Well, I finished it. . (NO Spoilers!)
Fantastic read. I'm sorry it's over, but I do NOT want a sequel, that would just ruin the thing, and I know I won't have the self control not to read it.
It's set 200 - 300 years or so in the future, in Bangkok, Thailand. You have to sort of figure out the pre history of the story. Like us, the people of that time only tangentally refer to their history, especially the really bad stuff because everyone just knows it, so there is no running commentary on historical exposition. This is what I"ve figured out, you may come to some different conclusions:
At some point, the oil disappeared. I THINK it must have been some sort of 'runaway' bacteria or something that ate it (not sure) and there was a great global economic and cultural contraction. People were starving because the global food supply couldn't move to the places that need it.
North America and China seemed to do OK and are the global leaders, because of Biotech research and alternate energy supplies and North America's incredible agricultural capacity. I'm not sure I fully understand why China seems to be thriving. Japan is doing well but is not the world power North America and China is. (I don't recall Canada, Mexico, and the US being mentioned as separate entities.) Apparently, India is in a state of starving collapse, as is much of Europe.
Bangkok is below sea level (global warming? it never says) and remains viable as a city only through the constant efforts of VERY expensive giant pumps and the thai determination to keep it as the seat of their monarchy and of their child queen.
There may have been a second failure and contraction, but eventually, nations went to war over things like coal. Coal seems to be the only carbon based fuel left, and that seems to be disappearing as well. The book doesn't say much about the rest of the world but Thailand is dark damp and relatively windless. Energy is generated by genetically modified elephants who spend their days on treadmills either generating power that is used immediately or winding giant clockworks springs. Even weapons are powered by springs shooting sharpened disks.
The problem is, genetic tinkering has caused a variety of diseases that are either mutated from or released by the Calorie companies. Companies working in bio-engineering mostly in North America and China, seem to control the world food supply and are not above releasing diseases that not only kill competitor's food stocks but that can mutate and cross over to humans as well.
The Thailand of this book is very proud of its status of never having been colonized, and the Thais have come to the conclusion that they will not allow the Calorie companies to get a foothold in Thailand. As a result, The Thai government has the only pre contraction seedbank not under control of the Calorie companies. They also have a ministry that does nothing but seek out and destroy any non authorized genetic material. The price of this independence is pretty high. Thailand is poor, corrupt, politically volatile, and has various government agencies sort of making war on each other. Only their commitment to independence and their Child Queen seems to keep the country together.
The story is really about 2 women, One is the assistant to the 'Tiger of Bangkok' a famous White shirt.(The nickname of the people employed by the agency that destroys unauthorized genetic material). In spite of his fame and how he seems universally loved by the people, the Whiteshirts are feared and hated by the people. After all, much unauthorized genetic material is food, and people are hungry. This woman has secrets, deadly secrets and after the "Tiger of Bangkok" dies, she takes over his Whiteshirt unit which is the source of much conflict for her.
The other woman is a Windup girl. A biological construct of Japanese origin. Wind-ups are created in the labs of Japan because robots are no longer technologically feasible. These 'wind-ups' can be constructed to a variety of shapes and functions from combining animal, human, and vegetable genetic material, they are bred to be obedient and to be aware of a constant need for full human supervision. In other words, happy slaves.
But the saddest of the all are the ones that look human. They are beautiful, obedient, genetically programmed to desire to please, intelligent and quite self aware. I don't think I have to explain what some of the duties pretty wind up girls are expected to perform, not that they mind all that much, that sort of resentment has been engineered out of them.
This wind-up girl was brought to Thailand illegally by a Japanese businessman to be a secretary and companion. When his assignment in Thailand was over, he abandoned her there in Bangkok and she was forced to survive in an environment where whiteshirts would consider her nothing more than unauthorized genetic material and the average Thai citizen considers her an abomination.
Although the two women's story lines converge, they never meet. I can't tell you any more without giving away the story line, but it IS consistently well written and no gaps in logic that I noticed. A great read!
Last edited by GlenBarrington; 05-20-2010 at 06:48 PM.