Here is a great work of sci-fi, near future and entirely believeable. It’s set in a food starved world, where calorie companies control the distribution of sterile seed to a needy globe. Think Monsanto taken to the next degree, if all our paranoid fears about them were true.

The story takes place in the Thai kingdom of Krung Thep, kept (just) alive by a combination of keeping out the seed companies and fighting back the encroaching ocean. Using an Asian capital is a welcome and refreshing change from a more typical generic US future, and Bacigalupi’s environmental background makes the setting chillingly real.

His use of future slang to describe much of the slight reality shift elements of the story are terrifically evocative: blister rust, genehack weevils, kink-springs and the titular windups.

The story rollicks along, staying in real time and advancing the story from many points of view. Most of the characters are compromised in some way, none particularly endearing, yet strangely you start hoping they all come out ok. 

It’s one of those novels where as you’re reading it you start to realise that it’s only a small shift from where we are now to where this book takes us. Where food is the battleground, not terror. A scary place, not surprisingly when the author says in an interview that “the future looks a bit bleak to me”.

Definitely a keeper.