In July, Ian and I had just met. He started talking to me about a book he had read the previous year. Being the sci-fi fan that he is, he thought it was very interesting since it was set about two hundred years into the future in a world where bioengineering companies run the planet and calories are currency. The book, Windup Girl, is bio-punk fiction filled with social criticism and political parables. But it is also a love story between what seemed to be two different beings who found love at an unexpected place, time and circumstance. (Please read my book review at the end of this blog). The novel is set in Bangkok, and in the context of our relationship, Ian thought it was amazing to meet a girl living in Thailand. He admitted that before he knew me, he didn’t know a lot about the Land of Smiles. He has only read about it in Paolo Bacigalupi’s award-winning book, which in fact was his most recent favorite. Naturally, he was curious about what I would think of it so he encouraged me to read it. I said: “Okay, I will try to look for it over here”. A week later, he asked me whether I’ve read it and I told him that I was having difficulty finding the book. So he decided to send me a copy, and the book took only 12 days to arrive. You could imagine how I felt when I held the parcel in my hand: I have been talking to this mystery man from the other side of the world and despite the fact that I would see his face and hear his voice, something used to tell me that the online world is almost like a fantasy world, very enchanting –it almost felt like “Skype Ian” and “Skype Cecille” existed in a dream state.
“You sign your name here”. Snap! Back to reality!
I was called to attention by the voice of the lady from behind the counter. She was pointing the tip of her pen towards the line beside the word “Received”. I noticed she was getting impatient at me giving her that dazed expression. She repeated her instructions to me in accented broken English, offering the pen this time. That was P’ Na, the condominium staff who takes care of mail and bills.
So there, I tightened my grip around the parcel, hurriedly signed my name where P’ Na indicated it and ran as fast as I could to the elevator. I excitedly pressed my floor button and fumbled for my keys as I got to my door.
I can’t wait to tell Ian I got it.
I checked on my Skype and saw Ian wasn’t back yet from walking the dogs. I had been talking to him earlier before he took his 30-minute break to take the dogs out, and I had just returned from buying yogurt from the store.
I set the parcel on the bed, looking intently at it. Tempted as I was, I didn’t wanna open it yet because I wanted to do so in front of him as if we were performing a ritual. Lub-dub lub-dub. My heart was beating loudly out of excitement and curiosity. I checked the time. He should be back in a couple of minutes.
“Hi”. I’m back”, Ian Weinstein wrote, just in time.
I clicked video call as quickly as I could. “Oh my God! You are real! You are real!” There: I blurted out hysterically as soon as he answered my call. That’s what I’ve been thinking the whole time. Just returning from outside, he looked confused. I was trying to tell him how unbelievable it seemed to me that I got a package from him.
He still looked like he didn’t understand what I was saying so I said “Hey, guess what I got in the mail today.” Before he could utter a word I took the book out from behind my back and said “Ta-daa! It’s in my hands. I’m holding it right now. This came from YOU.” He nodded in agreement. Being polite, I kept saying my thank yous. He told me to read it first, and If I like it, that’s when I should say Thank You. I wanted to devour the book immediately after I opened the parcel.
The cover art was captivating, the details incredibly eye-catching: a mammoth elephant looking like it was being pulled by tiny men, an aircraft that resembled a flying submarine, towering structures, etc. Oh! My eyes glistened in child-like wonder upon seeing a new toy. I have always been an avid reader and getting books as presents has always brought me joy. Getting a new book, especially coming from this person I was sure I was already crushing on felt like a combo of two powerful emotions.
But more importantly, it was in that moment when I first thought that if there was any possibility that these constant Skype sessions could ever lead to anything, the Universe just gave me the first sign.
In this instant I truly realized that I, Cecille C. and him, Ian W. were real people existing in this world. It was in that time when I first knew that while we were separated by seas and divided by continents, we were not really alienated; we could reach each other. We were capable of connecting if we willed it. What appeared to be a simple gesture at that time had a power in itself but we weren’t yet fully aware of it.
A few days before I got my mail, Ian went online to buy me a book. Little did he know, a few months after that blessed day, he would go online again and buy a plane ticket to see his own Emiko in a country he never thought he would set foot in. He thought of sending me a book and when I got it, for me Ian became someone real and tangible, proof that I wasn’t just dreaming of this man that had only existed on my computer screen. Little did I know that a few months later, I would actually get to experience the touch of his hand, the feel of his skin against mine, the warmth of his arms around me, and the head-spinning feeling he is all-so-capable of giving me: like an explosion of emotions, a blast of sensations, an orgasm of the soul. Because just like what Emiko found in Anderson Lake, my soul has found the one she has been looking for. ♥
msglobalfilipina’s review (August 2012)
The Wind-up Girl is a ruthless rendering of a horrid possible future wherein man struggles to cling to his humanity amidst hunger, despair and societal collapse in an era plagued with treachery, abuse, corruption, selfish manipulations and power play.
Politically-charged, heart-wrenching, evocative (characters), (TWG is) a real cliff-hanger, a definite page-turner. You hurry to the end and realize you never want to leave the compelling Dystopian world Paolo Bacigalupi has so intricately created.
Plot summary by Amazon:
‘Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?’