Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl disappointed me, in the end. The third act collapsed into much bloody running around, easy hero/villain situations, and a plot device (a dead man who won't leave the story) that might have been good if used sparingly but which is here a huge miscalculation. The story becomes, due to all these components, less serious and less capable of being taken seriously. The world Bacigalupi imagines is coherent and interesting, and some of his characters were truly worth the time. I fault either the editor who didn't push him in the right directions or whatever force it was that drove him to take short stories (two of them went into this book) which were reportedly excellent and expand them ill-advisedly.

I read A Reader's Manifesto (see my bookshelf), by Myers, which I quite enjoyed. Though I didn't agree with every aspect of his criticism (he goes after several acclaimed authors who, he feels, are unduly praised), the grief he takes from book reviewers reveals--what any good reader should have already detected--a defensive culture of mutual promotion and the desire to believe that some new great thing is always being released.

I'm writing. Baffled a bit, but writing.


Calvin said...

Too bad. I've enjoyed many of Bacigalupi's short stories. In particular, "The Calorie Man," which may be one of the precursors, was a brilliant story, and one that I used in my Science and Science Fiction course.

On the other hand, inflating short stories to novel lengths often leaves ugly stretch marks.

William Preston said...

This seems to be a common practice in science fiction, the novel cobbled from other pieces and then expanded (I'm blanking on ther term; it happens in "literary" fiction as well), but I have yet to see it play out happily--not that I can recall, in any case.

John Rogers and I both talk more at length about the book at the Asimov's thread.

I don't really blame the author, who clearly is a skilled fellow; writers need good editors. Even writing is not a one-person show.