In this dystopian, post-oil future where calories are currency, genetically engineered diseases ravage the population, oceans are rising and giant agribusinesses — calorie companies — are in control, Thailand struggles to remain independent in an increasingly hostile world.
Anderson Lake is an American calorie man who arrives in Bangkok ostensibly to run a company that manufactures power producing springs, but who is really on the lookout for new food items for the company.
“The Windup Girl” of the title is an artificial person, crèche grown by the Japanese to be a submissive companion to a wealthy man, but she has been discarded by him and now works in a bar/brothel in Bangkok. Her name is Emiko and she has many talents, many of which even she does not know about. Considered repulsive and not human by the Thais, she risks “mulching” if she is discovered by the authorities. In this case the authorities are the Environment Ministry which is charged with protecting the country from plague and contamination.
Lake is both fascinated and repulsed by Emiko, but his attraction to her is too strong for him to stay away. Emiko has very human dreams of escaping to live with others of her kind and she hopes Lake can help her attain this freedom.
Hock Seng, Lake’s assistant, is a Chinese refugee — a Yellow Card man — who resents his American boss and has grand dreams of regaining a life of power and prosperity like he had before fleeing China to avoid slaughter.
Jaidee Rojjanasukchai is an Environment Ministry soldier and hero who is fiercely dedicated to protecting the country. The Environment Ministry is at odds with the Trade Ministry, which is open to dealing with foreign interests, and Jaidee becomes a target in their rivalry. His actions, along with those of Emiko and Hock Seng, set off a devastating chain of events.
A fascinating, intricately detailed story with multiple plot lines and artfully drawn characters, this tale of the future has lessons for the present without being preachy. We are well entertained while being given much to ponder.
Other Book Train Staff Picks
1. “The Light Between Oceans” by M. L. Steadman
2. “The Yellow Birds” by Kevin Powers
3. “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn
4. “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe