No Book is an Island

Today I started reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. So far, it’s as excellent as the testimonials claim. Having recently read Sundiver by David Brin, I noticed what seems to be a subtle nod to that story in one of the opening scenes of Windup Girl.

From the first chapter:

Cycles and rickshaws and megodont wagons flow past them, parting like a river around boulders. The cauliflower growths of fa’ gan fringe scar the beggars’ noses and mouths.

From the first chapter of Sundiver:

Bright points of static filled the space above the blankets and in front of the screen, and then Fagin stood, en-replica, a few inches away.

The E.T. did look somewhat like a giant sprout of broccoli.

An ailment called fa’ gan that looks like cauliflower and an alien named Fagin that looks like broccoli, both introduced in the first chapter of each author’s debut novel? It could be a coincidence – perhaps “fa’ gan” has a meaningful real-world etymology – but I like to think it’s an “easter egg” for the well-read geek. Now I’m going to be on the lookout for other genre references!

Upon further reflection, it occurs to me that there is an additional commonality which might suggest a more specific reason for this reference: both books deal with evolutionary themes.

As part of the Uplift series, Sundiver examines a universe in which humanity’s haphazard evolution is an exception to the norm of guided intervention. Windup Girl is set in a world populated by “genehacked” animals and bioengineered plagues like fa’ gan. One question, among others, is whether these beings are the result of guided or misguided human intervention.

According to his most recent blog post, David Brin is a contributing author to a forthcoming book, Pathological Altruism, which is edited by a group that includes my boss. So now if we can just get a character from Windup Girl to give an EvoS seminar, the circle will be complete.

Posted on Saturday, March 13th, 2010. Tags: , .