GIVEAWAY: The Windup Girl (expanded edition) by Paolo Bacigalupi

I always enjoy being able to do giveaways for my readers. Which is why today I’m thrilled to announce that thanks to the good people at Night Shade Books, I have 2 copies of the expanded edition of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl to give away to a couple of lucky US readers!

Anderson Lake is AgriGen’s Calorie Man, sent to work undercover as a factory manager in Thailand while combing Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories.

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. Emiko is not human; she is an engineered being, grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in this chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits and forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly-acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

In this brand new edition celebrating the book’s reception into the canon of celebrated modern science fiction, accompanying the text are two novelettes exploring the dystopian world of The Windup Girl, the Theodore Sturgeon Award-winning “The Calorie Man” and “Yellow Card Man.” Also included is an exclusive Q&A with the author describing his writing process, the political climate into which his debut novel was published, and the future of science fiction.

I read and reviewed the original edition in 2011, and I really enjoyed it, so I’m excited to be able to be able to see the expanded edition, with the extra novelettes and the interview.

So if you’re interested in possibly getting your hands on 1 of 2 copies of this fantastic sci-fi novel, here are the rules:

  • Must have a US mailing address; no PO Boxes
  • Must provide mailing address if chosen as a winner, which will be sent to the publisher for shipping and not retained by me
  • Comment on this post to enter; must provide valid contact info in case you win
  • Limit of 1 (one) entry per person
  • Giveaway closes at 11:59 PM, PST, Sunday May 24, 2015
  • Winners will be drawn and announced on Monday May 25, 2015

Bacigalupi will also on tour through multiple US cities these next 2 months, so if you’re near where he’ll be speaking and signing, definitely go see him!

5/26/15: Denver, CO Tattered Cover, reading, Q&A, and signing
5/27/15: Boulder, CO Boulder Bookstore, reading, Q&A, and signing
5/28-29/15: New York, NY, BEA and NYC media
5/30/15: Boston, MA Brookline Booksmith, reading, Q&A, and signing
6/2/15: Chicago, IL Anderson’s Bookshop, reading, Q&A, and signing
6/3/15: Salt Lake City, UT The King’s English, reading, Q&A, and signing
6/4/15: Phoenix, AR Changing Hands Bookstore, reading, Q&A, and signing
6/6-6/7/15: San Francisco, CA, Bay Area Literary Festival
6/6-6/7/15: San Francisco, CA, Borderlands, signing
6/8/15: San Diego, CA Mysterious Galaxy, reading, Q&A, and signing
6/9/15: Los Angeles, Vroman’s, reading, Q&A, and signing
6/10/15: Portland, OR Powell’s Bookstore, reading, Q&A, and signing
6/11/15: Seattle, WA University Book Store, reading, Q&A, and signing
6/18/15: Crested Butte, CO Rumors Coffee and Tea House, reading, Q&A, and signing

The Doubt Factory, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – October 14, 2014

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Everything Alix knows about her life is a lie. At least that’s what a mysterious young man who’s “stalking”her keeps saying. But then she begins investigating the disturbing claims he makes against her father. Could her dad really be at the helm of a firm that distorts the truth and covers up wrongdoing by hugely profitable corporations that have allowed innocent victims to die? Is it possible that her father is the bad guy, and that the undeniably alluring criminal who calls himself Moses–and his radical band of teen activists–is right? Alix has to make a choice, and time is running out, but can she truly risk everything and blow the whistle on the man who loves her and raised her?

Thoughts: I think I was expecting something different when I started reading The Doubt Factory. For a large percentage of the book, I kept waiting for some odd supernatural or futuretech element to be revealed. Hazards of mostly reading SFF, I think. But despite that particular mistaken expectation not being met, I can’t deny that The Doubt Factory was a good YA thriller, an intelligent look at conspiracy theories, which side of the coin they apply to, and how the truth is so easy to obfuscate.

The story is told from the perspective of Alix, daughter of an affluent family whose fortunes are made thanks to her fathers work in PR. As Alix put it, when lawsuits happen, he works to allow both sides to be able to tell their stories, so that everyone gets a fair shot. But as a series of pranks escalate to a kidnapping, Alex slowly comes to understand that her father’s work is far from fair, that what he does ends up hiding evidence, suppressing unbiased research, and preventing wronged parties from being able to get reparation and justice. And she has been living off the profits of such enterprise for most of her life, going to an elite private school, making connections with other rich and influential families, living in a great house. It’s the kind of novel that’s practically custom-made for the socially conscious disenfranchised teen who wants to make a splash in the world but who may lack the motivation or resources to disseminate truth from lie.

And that’s largely what this book is about. An awakening and understanding that lies can look like truth and vice versa, depending on what information one is being fed. Conspiracy theorists say a lot of things, from the idea that nobody ever landed on the moon, to the idea that corporations can and do buy political favour to influence laws, to the idea that George Bush Jr is a lizard alien. One of these things is actually true. But sometimes it’s hard to decide which one when all of the sound crazy or all of them sound like there could be a grain of truth there. Conspiracy theorists are rarely taken seriously by anyone but other conspiracy theorists, which harms efforts when the conspiracy is actually true.

It also raises questions about cost versus gain. Using an example from the book, if a new medication is developed that improved the lives of 95% of users but causes fatal heart attacks in the remaining 5%, should that medication be pulled from the market? What counts as acceptable risk? What’s the percentage of people who have to risk suffering so that others can have an improved life? Is any percentage acceptable when you’re standing face-to-face with someone who lost family because they were in that 5% group? These are difficult questions to answer, and while it’s clear that The Doubt Factory is firmly on the side of those who have suffered rather than those who profited, it also takes pains to say that there are no clear answers, that the world doesn’t exist in black and white and there’s always more information if you dig deep enough.

(You know a book’s good and thought-provoking when I spend most of my review commenting on the subject matter and its application to the real world…)

I haven’t read many of Bacigalupi’s works, but what I have read leads me to believe that he knows how to write an interesting character, and how to make the cast diverse and real. They’re not just archetypes, they’re people with depth and layers, and nobody is entirely right or entirely wrong. Even Alix’s father, a man whose profession involves twisting the truth and organizing biased research and suppressing unbiased research, is a loving father who cares deeply about his children and wants the best for them, even if his ideas of ‘best’ differ from his daughter’s. Her brother was a rebellious teen with impulse control issues who nevertheless was still loyal to his sister. Kook, the caffeine-and-marijuana-fueled computer hacker was abrasive and rude and very much devoted to her cause. Cynthia spent months hiding her identity to get close to Alix in order to get info from her and make her see what her father was doing, and her mission didn’t stop her from genuinely feeling friendship for her target. Adam is a DJ and activist with a fondness for adorable rats. (And he was my favourite secondary character in the whole novel, to boot!) Every character is nuanced, every one real and able to make their appeals in a way that didn’t feel like you were drowning in either activism or anti-activism. It was a beautiful presentation.

This is the kind of book that will encourage readers not to charge forward without a plan, but to do the research and to really understand what it is that they’re fighting for and what the costs can be. It presents activism and truth in shades of grey, and gives the reader an all-to-plausible scenario in which the truth can destroy lives, literally and figuratively. It hits you right in the heart and mind and leaves an imprint long after you’ve finished reading. I highly recommend this book, not just to teens who want to make a difference, but to adults who want to do the same, and all who want to learn more about what drives people to do what they do.

(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)

The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi

  Buy from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or IndieBound

Author’s website
Publication date – September 15, 2009

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits? And what happens when said bio-terrorism forces humanity to the cusp of post-human evolution? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of his award-winning “The Calorie Man” and “Yellow Card Man” in order to address these questions.

Thoughts: Where a good deal of futuristic settings are largely Western in origin, Bacigalupi breaks the mold and sets The Windup Girl in Thailand, exposing readers to a new culture, language, and set of experiences and values. My own compehension of Thai being limited to “sawatdi kha” and “mai pen rai,” I managed to expand my vocabulary a little simply by reading this book. It was, I must say, a welcome change from the white-bread, Western-dominated culture often expressed in futuristic settings.

Also interestingly, while still being science fiction this book takes us back a few steps in terms of technology. The level of power that we enjoy even today is gone. Computers are run by treadles. It’s borderline steampunk in that more things are made of cogs and gears, simply out of necessity. Humanity’s control over the world has been decimated by crop failures, advanced disease, climate change. The whole Monsanto controvery is ramped up to 11 here by corporations taking control of all things edible, cracking the genetic code to make it resistant to all the blights and ills that killed crops previously, and making all the crops sterile so that people have to rely on them for food. Nobody can just take a handful of apple seeds and some land and start their own orchard.

Almost makes you wish for the kind of future where we’re just off exploring alien planets, doesn’t it?

The titular character of the novel, Emiko the windup girl, is interesting in that she’s not the main character (though we do see a fair amount from her viewpoint, so it’s fair to say that she’s a protagonist) but more of a catalyst. Resigned at first to spending her life being degraded in the sex trade, Emiko’s journey of self-discovery and -realization not only free her from sexual slavery but also serves as the jumping-off point for an entire political revolution in Thailand. And they say one person can’t make a difference…

Bacigalupi’s chilling version of the future is one that could all too easily become reality, which is, of course, the most terrifying part of speculative fiction. The future he creates is not dystopian; it doesn’t pretend to be perfect or tightly-controlled, though it does bear a few of the earmarks of a dystopian society in the making. The skill at which the author weaves the fine detail of culture and speculative future together makes for a fascinating tapestry, one which I’m very pleased to have glimpsed, even if it comes with a disturbing ending. Bacigalupi is one author you simply can’t afford to miss.

(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)