I am going to attempt to do a comparative review of The Water Knife and The Windup Girl both by Paolo Bacigalupi.
I finished The Water Knife toward the end of March, I read it in three days and I really, really enjoyed it. Because of that, I wanted to basically read everything written by Bacigalupi and since I had a copy of The Windup Girl on my Kindle, I decided to start it the same day I finished The Water Knife.
I don’t usually read several books from the same author back to back, it happened recently with Europe in Autumn and Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson but at least they were from the same series. I don’t usually do it because I don’t want to “burn myself out” on series or authors that I like, and I am not going to lie, this is kind of what happened with Bacigalupi.
As I said, I really enjoyed The Water Knife. It had everything I was looking for, and more. I was in the mood for a sci-fi political thriller and it was exactly that. The story is set in the near future where after some geological catastrophes, the access to water is very hard and basically, having water is having power of life and death over other people. This book follows three characters Angel, a man working for the “bad guys”, his job is basically to neutralise and/or kill everyone standing in the path of the corporation is working for. Lucy a Pulitzer winning journalist trying to investigate the murder of one of her very ambitious friend and finally Maria, a 16-ish years old girl who is just trying to survive in a horrible world.
What I liked most about this book definitely were the characters. It could have been easy to just turn Angel in despicable man, Lucy in “a knight” in a shining armor, Maria in a victim. However, all the characters were very complex and it was fascinating to read about them.
The worldbuilding was also great, even if some elements too close to reality were a bit scary.
Overall, it was great book and I would highly recommend it to everyone, I already lent my copy to my father.
So, now let’s talk about The Windup Girl, Bacigalupi’s debut novel and the winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula award.
The Windup Girl is also set in the near future but in Bangkok, Thailand in the aftermath of a bioterrorism attack which destroyed most vegetables as we know them. Basically, in The Water Knife, those who had water were the ones with power, in the Windup Girl, the powerful people are the ones owning seed banks.
The premise was cool but I had two big problems with this book.
First of all, I despised all of the characters. Remember when I said that in The Water Knife, it could have been easy to turn the protagonists into one dimensional characters?
Well, it was the case in The Windup Girl.
The corporate guy was the asshole, the windup girl (an engineered being) was the victim, the soldier was the knight in shining armor and the worker/immigrant was greedy. I don’t mind when characters make mistakes, it’s normal but when they all are acting weird and stupid for 400+, I lose patience.
However, the thing that angered me the most wasn’t the characters, it was Bacigalupi opinions on biological engineering.
What you might don’t know about me is that I am actually studying in a engineering school and I would really like to graduate as a biological engineer. For now, I am more interested biomechanics but who knows, I have time to change my mind and work in the biotechnologis. Anyway, it is made pretty clear that Bacigalupi is against GMOs and more than this completely against GMOs corporation (AgriGen’s clearly representing Monsanto).
I can understand why it is very easy to despise Monsanto, I don’t like them too and I wouldn’t want to work for them, however, I didn’t like how Bacigalupi demonized GMOs in general. Yes, we have to be cautious with them but they are not “all bad”. If you want an example of a “good” GMO, go read this Wikipedia page. I really hate when people turn GMO into Satan, yes we should have seed banks to conserve genetic diversity but, we should also stop saying that GMOs are going to kill the planet, because like all scientifical progress, even if they have downsides, they can be used in a good way.
I am going to stop here because I don’t want to turn this into a huge rant on Gmos but, I really didn’t like Bacigalupi’s opinion on this topic and it made the enjoyment of the book hard for me.
So yeah, if you want to read a Bacigalupi’s book, I would highly recommend The Water Knife which is in my opinion a fantastic book but I would highly recommend that you don’t read read The Windup Girl. 😛
The Water Knife :
The Windup Girl :