Book #19

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Pigs might not fly but they are strangely altered. So, for that matter, are wolves and racoons. A man, once named Jimmy, now calls himself Snowman and lives in a tree, wrapped in old bed sheets. The voice of Oryx, the woman he loved, teasingly haunts him. And the green-eyed Children of Crake are, for some reason, his responsibility.

This is a strange, yet delightful novel, only made all the more frightening by the current state of the world. 

Snowman believes he is the last human on earth after an apocalyptic event destroyed everything he knew. Atwood guides us through his current predicament, and how he came to be there, by flashing backwards and forwards through time; a highly effective narrative style which is beautifully engaging and tense.

I love dystopia, and Atwood is a master here. She describes advancements in science which are almost too cruel and capitalistic to comprehend, and shows us an entire society of people living in a hierarchical structure based on how brilliant their brains are. 

There’s so much Atwood is addressing here, and I can imagine her points would be further reinforced with a second read. Her subtle comments on science versus the arts are fascinating. Despite the dystopia placing a heavy reliance and awe upon the sciences, Atwood ensures the arts and humanities continue to peek through, in some almost ironic plot developments. She asks us moral questions about modifying nature, playing God, tampering with age-old human habits. She asks us about relationships, about guilt, about responsibility. I cowered under each of her questions - who am I to know the answers?

Commentary also comes through in the way she characterises. Jimmy, the everyman, Crake, the sociopath who notices human behaviour and analyses its necessities, and Oryx, the gentle almost ethereal feminine influence. It’s possible to understand and empathise with each of them, and also to become frustrated and irritated by them. They have biblical connotations, and they have perfectly human behaviours. They each embody the past, future, and present, and each bring a different element to Atwood’s masterplan.

I’m looking forward to continuing this trilogy, as I believe Atwood still has much to present to us, and I truly believe she will, however I am almost hesitant to proceed. Once again, similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, we are given a view of a frightening future which doesn’t seem to be entirely impossible. Her clear criticism of the direction of society, and her almost prophetic writings (hello, pandemic) truly terrify me, and I can only conclude she is some form of harbinger.