Friday, 4 March 2011

Fictional Plastics

In honour of Saturday's World Book Night, I thought I’d write a post about books. Alright, I admit it, I’ll jump at any excuse to talk about books. The challenge is to link books to plastic…

So I’ve just been reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s set in a future dystopian world which is essentially controlled by – surprise, surprise – American multinational corporations. At some point there was worldwide economic collapse and it seems that, in an attempt to regain control, two or three companies created a set of plagues that wiped out virtually all plant life around the world. Then, these companies kindly stepped into the breach with their genetically-engineered plague-resistant plants, saving the starving nations – at a price, of course.

At its heart, The Windup Girl is about politics and corruption, about what is right and wrong, and the grey areas in between. But it’s also very much about the environment and how humans manipulate and destroy it for their own needs. It has many lessons to teach. And the plastic? Well, this is a world where oil no long reins. No oil, no plastic. Well, except for cellulose-based plastic.

In short, The Windup Girl is environmental fiction at its best. Look for it in the Science fiction section of your local bookstore. Oh yes, on a book-geek note: the science fiction section? Why are some environmental fiction titles pegged into this genre when they are of equal literary value as those more commonly classified as fiction? I’m thinking J. G. Ballard (The Drowned World), Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake), Ian McEwan (Solar). Paolo Bacigalupi deserves to be considered with this stock too.

Anyway, pop out to your local Waterstone’s tomorrow night and you should find it open. And if you’re really lucky there’ll be someone there giving out free books. Unfortunately not Paolo Bacigalupi, though. Maybe next year?

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