The book is set in a dystopian future where nature has more or less collapsed as a consequence of pollution, global warming, abuse of antibiotics, bio-engineering and engineered plagues designed to destroy crops and give power to food companies offering resistant (albeit sterile) seedstock at premium prices. Food is no longer a simple commodity but a valuable resource, and food companies are big players in this world. Humanity is always on the brink of a new plague. This all seems chillingly possible when looking at current times.
The story plays out in Bangkok and is narrated from the point of view of several persons - a Western industrial, a Malay Chinese refugee, a Thai policeman, his female colleague and a bio-engineered woman. All have a different status in society, and that society is exotic, richly painted, brutal and fascinating.
The characters are nicely fleshed out (if not all likeable). I cared a lot about what was happending to them (not always the case for me in science fiction). The story moves at a fast pace without being an action movie in written form. It is brutal, harsh and unjust which corresponds to the society in which it is set. In all its directness, it is seldom voyeristic or violent for the sake of violence. One senses a purpose for the story or the character development. Best of all, and carrying most of the book for me, was this world Bacigalupi invented.
The end felt a little unfinished for me, there are a few points that could still be resolved. It is not a perfect book, and at times I would have liked to see a more in depth discussion of the issues present in this world. However, all in all a very exciting read.