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Review: Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood

Humanity has been devastated by a virus and Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, is perhaps the only human to have survived, for all he knows.  With him are his friend Crake’s perfect creations, people genetically modified to become more perfect than ordinary human beings.  They have better ways of sustaining themselves, go into heat like animals to avoid difficult romantic situations, and can even purr to heal injuries.  Snowman, however, is having a much more difficult time surviving, and juxtaposes his struggle to find more food with his personal history, his love affair with Oryx, and how he found himself to be alone.

This is only my second Margaret Atwood novel, and after loving The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m really wondering why it took me so long to read another.  I adore dystopias and Atwood has created another intriguing world here, if not quite as plausible.  When Jimmy was a child, the Corporations ruled supreme, essentially acting as one big government.  The world outside of the Corporations was unimportant, the people only used as test subjects and cash cows as medicines were infused with illnesses to keep the market booming.  If any worker betrayed insider secrets, they were killed.  This was the world of Jimmy’s childhood, and while he wasn’t brilliant enough for a high position, his best friend Glenn, later known as Crake, certainly was.  It is Crake who sets out to change everything and puts in motion the events that destroy the world as everyone knows it.

While I couldn’t say I actually liked any of the characters, which was the book’s weakest point, it was hard for me to tear myself away from this book.  I was fascinated by the development of the plot; we know early on that the world has changed drastically, but finding out just how and why was riveting.  I didn’t like Jimmy/Snowman all that much, due to his escapades with women and his irritating obsession with Oryx, but I loved the curiosities of his world.  His struggle to find more food allows us to relate to him even as we dislike him, but it also serves the purpose of guiding us through more of the world.

For me, the best part was the Crakers, the genetically altered beings that Crake created.  What I liked about them was that even though they were modified to escape supposed human foibles, they still exhibited that humanity.  This was mainly through their acceptance of a god-like story featuring, as expected, Oryx and Crake. Even though they’re reportedly hard-wired to miss out on all mistakes, they are still people and it’s almost as though we can see their mythology evolving. Snowman doesn’t know how else to explain it to them and they latch on remarkably easily. Fascinating stuff, and that really cemented the entire book for me.

Atwood is a remarkable author.  Oryx and Crake* has convinced me that I really need to get reading more of her work.  I certainly recommend this, especially to those who enjoy dystopias and science fiction.

*I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from the library.

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