunk canon. It stands well enough on it's merits to be accessible to readers who don't normally read scifi, let alone cyberpunk.
The major characters are all voiced well and drawn well enough, and the female characters were drawn with the same sophistication and depth as the male characters, thankfully. Non-caucasian persons make up the majority of the protagonists. There is a even a non-hetero protagonist, though that felt awkwardly interjected into the story and didn't really do anything to drive the story forward. For the most part, the pace was consistent with the action and did a good job of conveying the unstable socio-political environment.
Please note: I don't review to provide synopses, I review to share a purely visceral reaction to books and perhaps answer some of the questions I ask when I'm contemplating investing time and money into a book.