The setting is Bangkok, the capital of the Thai Kingdom, one of not so many surviving countries from the apocalypse. The sea level is rising, crops were destroyed by genetically modified plant disease and pest. And Thai survived because of the visionary leadership of Her Royalty. The story is told from four POV: an undercover company agent sent to Thailand to uncover the secret of Thailand reserve of gene, a Malaysian Chinese refugee who left his country because of religious riots, a Thai environmental police enforcer, and finally a windup girl, a genetically modified human.
I think I want to explain a little bit about the word “windup”. “Windup” is an action that you do when you turn the spring to power a clock, like the key that you turn for a windup toys. Windup girl is a nickname because of the movement she made, which is like a windup toys, a tick-tock movement. They are created that way.
The detail in this novel is very engaging. The writer’s imagination of the post-peak-oil world is very vivid. Coal and gas are extremely rare. The only form of energy that you can depend on is muscle power. The author shows you the world from the POV characters slowly, without giving you too much information dump. The story is told in a very personal way, not from a bird eye view. So you will have to create your own picture of the world, then finally you realize the kind of world they are living in.
The plot is quite complex, you have lots of intrigue, one character played against another character. There are no real protagonist and antagonist. Everyone is for their own agenda and survival. And all of their fate is tangled in the middle of this creature, the windup girl. Finally, what this novel all about, is survival. We all fight to survive, in our own way, in our own term.
I am also impressed by the usage of many language in this book. You have Thais, Chinese, even Malay. The author used the word: kopi, nasi goreng, and rambutan. Actually rambutan has a very important plot point is this novel. The author is really doing his homework .
Finally, this novel is important because it is a front runner of a new apocalyptic and dystopian theme. We are going to see more sci-fi novels in this theme in the future. The nuclear war scare are pretty much behind us. Now we have environmental problem, energy crisis, terrorism, maybe an impending religious war, at least in small scale. It is beautifully (or scarily) captured by the author.
There is one thing that I love most about this novel: the political statement of the writer. In this novel, the Thai government violated the international law of intellectual right to the people. Go to hell with the patent law, if they keep people poor and dying, because they do not have enough money to access genetically enhance crops or medicine.
Final verdict: a strong 4 star. I am still not drag into the story. Lack the final zest