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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

An Over-Engineered Dystopia

The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Set in a twenty-third century dystopia in which global warming has raised the levels of world's oceans catastrophically and carbon fuel sources are nearly exhausted, The Windup Girl was named as the ninth best fiction book of 2009 by TIME magazine and garnered a whole tranche of prizes including the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Compton Crook Award and the Locus Award.

Despite this acclaim, I found it an unenjoyable slog. The environmentally-degraded world of Bacigalupi's imagination is peppered with cultural terms and technological innovations that are never adequately explained. The over-engineered plot is peopled with characters whose cynicism makes them impossible to like and whose Machiavellian manoeuvrings are impossible to follow. I ploughed my way through the book's five hundred pages with increasing irritation at the author's failure to take into account the needs of the reader.

One Amazon reviewer summed it up perfectly for me when he said, 'It's easy to understand why this book got so many good reviews without being any good at all: it ticks the boxes for a book that people want to like to show that they're smart … but then doesn't challenge their intelligence - at all.'