Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Digital Audiobook narrated by Campbell Scott
Published by Doubleday on April 22, 2003
Series: MaddAddam #1
Genres: Apoctalyptic, Dystopia, Fiction, Post-Apoctalyptic, Science Fiction
Length: 383 pages or 10 hours, 30 minutes
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Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.
This book completely snuck up on me.
At the beginning, I hated Oryx and Crake. I was so, so bored. But it was a slow burn. It wrapped me up slowly until I couldn’t stop listening to the audiobook. Our main character, Jimmy aka Snowman, narrates the rise and fall or Crake, intellectual genius and madman. They grew up together, played together, and Jimmy rehashes the story in his head, because what else can you do when you appear to be the last living human being?
I didn’t like Jimmy. Immediately I found him selfish and unimpressive, with a rough and cynical edge. I decided early that I did not want to spend a whole book in his head. He just isn’t a likable character, but Jimmy is a survivor, and he has the story that we need to know. Sometimes, that’s how protagonists work. After all, not all protagonists can be shiny heroes. Sometimes they are the unfortunate sidekicks to mass genocide.
Much like The Handmaid’s Tale, this book feels way too real. Margaret Atwood specializes in possible futures. Oryx and Crake talks about overpopulation and the uncomfortable moral dilemma of what to do about it. Then it goes a step further and asks, “what if something was done about it.” And as if that wasn’t enough of an intriguing plot, throw in the question of corporations that are engineering both vaccines and diseases. What if the moral compass was taken out of scientific advancement? There are so many things in this book to touch upon, and so many things that make you cringe. I was helpless to resist the philosophy and finger-pointing. Books that make you uncomfortable are the best kinds of books.
As for the writing, it’s pretty typical of Atwood. I think it moved pretty slowly, but it was gritty and honest and I appreciate that about her. Her writing isn’t flowery, and it hooks you bit by bit. I remember when I read The Handmaid’s Tale I felt the same way – Margaret Atwood writes with the careful style that makes her books feel older, like they were classics stories rather than modernly written dystopia. And I mean that in the best possible way – I love her writing style because it always takes me by surprise.
I don’t think Oryx and Crake will be for everyone, but if you’re patient, I think that it can get under your skin. I ended up really enjoying it and I will keep reading the trilogy, because I need to know what happens to the last o the human race.