Ratiocination's Reviews > Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
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Dec 28, 07

Read in December, 2005

A mainstream author writing science fiction badly. Basically, tries to have it both ways: referencing real-world, present-day biotechnology without bothering to be accurate about it. I didn't enjoy reading it, and I don't like the implication-- that writing SF just involves throwing terminology around. One wouldn't have much patience for a legal thriller that ignored basic courtroom procedure; one wouldn't have much patience for a medical drama that got human anatomy wrong. I don't have much patience for this.

In fairness, the intent may not be science fiction here, but sort of a biotech fantasy (in the sense that Star Wars is fantasy set in space, not that the two works bear any other resemblance.) If so, I still don't think it came off; the story and characters didn't work nearly well enough for me to make up for basic concerns about the premise.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Alexandra totally agree; i just didnt have the energy to explain my rating myself.


Sarah I would argue that in the more "modern" future she is describing technology that does not actually exist. While certainly we are making progress in these sorts of scientific pursuits, she is taking that basis in actual reality and adding the fantasy onto it, making it something reminiscent of the present, without pointing fingers and naming names.

The world that Jimmy lives in is not our own. So I don't feel that she needs to abide by the present rules of biotechnology.


Jason Sinclair Long I think your second paragraph is probably correct: the intent is not "sci-fi" as most would think of it. Is it fiction? Yes. Does she involve science? Yes. But it would be like calling 'The Road' sci-fi, which is an over-simplification of what McCarthy was really after. Don't get me wrong; I love good sci-fi, but author-intent must be considered. Atwood's not writing sci-fi badly, she's writing a character piece / cautionary tale really well. While it may not work for you as such, giving it one star is ignoring much of the interesting writing within.


Rhonda As a scientist, I would not discount how 'inaccurate' you think Atwood was in this book. As Sarah said, the story is not based on what technology is possible today but what will be possible in the future and how we will choose to use it. I just read an article about pigs growing human organs...not that far from pigoons my friend.


April I didn't like the book either, but I wanted to address the author intent brought up in your review and in the comments. I agree; I don't believe her intent was science fiction. In fact, I would call this speculative fiction, which is more broad. It's my favorite genre to read, but this book is not a very good example of it. I much prefer Sheri S. Tepper's work in the same genre.


Emily No matter what you believe about how she uses science and technology in the book, giving this book 1 star makes you lose credibility immediately. There is so much crap out there... to insinuate that this book is on the same level as the worst of the worst just because you don't think she got the science quite right doesn't make it a very thoughtful review.


Ratiocination Goodreads identifies a one-star rating as "I didn't like it." Two stars, "it was okay," wouldn't be accurate. It's not the most granular ranking system.


Ratiocination Bear in mind also that this is a book I picked up, finished, and had enough to say about for a two-paragraph review. That implies I thought it had a certain amount of substance, even if I didn't come away with a high opinion of it. Reserving the one-star rating for absolute trash would mean reserving it for things I wouldn't have bothered reading to begin with.


message 9: by Ashley (last edited Sep 23, 2011 10:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ashley Schroeder I was just surprised to head Atwood called a "mainstream author." If she were mainstream, I think the world would be a much better (read: smarter) place.


Andrew agaret Atwood couldn't write 'badly' if she tried, regardless of the genre. I also wouldn't call her a mainstream author.


message 11: by Guy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Guy It is one thing to not like it, but it was amusing to have that not like being justified because of a perception that her 'science' was off - she caught the spirit of where science goes when it meets the demands of vanity and perceived societal needs. (Look at the history of the medical uses of radium and every other new thing science comes up with.) And Atwood's use of pigoons is quite obviously a reference to the use of pigs in contemporary medical science, as noted already. But I was very amused to read that the growth of chicken nubbins (or fish-sticks) is well on the way: "Morris Benjaminson, a researcher at Touro College Applied Bioscience Research Consortium in Bay Shore, N.Y. ... and his team managed to make slices of fish muscle grow bigger in a nutrient solution. Soon he hopes to try the technique to grow chicken and beef." ABCNews. And "... at the Medical University of South Carolina, Vladimir Mironov, M.D., Ph.D., has been working for a decade to grow meat. A developmental biologist and tissue engineer, Dr. Mironov, 56, is one of only a few scientists worldwide involved in bioengineering "cultured" meat" @ ReutersPress.


Portia S Ashley wrote: "I was just surprised to head Atwood called a "mainstream author." If she were mainstream, I think the world would be a much better (read: smarter) place."

I was also surprised to hear Atwood deemed a mainstream writer O_O


Chris I'm trying to figure out what aspects of science and tech the reviewer thinks Atwood got wrong. As time marches on the story seems to get only more and more prescient. What's amazing is how the aspects of corporate power run amok are developing in the real world as if they were using Atwood as as a roadmap rather than a cautionary tale.


Steve Bell Chris Anderson (above) has it exactly right.


message 15: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Hambling Great review, exactly what I thought


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