Most science fiction falls into one of two camps. The first consists of poorly-written, plot-driven page turners that are like McDonalds Happy Meals - satisfying to eat but you feel cheated afterwards. The second is aiming rather higher, aspiring to be literary fiction, but normally falling short and failing to deliver much of a story either - a bit like "nouvelle cuisine", with its dainty portions that hardly add up to a decent mouthful.
Here we have a book that manages to fall into both camps with resounding success. First, it's incredibly well-written. The prose is evocative without being florid, the register is infallible, and structurally it's like a Breuget timepiece. Politically it's very interesting - the relationships between the various tribal and ethnic factions in the book are entirely credible and persuasive. Although it's set in Thailand, where all but three or four of the main characters have non-Anglicised names, I never once struggled to remember who was who. But it's the story that is the main thing - part love affair, part political thriller, part dystopian nightmare, part pure speculative fiction. I really couldn't put it down, and I'm sure that Bacigalupi will go on to write even better, more intense books than this. I, for one, can't wait. For me, his only rival is Iain M Banks, and that's very high praise from me.