Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Orxy and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in mass market), 392 pages, 2003

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: Because it’s Atwood, of course.

Synopsis: It’s some time in the indeterminate future, and Jimmy, or Snowman, as he now goes by, is living in a strange world of genetically modified pigoons and rakunks, as well as the innocent and breathtakingly beautiful children of the mysterious Oryx and Crake. Sliced in with Snowman’s current struggle for survival are glimpses of his old life, from the disappearance of his mother in his childhood through to the time of the world rapidly changing into the strange place it has become.

Why you should read this book: Atwood shines with a meaty sci-fi plot, as she did in Handmaid’s Tale, as it suits the distanced style of writing she normally employs. The male protagonist, a change from her usual female leads, also works well with her style of writing, as the story encompasses the human race and genetics to such a large degree that Atwood doesn’t need to rely on the likeability of Snowman. An interesting look at where playing with genetics might take us.

Why you should avoid this book: The characterization may seem fresh, but the storyline isn’t going to be anything new or surprising to a reader of the sci-fi genre. Beware, Atwood is a love her or hate her author, even from book to book.

Opening paragraph:

Snowman wakes before dawn. He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is still asleep.

Fabulous quotes:

‘It wasn’t the sex,’ he says to her. She doesn’t answer, but he can feel her disbelief. He’s making her sad because he’s taking away some of her knowledge, her power. ‘It wasn?t just the sex.’ A dark smile from her: that’s better. ‘You know I love you. You’re the only one.’ She isn’t the first woman he’s ever said that to. He shouldn’t have used it up so much earlier in his life, he shouldn’t have treated it like a tool, a wedge, a key to open women. By the time he got around to meaning it, the words had sounded fraudulent to him and he’d been ashamed to pronounce them. ‘No, really,’ he says to Oryx.
No answer, no response. She was never very forthcoming at the best of times.

Compound people didn’t go to the cities unless they had to, and then never alone. They called the cities the pleeblands. Despite the fingerprint identity cards now carried by everyone, public security in the pleeblands was leaky: there were people cruising around in those places who could forge anything and who might be anybody, not to mention the loose change�the addicts, the muggers, the paupers, the crazies. So it was best for everyone at OrganInc Farms to live all in one place, with foolproof procedures.

Also recommended: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie; Microserfs by Douglas Coupland.

Also by this author: The Edible Woman; Surfacing; Lady Oracle; Life Before Man; Bodily Harm; The Handmaid’s Tale; Good Bones; Negotiating With the Dead: A Writer on Writing; Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature; Cat’s Eye; The Robber Bride; Alias Grace; The Blind Assassin; Moving Targets: Writing With Intent, 1984-2002; The Door; Moral Disorder: and Other Stories: The Tent; The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus.

Author’s website: owtoad.com

Awards: Man Booker Prize: shortlist, 2003; Governor General’s Award: finalist, 2003; Giller Prize: shortlist, 2003; Orange Prize: shortlist, 2004.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007


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