The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi – was published in 2009 and is a science fiction novel set in the future. The Earth’s polar ice caps have melted completely and the balance of power in the world has shifted to the Far East, and the kingdom of Thailand is now the most powerful country. The world’s oil reserves are completely depleted, and people are back to relying on animal power, or even energy stored in specialized devices such as metal springs to run everything.
With the ensuing chaos countries fight each other with biological weapons that destroy not people, but the enemy countries crops, leaving most of the world’s population with not enough food. The source of Thailand’s power comes from the fact that their scientists have found ways to protect its crops against the biological plagues.
The hero of the story is an American who has been sent to Thailand to spy and try to find out the Thai scientists secrets. There he meets and falls in love with the beautiful “windup girl” She is a genetically engineered being. In many ways she is superior to regular humans, but moves in jerky motions unless she moves very slowly. Thus, she often seems like a life-sized windup toy.
The mark of a good science fiction writer is being able to create a completely unique environment and yet have all the characters and situations within that environment seem believable. Paolo Bacigalupi has done this in an excellent work of science fiction. You not only believe in the characters, but come to like and care for them and what happens to their futuristic world.