I eventually decided Bacigalupi’s Pump Six and Other Stories was one of the strongest and most-memorable single-author science-fiction story collections I’ve read in the past several years. If The Windup Girl didn’t quite live up to my expectations, it’s at least partly because those expectations were high.
But I also think that The Windup Girl would be stronger if it were tightened up a little bit. It’s a good novel as it stands, but it might have been a killer short novel. And although it was not published previously as linked short stories, the density of exposition and the quantity of recapitulations of character relationships and plot points makes it feel almost as if it were originally structured with serial publication in mind.
The Windup Girl returns to the post-global warming, post-fossil fuel world of “The Calorie Man” and “Yellow Card Man,” two of the strongest stories from Pump Six and Other Stories. Part of my problem with The Windup Girl‘s quantity of exposition stems from my previous familiarity with Bacigalupi’s milieu, but part of it is legit — after the first few times, mentioning the power source of an item whenever it is referenced is overkill, as if a contemporary naturalistic novelist referred to “internal combustion engine cars.”
This is a shame, because for me it somewhat overshadowed The Windup Girl‘s many virtues, like the vividly imagined future Thailand, the slow-boiling twisty plot, vivid characters, and the white-hot core of environmental rage that fuels the book.
needs more demons? needs just a little more focus.