Monday, April 26, 2010

Bagels & Soup

A few years ago, I started hearing rumors around the intrawebs about this amazing new writer. People were calling him this millenniums answer to Ted Chiang. People were raving about his stark, cruel futures. People were admiring his prose and unflinching honesty. Time passes.

A year or so later, I hear hear his name again. I only recognize it by my inability to actually recognize it. More stories. More beautiful yet grim short stories that pepper the publications. A consistent world is being built, a future foretold. Time passes.

Last fall a new book is published. I notice it on the shelves. It's art alone calls out to me. I hear more rumors, how spectacular this book is, what an unbelievable first time novel. I see his name again, something Italian, I remember that, but little else. Time passes.

Months go by. What do you want for Christmas, people ask me. I ask for the new Cory Doctorow. But there is another book I want too, if only I could remember the author's name... "Ah, it's Latin or something," I tell my wife. "Bagel-soup-y?" I pronounce it. "I think the title has something to do with a clockwork girl."

To my delight, I receive The Windup Girl by Paolo - let me phoneticize for a minute here... Batch-ih-gal-oopy. Paolo Bacigalupi. Not Paolo Bagelsoupy. "Awesome!" I cry "I knew it was something like that." I also knew it had more c's and i's than my initial pronunciation gave it credit for, but hey, that's my lazy American tongue for you. The book was worth the wait. Everything I thought it'd be, and more. A frightening future where food is the only currency and one man, the "calorie-man", hunts Thailand's back streets for new caloric sources that have survived the mass plagues and which can be exploited by his company.

But this story certainly could not have jumped Athena-like from Zeus' head, fully formed, could have it? And it did not, I was delighted to learn. Which brings me to the centerpiece of my post, my latest acquisition. Due to this fascination of mine, I tracked down the down Bacigalupi's short story collection - Pump Six. It contains every story set in the "windup universe". It also contains plenty of other tales. And when I learned that a limited edition was produced by the trade house Nightshade and it contained a bonus short story, not found in the trade edition, I was hooked. I spent some time looking and found a deal I just couldn't pass up.

Locus award winning collection. Three Hugo nods and a Nebula too. Full cloth binding. Signed limitation page. The extra story "Small Offerings". One of only one hundred copies world wide in this state. What more is a boy like myself to ask? I pony up the cash and wait. And when it drops on my front porch I unwrap it, slap a dustjacket protector on it and sink in... it's wonderful. The only thing I can say is that I can't say enough. Words escape me. I've always been better at talking about a book than selling an actual review. The hardcover edition is out of print at the moment, but the trade paperback is due this fall. Do yourself a favor: when it's back in print, find this book. And while you're waiting, track down The Windup Girl. It's already in paperback... and both are worth every penny.

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