Don’t you just hate when a book synopsis lies to you? Because this one lied HARD. And, normally, I wouldn’t even bother giving a rating or a review for a book I DNF’d simply because I can’t speak to the story in its entirety, but I do make the occasional exception. The Windup Girl being one of those exceptions. This book should have been excellent, you would assume it was, given all the praise and awards this debut garnered when it was published in 2009 for its biopunk look at our future. When the climate has changed, the oil run out, and bio-terrorism has destroyed the food to where only manufactured food (think hardcore GMO’s) survives. But, instead, this book is full of harmful stereotypes and still leans on this idea that Western colonialism is what the world needs in this, supposedly, far future setting.
Let’s start with the book’s title character, you know, the actual windup girl. Emiko is, essentially, a Japanese lifelike sexbot. She has been created to be completely obedient (to the point where the author, on several occasions, likens her to a dog and even claims she has Labrador DNA ). Also, our introduction to this character is through a very detailed rape scene where Emiko is abused on stage for a group of locals to gawk at. I’m not kidding either, the whole ordeal is shown in a gross kind of loving detail, where, by the end, Emiko “can’t fight her programming” and climaxes. Honestly, Emiko’s portrayal, and her treatment was what made me nope out hard of this book eventually.
So why did I stick around to over 50% of the book? Because I genuinely liked the concept, and was hoping for more focus on the biopunk elements and the characters trying to escape or better a broken world. That never happened. All the characters are out for themselves, there are no heroes, just abusers and racist ideas and harmful, stereotypical portrayals of all the Asian characters. Most of which are men as the only woman with any significant page time or “agency” in the story is Emiko. All of which is doubly disappointing in a Hugo Award winning book.
Ok, I’m going to end this rant/review here, because honestly, the above should be enough to give you a more accurate idea of what is in the book, much more so than what the synopsis has you believe. I mean, If I, a white cis woman, can be tired of reading lazy narratives of romanticized victimization and macho Orientalist fantasies in science fiction, then I can’t imagine what people from these regions feel when they see books like this, ones that are so praised and propped up as the “best” in their genre. Which is why I am giving this book 1 star instead of leaving the rating blank. Publishers: do better.
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!