BY NICO VREELAND
JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right (slightly ‘shopped this week to obscure hinting blurbs), four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)
1.) In Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, the illegal sale and slavery of elephants has become a harrowing problem in most of Asia. With the world’s supply of oil runs out, humanity must rely on methods of transportation that were once considered obsolete: zeppelins, rickshaws and the most sought-after, elephants. After years of the oil crisis, Nebula is the last cow left, and the fight for control of her might touch off an international war. Find out what happens when a group of men fight for her safety and strive to set her free.
2.) Neo-America, 2199 AD. A cabal of industrialists and politicians has abolished currency, replacing the monetary system with a network of debt-bartering that has 3/4ths of the population sold into slavery. For most, the only hope of escape is Berkdorff’s Traveling Circus, an underground cell that liberates the unusually skilled to perform thrilling acts of political terrorism. But when their newest recruit, a mysterious young girl named Charlotte Halstead, goes missing, the Circus must find her before her abilities are exploited, or before she uses their secrets to pay off her father’s debts.
3.) Shanghai, 2065. A woman stands, poised to jump, at the top of a high-rise. She takes a moment to look down at the chaotic city life below and, just as she leans forward, her suicidal silence is interrupted by a strangled cry. Startled, she turns to the sound and finds, to her considerable surprise, a baby boy. Without a thought she jumps down and picks up the child. Who left a baby on a rooftop? The answer will change her life.
4.) Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl weaves together a handful of stories in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation. A captain in the Thai Environment Ministry fights desperately to protect his beloved nation from foreign influences. An aging Chinese immigrant lives by his wits while looking for one last score. And the titular windup girl, a despised but impossibly seductive product of Japanese genetic engineering, works in a brothel until she accidentally triggers a civil war. This highly nuanced, violent, and grim tale is clearly one of the finest science fiction novels of the year.
5.) 2073: India is the world’s last democracy. It’s also the most dangerous country on the planet. In The Windup Girl, professional bio-smuggler Sreerapu Mehta takes a simple job that gets complicated in a hurry. Along the way, he must deal with crooked border guards, a troupe of theatrical thieves, air piracy, and the lawmen tasked with stopping him. When Sreerapu discovers he’s being followed, this hip sci-fi thriller takes a mind-bending postmodern turn.