Oryx and Crake
Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Doubleday, Random House, Inc., 2003
This dystopian novel is both beautiful and chilling. And I both loved and hated it. But before I get to that, let me tell you the gist of it: the only people left on the planet are a group of genetically-altered and -designed humans called Crakers and a single normal human, homo sapiens sapiens, who looks after them. They have a strange relationship, the Crakers look upon Snowman as almost god-like and he looks upon them as young children. The Crakers live in a group of adults and children, wear no clothes and have no shame in it; being only recently created by scientists, they are innocent children in a world gone mad. Through Snowman’s attempt to survive he remembers and tells the story of the planet’s destruction.
*Snowman, aka, Jim or Jimmy, aka Thickney, a child of geniuses who never could quite measure up in an elite society and by either design or happenstance (he’s not sure which) only he and the Crakers survived a pandemic which swept the globe. It is through his memories we relieve the downfall of mankind.
*Crake, a boyhood friend of Jimmy, who is all genius and no morality. It is he who eventually makes the Crakers; it is he who eventually designs the destruction of the earth. He’s really too smart for his own good and for earth’s good.
*Oryx, a woman Jimmy falls in love with the first time he sees her on a kiddie porn website when he is a teenager. He next sees her on a news channel when she is rescued from a slave situation as a teen and then finally meets her the last year of human life. Throughout his lifetime he is obsessed with her and she frequently speaks to him in his mind as he remembers the past.
Snowman’s memories of humankind’s eventual destruction are haunting and chilling – mainly because it is plausible. It could happen – corporations who take over the world and see value in human life only for profit; who think nothing of splicing animal, plant and human genes with anything just to see what would happen; and who regulate every decision of people’s lives based only on what the corporation can get from them. Society has effectively killed off God so that there is no morality and the wickedest imaginings of people come to life.
As I said before I both loved and hated the book. I loved it because of the writing – Margaret Atwood has crafted a world so real that I was absorbed into the words and felt like the events were happening around me. And I hated it for the very same reason. The world the author created is both beautiful and horrible. I am having trouble finding the words to write about it and perhaps that is because of the visceral reaction I’ve had to it. It is a cautionary tale that must be read by anyone who cares for the future of our world.
And surprisingly, I have opted for more punishment and will read/review the two related novels, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam.
Rating: 4 out of 5 paws