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Paolo Bacigalupi

Little Brown

ISBN: 9780316056212

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce

I was looking forward to seeing what Bacigalupi would do with YA, having quite enjoyed his first book (The Windup Girl). I’m sad, then, to say that I was disappointed.

It begins well: Nailer, a boy of indeterminate age, clambering through the wreck of a ship and scrabbling for copper to salvage and make the quota required by his work crew. It’s dangerous, unpleasant work, and that is carried very effectively indeed in the opening pages. In fact, the opening is the most effective – and affective – section of the whole novel: it conveys the reality of life for Nailer and others like him in stark simplicity, complete with dangerous working conditions and the possibility of betrayal. I certainly felt for Nailer in his circumstances, and this sympathy was probably the only thing that kept me reading to the end.

Living on a beach with a crowd of similarly destitute and desperate types, Nailer’s life is of course no picnic. It’s made worse when a massive storm comes in and threatens the entire beach, but starts to look up when the storm proves to have driven a modern, very expensive, clipper ship onto the rocks nearby. Naturally, there are complications, and events proceed neither as he expected nor, entirely, as he hoped. There is fighting, betrayal, hope, and agonising decisions as the story plays out. Through all of this, Nailer is exposed to both the better and worse sides of humanity (and the not-quite-human). It’s not quite a coming-of-age story, although given this is (I think) the beginning of a trilogy, perhaps it will evolve as such. It is a discovery-of-the-world story, and Nailer’s eyes – until this point restricted to an unpleasant family and a little-hope life of scavenging and starvation – are the perfect vehicle for Bacigalupi’s exploration of a dystopia where oil is scarce, oceans have risen, and the divide between rich and poor is even more obvious, in the USA, than it is (believed to be) today.

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Paolo Bacigalupi

Night Shade Books

ISBN: 978-1-59780-202-4

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Fresh from finishing Bacigalupi’s debut novel, I went out and bought myself a copy of his debut collection, Pump Six and Other Stories. Two of these stories, ‘The Calorie Man’ and ‘Yellow Card Man’, actually provide backstory for The Windup Girl (these two stories are freely available for download on the Night Shade Books website). The ten stories collected here are arranged in chronological order of publication, giving us an insight into Bacigalupi’s development as a writer, as well as the development of his Windup Girl universe.

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Paolo Bacigalupi

Orbit

ISBN: 978-0-356-50053-9

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut novel The Windup Girl has won just about everything a science fiction novel can win, including the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Award. This is a book, then, that came insanely hyped by the time of the recent Orbit edition. Does it live up to that hype? In a word, yes. This is epic science fiction that reminded this reader of John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar. I’m not sure if I’m quite prepared to declare it one of the best science fiction works of all time, but it’d easily be in my top ten science fiction novels of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Believe the hype.

The Windup Girl features a near(ish) future crippled by its energy needs. The world’s oil is gone, and with it mains electricity and international aeroplane travel. So it’s back to dirigibles, rickshaws and the sweat of one’s brow. There are even genetically engineered creatures called megodonts which are harnessed for their strength. Global warming also appears to have wrought havoc on ecosystems worldwide, not to mention the problem of rising sea levels which is keenly felt in Bangkok, where the action takes place. And then there’s the generippers and man-made plagues. This isn’t a future you’d want to live in.

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