The windup girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)
Score: Very good.
Twenty minutes into the future: the level of the oceans has risen some hundreds of meters, making cities build large walls to keep out the sea. Nutrition corporations have managed to trademark most vegetables and cattle and fight their competition by engineering plagues that only affects the competition’s products and to top it they also cause famines to whole populations to force the purchase of their products. The book takes place in Thailand and follows one of these calorie men, one of his employees, who has his own agenda, apparently the only honest policeman in Thailand and the eponymous windup girl, a genetically modified woman who was marooned by her last owner in Thailand.
It was refreshing to read something more recent for a change. Faster-paced, much more cinematographic, newer themes (duh, it’s a biopunk). Good things about it: quite immersive, it’s about something else than bioengineering and its evils, every character is basically an anti-hero (even Emiko, no matter how much empathy we feel for her). So yeah, what conspiranoids feel Monsanto will do eventually comes true in this universe, but it’s just the frame for a story full of politics, revenge and grey-and-grey morality, so it’s nice because everything is in the background but there are not a lot of filibusters devoted to explaining how the world got itself to that situation, not to say there are none.
On the bad side, I don’t speak a word of Thai and I’ve never been to that lovely country, but I’ve heard the book is not greatly researched. I didn’t think that much of it when I finished it but in hindsight I consider it a quite neat read and I would definitely recommend it.