Reviews: Windup Girl, Habibi, Hunger Games

The Windup GirlThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, published in 2009, won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, as well as numerous other accolades, including having been listed as the ninth best book of 2009 by TIME magazine.

The Windup Girl has been, rightfully I think, compared to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, particularly for their shared vision of a near-future of powerful multinational corporations and reckless privatization. But whereas Gibson focused largely on information technology, Bacigalupi focuses on the future role of genetic engineering and biotechnology, imagining a world in which genetic materials become commodities worth killing for. Moreover, The Windup Girl, set in Thailand, also provides an interesting example of a future in which the West’s cultural and economic hegemony has been eclipsed by the uncomfortable bedfellows of multinational corporations and emerging markets. Continue reading Reviews: Windup Girl, Habibi, Hunger Games

Review: The Alchemist and The Executioness

Paired novellas set in a shared fantasy world, The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi and The Executioness by Tobias S. Buckell take place in a land where the incautious and casual use of magic has brought about the collapse of a once-great civilization. A poisonous bramble, a plant that feeds upon magic, has infested the country, ruining farmland and dragging whole towns and villages to ruin beneath its tangling vines. And in the place of a prosperous empire now exists a despotic regime that punishes with death even the most trivial use of magic. Originally published as an audiobook on, the two novellas have seen been published as illustrated books by Subterranean Press.

The Alchemist

The Alchemist
Paolo Bacigalupi
Subterranean Press, 2010

The alchemist Jeoz has spent a good portion of his life and nearly all of his fortune pursuing the mad notion of a weapon against the poisonous bramble, one that uses natural principles rather than the magic that only serves to feed the deadly weed. The device he creates, the “balanthast,” destroys the brambles down to the seed, and promises to restore the dying city of Khaim back to its former glory of flying carpets and floating cities. But for Jeoz, the potential to restore the free use of magic means also hope for his ill daughter, whom he has kept alive only by the furtive use of magic, an offense that could mean his execution should he be caught in the act.

Continue reading Review: The Alchemist and The Executioness