- Fizzy Thoughts: Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood
374 pages

Oryx and Crake is a dystopian novel that imagines a future where humans have taken gene splicing and genetic engineering (and other science-y stuff) to the extreme.  This novel can be considered a warning about what can happen when humans mess with nature and think they can create perfection.

When the novel opens, our protagonist, who is currently calling himself the Snowman, is living in a world where he is alone, except for the Crakers.  The Crakers are a small group of people that are not quite the same as him.  They are human, but not quite.

Throughout the book, the Snowman reflects on his life and his lifelong friendship with Crake, a brilliant scientist.  As the novel progresses we learn about the series of events that led to the Snowman’s current situation.  Actually, we don’t learn.  We can infer, since Atwood never explicitly explains the entire situation. From the beginning, we know it’s Crake’s doing, but we don’t know the why or the how.  Eventually, the how becomes clear…the why, however, is only hinted at.  Additionally, we continue to learn more about the Crakers, and why they might be the way they are.

Just as important to both the Snowman and the Crakers is Oryx, a mysterious woman with a small but vital role.  Before he was the Snowman, the Snowman was Jimmy.  And Jimmy loved Oryx.  The Crakers, however, have apparently deified her.  Oryx’s story (but only the part that Jimmy knows) is also divulged through the course of the book.

I loved how the story unfolded.  I expected this to be my book for this week, but I ended up staying up last night to finish it.  Because I just had to know what happened!  I also appreciate the tone of the book.  While the company names and the new animals (pig + baboon = pigoon) seem almost ridiculous and far-fetched, it’s not improbable that we’re heading in the direction that Atwood imagines.

Totally off topic, this sentence at the end of the book struck me because of the audio book I’m currently listening to:

“Crake used to say that Homo sapiens sapiens was not hard-wired to individuate other people in numbers above two hundred, the size of the primal tribe and Jimmy would reduce that number to two.” -page 343

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks at length about how 150-200 people seems to be the ideal size for a group, whether it be an army unit or a Hutterite community. I had never heard of this theory (although, evidently Atwood has), so it was odd to see it pop up in two books that I’m currently reading. Just another one of those weird literary coincidences.

Atwood’s sequel to Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, is due out next month (9/22, to be exact). I can’t wait.

14 comment(s):

Melissa said...

It still blows my mind that Atwood has a sequel coming out.

I read Oryx and Crake while on my first ever business trip. It helped pass the time when my flight home was delayed. The lady next to me was pretty interested in it, too - she kept trying to read over my shoulder instead of reading her own book (it was a mass market, not a clue about the title).

bermudaonion said...

I love books that make me want to stay up late to finish them. You've made me want to read this one.

Dar said...

I just picked this book up a few weeks ago. I wanted to read it before I read The Year of the Flood. I'm glad to hear it's good.

Nymeth said...

I really want to read this, and The Year of the Flood. Can't go wrong with Atwood!

And that's an interesting idea - I wonder if that could be why, even in the news, we tend to react more strongly to individual stories or to tragedies in small communities than to stories about large-scale disasters. It seems that we need to make an effort to remember that the number "2000 victims" corresponds to two thousand real human beings.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Atwood certainly has an interesting imagination! I think if I ever read this one I'll have to remember to ask you when I don't get it!!!

Ti said...

I didn't know that her new book was a sequel to Oryx. I just added this one to my Goodreads list yesterday. You probably think that I go around stalking all of your reads as it always seems as if I right behind you on books.

Charley said...

Ah, you mentioned this book on my Frankenstein post. It sounds interesting.

Melody said...

I've this book sitting on my pile for like ages! I need to move it up after reading your review!!

softdrink said...

Melissa - and she's 69! I think I'm ageist, because I'd expect this kind of writing (the weird dystopian science stuff) from a younger author.

Kathy - And how sad is it that late for me was 9:15?? And you should read this ASAP because I suspect The Year of the Flood will be quite the event.

Dar - They can be read independent of each other, though...from what I hear.

Nymeth - that's a good point...our brain can't grasp that many individual/unique identities?

Jill - ah, you'll get it!

Ti - that's okay, I think I stalk biblioaddict!

Charley - yeah, there's a definite message there about not messing with nature!

Melody - from what I'm hearing, lots of people name O&C as their favorite Atwood, after The Handmaid's Tale.

Jules said...

This was one of my favourite books, I read it earlier in the year and thought it was great, and hard to put down. Thanks for the review, I'm also awaiting for her newest book.

Also wanted to let you know I have an award for you at my blog, heres the link and have a good week.


kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Great review!
I really want to read this one, it such an interesting setting, and I love Atwood's writing. I had no idea there was a sequel coming.

jdeq said...

Isn't Atwood a brilliant author? I've been privileged to have met her a few times and heard her read from this book.

On an aside - I love the way she takes on our government here over some of their asinine policies toards art and culture! With her command of the English she rips those blow-hard politicians to bits. It is a wonderful thing to see! LOL

Joanne said...

Oryx & Crake is my favorite Atwood novel. I'd heard of recording of one of her lectures where she discusses the ideas behind the book and it was mind-blowing. She pointed out that there was nothing in the book that is impossible, as all the science type stuff mentioned has been accomplished in some way already.

It was also strange to read about Crake and Jimmy as young men, playing on the internet - they could find some pretty sick crap online but in their society it was acceptable. All the things they did online can surely be found nowadays also - so it made me wonder how long until we (as a society) become desensitized to the point that it isn't taboo? For example the website Rotten.com features graphic death/injury photos - it apparently gets 15 million hits each day and is more popular than the NYTimes website. WTF?!

Missy said...

I need to go ahead and get started on this book! 2 years on my bookshelf is way too long for a book that sounds this good! Thanks for the review, and thanks for stopping by my blog today! :)


In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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