a rotten apple being eaten by ants

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The cover for the award winning novel THE WINDUP GIRL

THE WINDUP GIRL, published in 2009, is a science fiction novel by Paolo Bacigalupi.

THE WINDUP GIRL won the 2010 Hugo Award.

Anderson shrugged. “It’s a useful cover.”


Anderson Lake is AgriGen’s Calorie Man, sent to work undercover as a factory manager in Thailand while combing Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories.

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. Emiko is not human; she is an engineered being, grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in this chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits and forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?

THE WINDUP GIRL Analysis of:

The Windup Girl is used as an example in the following posts. Check them out!

Comparing Point of ViewA comparison of point of view in literature (first, third limited, and omniscient) including modern fiction examples. Which is right for your novel?
Third Person Limited Point of ViewShe, himself and them are examples of third person limited. Learn 4 times you should use 3rd limited for your book.
the ExpositionNail your exposition period with these 5 techniques.
Essential Character TypesThese are the 6 must-have characters for any novel: protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, skeptic, mentor, and love interest. Learn why with modern examples.
the SidekickLearn the 4 qualities of every sidekick, 7 roles your sidekick can play, and see modern examples.
the Love InterestLearn the five loving qualities of a love interest and see modern examples.
Chapter OneYour first chapter is one of the most important. Learn 5 must-have elements of the first chapter.

THE WINDUP GIRL Review Roundup

The Windup Girl is set in a future where we’ve destroyed the planet. Our food sources are a threat to us (disease) and energy is limited.

I found The Windup Girl to be both riveting and a failure. The parts of this book that I found riveting were the parts based on the food, energy, and water levels. The local politics that went along with those were also a good read.

Where the book failed for me was with The Windup Girl herself. Her inclusion in the story wasn’t natural. She was shock and awe only (and distastefully in my opinion).

I read this book years ago and gave it a read again for this post. Ultimately, I liked it but on the second read I found myself skimming over scenes with The Windup Girl.

But that’s just my opinion. What do others think?

Bacigalupi’s setting is a physical, visceral world that engages all senses…

– Mothership Zeta

While I enjoyed The Windup Girl, I did find that it faltered in a few vital categories.

– The Book Smugglers

Bacigalupi’s world-building is exquisite.

– Guy Salvidge
a typewriter

Writing Practice

It’s time to PRACTICE! Check out these writing exercises and prompts inspired by THE WINDUP GIRL.


Your Task: This is the opening paragraph of the novel. Ignore everything you know about the story and use it as a writing prompt.

Using as much detail as possible, write another 300+ words.

Chapter One

“No! I don’t want the mangosteen.” Anderson Lake leans forward, pointing. “I want that one, there. Kaw pollamai nee khap. The one with the red skin and the green hairs.”

The peasant woman smiles, showing teeth blackened from chewing betel nut, and points to a pyramid of fruits stacked beside her. “Un nee chai mai kha?”

Exercise: Mix & Match

This exercise is all about being creative. We’re going to merge a setting from THE WINDUP GIRL with a scene from LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD.

Your Task: Rewrite the following LITTLE RED excerpt into a setting you would find in THE WINDUP GIRL.


The grandmother lived out in the wood, half a league from the village, and just as Little Red-Cap entered the wood, a wolf met her. Red-Cap did not know what a wicked creature he was, and was not at all afraid of him.

‘Good day, Little Red-Cap,’ said he.
‘Thank you kindly, wolf.’
‘Whither away so early, Little Red-Cap?’
‘To my grandmother’s.’
‘What have you got in your apron?’
‘Cake and wine; yesterday was baking-day, so poor sick grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger.’

Need an idea?

Keep these things in mind when writing your scene.

  • The setting is urban.
  • There are severe food limitations
  • There’s an energy shortage

My suggestion:

  • Change the characters – use WINDUP ones or make up your own.
  • Stick with the basic premise: a person taking something to another person. They’re intercepted, which leads to future bad things.

Exercise: Plot

Using what you learned in the Plotting a Novel, write out the plot of THE WINDUP GIRL.

  • Exposition
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution
bangkok skyline


GenreScience Fiction & Fantasy
First Published
Sep 01, 2009
Print Length
(according to amazon)
359 pages
File Size
(according to amazon)
731 KB
PublisherNight Shade Books
Goodreads Rating
(As of Feb 2019)
Goodreads Rating for the award-winning novel THE WINDUP GIRL
Amazon Rating
(As of Feb 2019)
Amazon Customer Rating for the award-winning novel THE WINDUP GIRL
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Your Thoughts?

Pin This: Book Review & Analysis of THE WINDUP GIRL

Have you read THE WINDUP GIRL?

If so, what did you think? If not, will you?

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PS. share your exercises in the comments below. I’d love to see them.


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