This is a first impression post because I’ve no idea if I actually want to read through the whole fucking thing. Chances are that I won’t, so for the moment, have a taste of what I really think of The Wind-Up Girl.
So, Paolo Bacigalupi. Wrote a dystopian SF book set in future Bangkok. Now you probably think of Bacigalupi as a swell dude, very progressive, who did this amazingly culturally authentic book about Thailand.
Hey guess what? If you think that you are wrong, and if after reading this you still think you are right I will verbally kick you in the fucking teeth, because fuck you, you ignorant turd. This isn’t down to preferences. This is rooted in cold hard facts, like: this man is so fucking wrong.
Bacigaluslkgs;lkjhgsh is an ignorant, appropriative bag of feces. I say this as an absolute judgment, without any ambivalence whatsoever. When it comes to this man I offer no forgiveness, no mercy. I don’t care what his intentions were. All I want to do is apply a giant clue-by-four to his skull but even then I suspect it still wouldn’t do any good. If other writers make me angry, then Bacigalupi makes me incandescent, because when the average asshole pens some sexist tripe he’s likely than not has been called out on it at least once. You think I was angry about Cindy Pon’s books? Hahahaha. You are in for a treat.
Bacigalupi is praised throughout the seething mass of suck that is SF/F fandom for his imaginative, authentic portrayal of Thailand. Nobody, not a single one, has ever contested this: it’s emblematic of how thoroughly the view of my country and culture has been shaped by condescending expats, “correspondents” and those gap-year backpacker scum. This is where I’m going to state right off that I judge harshly anyone who subscribes to this opinion regarding The Wind-Up Girl, since it shows that you have little clue about Thailand and have no interest in finding out more, but feel at liberty to pronounce how something is authentic and wonderful and culturally rich anyway: just like Bacigalupi you are a supercilious tourist, an ignorant outsider, and always you will remain so. You are not learned, you are not worldly, you have not a single solitary idea about anything and for this you should feel not at peace with yourself but deeply, painfully, incredibly ashamed every minute of every hour.
This is going to be unusually angry and profanity-laden, even by my standards. It’s a western writer writing about Thailand and that makes it personal.
“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?”
“Right. Those. Khap.” Anderson nods and makes himself smile. “What are they called?”
“Ngaw.” She pronounces the word carefully for his foreign ear, and hands across a sample.
Anderson takes the fruit, frowning. “It’s new?”
“Kha.” She nods an affirmative.
Want to know what the problem with this–the very first few paragraphs on the very first page!–is? I don’t understand a single solitary word in the italics. “Well!” you might think. “Neither do I! It’s Thai, right?”
And the problem with that? I speak Thai. Natively. I’m born and bred in Thailand. I’m a Thai national. DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM, BACIGALUPI, YOU CLUELESS FUCK?
Nobody says “khap,” it’s “krub” because THERE IS AN R IN IT AND IT IS NOT SILENT. I have no fucking idea what “kaw” is supposed to mean in the first italicized sentence. The woman saying “kha” repeatedly doesn’t make sense because it isn’t how people talk. Nobody calls anyone “peasant” here because THAILAND IS NOT A FUCKING FEUDAL SOCIETY, YOU IGNORANT SHISTAIN. How much effort would it have taken to correct this? Why, TALK TO A REAL LIVING THAI PERSON.
Do you know how many names of real, living Thai people the author’s talked to while researching for this book are in his acknowledgements?
That’s right: zero! Zero. Instead it’s all expats or who the fuckever. Investing the money for airfare? Totally worthwhile. Talking to an actual Thai person? Entirely beneath Bacigalupi.
This is just from the first page.
If you like this book or have nominated it for anything or have voted for its nomination, know that I am judging you. Judge judge judge. I’m calling you names. I’m insulting you personally. And I will not apologize, for you are furthering this man’s career and contributing to the exotification of my culture; you take a white man’s portrayal of my country at his word and fuck you fuck you fuck you go die in a fucking fire.
Examples of said seething mass of suck follow.
The novel takes place in a dystopic future Thailand, where the world is beset upon by plague and famine — a result of massive corporate greed and folly. The oceans have risen and many of the world’s greatest cities are under water. Petroleum fuels are scarce and alternative energy abounds. The fruits and mistakes of genetic manipulations are everywhere. It is a difficult place to live for those not at the top.
Much of the book is spent explaining all of this and thus, if anything, the book’s focus is on setting. The ideas and the technology of the day are paramount. While it makes for a very real world — authentic to the Eastern culture of its location — it doesn’t necessarily make for an entertaining read.
As I listen to the book, I appreciate having the same sort of experience of finding my way around. It makes “traveling through” The Windup Girl’s world a more authentic experience than some other books I’ve read. I feel this is esp. true since in audiobook form, since I’m picking the language up as spoken word.
Its strongest feature is the worldbuilding – the intricately believable portrait of a future Thailand fighting back from environmental collapse.
Bacigalupi unfolds his story in late-22nd century Bangkok, a setting that allows him the right flavor of tropical exoticism to make the environment a metaphor for the human condition.
I mean do you fucking see that? “A setting… the right flavor of tropical exoticism”? EXOTICISM? ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME YOU BACKWARD COLONIALIST DOUCHECANOE. My country isn’t a fucking metaphor oh my god, are you Joseph Conrad?