I just put a reservation for Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl at my local library. So I was pleasantly surprised to read the high praise for the novel from Robin Sloan at Snarkmarket. It’s not that I was surprised by the praise, because it’s supposedly very praise-worthy, it’s that Sloan essentially marks this as an “important” novel.
Science Fiction, argues Sloan, is never about the future, but rather a method for grappling with difficult issues in the present. Sure, terrorism gets all the nightly news headlines, but in the dark recesses of our collective conscious, food is the central issue now and going forward. There are thousands of food issues not really being discussed in the culture at large, but everyone will acknowledge.
Like, who controls the water supply — corporations or citizens? What do we do with genetically modified foods? Why am I eating foods shipped in from countries half a world away from me? How do we get low-income people to have more affordable foods with a higher healthy quotient?
And because of that, Windup Girl, is special. It’s truly the first novel to deal with the eventual repercussions of our current food system.
“Bacigalupi paints a world of pandemic plagues, mass migrations, genetically-modified food, sealed-off hermit kingdoms and “calorie men” from agribusiness giants who behave more like secret agents than sales reps. All together, it’s dark, rich, weird, and compelling,” writes Sloan. “Forget Gattaca; genetic engineering’s crazy excesses are going to hit us in the bodega, not the bedroom. And forget Skynet; the real apocalypse starts when all the fish die.”
Sloan isn’t the only person in love with this book.