A cautionary tale – The Windup Girl – Book Review

Imagine a world where Monsanto was not just a multi-national conglomerate, but an international super power capable of warring with and enslaving entire nations.

Imagine a world where genetically modified plants are used as harrowing weapons that can kill entire populations – just so that a company can make more money.

Imagine a world where the equivalent of script kiddie hackers (for you not in the biz, these are amature hackers, like the graffiti vandals of the computer world) can “hack” a plant’s DNA and create deadly or frightening changes.

Then imagine trying to live an everyday life in this world.

This is the world created in the book The Windup Girl.

It was rather ironic that this book arrived at the library this weekend for me to pickup. I had ordered it weeks ago after it was recommended as an interesting read in the steampunk (though it’s more post apocalyptic cyberpunk, but whatever) genre. It was not mentioned to me that plants played such a vital role in the story. Considering that I wrote about heirlooms versus hybrids just a few days ago and that genetically modified crops are the next level in that discussion, it was a very timely and interesting read.

The jury is still out on my opinion on genetically modified plants, but this book did provide a lot to think about.

And while gardening specifically was not discussed in the book, there was some allusions to the idea that things grown simply for beauty were no longer possible and things grown at home to feed yourself were just downright dangerous to your health and general state of being alive.

Now imagine a world where you could not garden and you realize that this book is not just sci-fi but horror as well.

Regardless, an interesting read if you are looking for something to read and ponder this summer.

*Just a note – the book does contain certain amounts of graphic sexual violence as the main character is a genetically engineered “companion” turned sex slave. Just so that you know that ahead of time and don’t yell at me later for not warning.

7 thoughts on “A cautionary tale – The Windup Girl – Book Review
  1. Daisey on

    Hi Hanna,

    I refrained from responding from your previous post since I am against genetically modified anything. If we went back to growing locally to provide for the local area…well that’s another whole issue.

    I saw a TV program on the link tv network. This was a program on genetically modified seeds and Monsanto was part of the problem being shown. Monsanto has tried to infiltrate the world seed market. They showed areas in India where they were tooting the great benefits of their seeds producing better crops but not explaining that the seeds that came from these plants would be sterile. Farmers in these areas harvest the seed for the next years crop from the current year growth. Saved them money. No More with Monsanto, money would have to be spent every year to buy seed. Benefit to Monsanto only.

    Monsanto also didn’t explain the high risk of their crops messing with the genetics of neighboring crops that are not from GMO seed. The pollen from monsanto plants can contaminate other plants and cause the seed of these plants to become infertile. Scientists and specialists in India’s agricultural department were trying to keep Monsanto from entering India’s market and were having quite a battle doing so. Monsanto is a very large and very very wealthy company…money often wins when lobbyists do their dirty work.

    An American organic canola farmer lost his livelihood and the fertility of his farm due to Monsanto’s genetically modified crops. It was heartbreaking to hear him tell the story how he didn’t realize what had happened till his canola crop was rejected being determined it was not organic. How, he thought after doing this for years. Then he received word Monsanto was suing him buy using their seed without authorization and he lost the first court case and was told to pay a hefty fine to Monsanto even though the court heard what occurred. The Monsanto plants were grown in the neighboring farm without any farmer being notified. The wind blows pollen and seeds. This man’s farm was just across the country road and so it became contaminated and his canola crop wouldn’t produce fertile seed let alone be considered an organic product. In the end the second upper court dismissed the allegations against the farmer. But, monsanto got away without having to pay any compensation to the farmer.

    If living plants can affect the dna of other plants.what is the effect of the food eaten from these crops? Monsanto says nothing. The FDA, which is a joke, says nothing. Just like smoking…. Why in these last chunk of years are their more and more infertile couples??. Just a question I have in my own mind….is there a connection.

    It’ll be years down the line before the truth will come out about the effects of these foods.
    Sorry so long, Hanna, I don’t know how to shorten this and so many aren’t aware of these things.


    Hanna Reply:

    I know the bad with genetically modified (but thank you for laying it out so eloquently for other readers. that is awesome) but I also can’t dismiss the good. I very much think of it like nuclear fusion. There is a potential for so much good… if it is used wisely… if it is used by good people… if… if… if…

    So many ifs. That is why I liked this book. It took just about every if and showed what the ultimate bad would look like. I like a piece that makes me consider and reconsider topics I struggle with.


    Dog Island Farm Reply:

    I sometimes wonder about what the “good” is about GMOs. Studies have shown that they do not in fact produce higher yields (lower than conventional actually) as claimed by Monsanto. Some tout golden rice as a “good,” however, a simple change that farmers could do with conventional rice – not polish it – would actually benefit them more than golden rice ever could. Instead with golden rice they risk harming their surrounding environment due to cross pollination with wild rice and conventional rice.


  2. suzanne on

    Thanks for the recommendation! I really enjoyed The Year of the Flood (Margaret Atwood) and this sounds similar, if maybe more stylistic and steampunk/cyberpunk/genre fiction. Even though I am a librarian, I do not need to read literary fiction all the time!

    Thanks again for the review–I reserved it at my local library!


    Hanna Reply:

    You know, the librarians at my library are avid sci-fi/fantasy readers and are always reco’ing great books to read (so you rock too). I think that these genres and their subs are some of the best ways to examine many issue in our society in a non threatening but thoughtful way.


  3. Hey hey, a review of Windup Girl. That’s a nice surprise among the tomato and cucurbite posts. This novel was up for the Hugo for best first novel. My husband read it and told me about the calories-as-currency and animal modification in it but didn’t mention the plants thing. I suppose now I’ve got to add it to my rapidly mounting To Read pile.


  4. lilly5 on

    Imagine a world where genetically modified plants are used as harrowing weapons that can kill entire populations


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