Wednesday, January 03, 2007

[Book Review] ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood

Fiction/Science Fiction

Doris Dixon reviews ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese, 2003)

Snowman (formerly known as Jimmy) is the last human on earth. He is the caretaker for a group of genetically-spliced "people" who are flawlessly beautiful and extremely naive. In his former life, before the apocalypse engineered by his childhood-friend Crake, Jimmy dated frequently and wrote ad copy. Now, he sleeps in a tree to avoid being eaten by wolvogs (half wolf, half dog). To survive, he scavenges humankind's leftovers for supplies, food, and liquor.

Snowman embarks on a double-adventure to understand his present isolation. He travels to his friend's devastated compound to make sense of the recent catastrophe. At the same time, he remembers his childhood and education, tries to figure out why his mother abandoned the family, and mourns Oryx, his lover. His overland journey is difficult because he has few supplies other than a broken watch, a pair of broken sunglasses and a soiled bed sheet. The circumstances of his lover's death complicate his emotional journey.

Atwood's speculative vision of the future includes the devastating consequences of corporate-funded genetic splicing. But her grim forecast is the backdrop of the novel. At its heart, Oryx and Crake is about Snowman's struggle to understand himself and his relationships with his parents, friends, and lovers.

I love the way Margaret Atwood writes about human relationships. She seems especially adept at capturing the imbalances of power that often exist between people. You may have read Cat's Eye. In the first half of that novel, the narrator recounts how, as a child, she was bullied by another little girl. Atwood's version of that peculiar terror is dead-on.


Doris Dixon, Raleigh Branch Library

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I listened to the audiobook version of this one a few weeks ago. I thought it was excellent and I look forward to reading other books by Atwood. I still find myself thinking about the novel several weeks later.
I share your appreciation for Margaret Atwood's work. I'm currently reading her short story collection MORAL DISORDER. The first few stories didn't really move me, but overall I'm enjoying the work. Thanks for mentioning and reviewing ORYX AND CRAKE. It sounds interesting. I'll be sure to add it to the long list of books I need to read one day (smile).
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