Dinah's Reviews > Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
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's review
Jul 14, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, novels, sci-fi
Read in July, 2012

Atwood's position on this book is that it is not, in fact, sci-fi: since there are no elements of the universe that don't already exist (albeit in an extremely exaggerated form in Atwood's world), she calls this a work of "speculative fiction." I'm not sure that her distinction makes much of a difference as far as the experience of the novel, but it is jarring as a reader to take a step back and realize we're a couple of wrong turns away from precisely the sort of world(s) (both pre- and post-apocalyptic) depicted.

The big criticism I've read about this book is that it's lacking in character development; in general I think that's fair, but with a notable exception (which is the element that, for me, blows this book out of the water): Atwood explores the world of child-trafficking and sex slavery from a perspective I've never seen, never even dared to imagine. And what's incredible is, in this Paula Vogel sort of way, I wound up questioning whether the situation was all that horrible for Atwoods particular victim (who does not see herself as a victim at all). So that sounds sort of insane, but Atwood really makes you question whether we already live in a world so screwed up that these atrocities are better than the alternatives for these children and families. At minimum, it means that several chapters of this book are unquestionably really, really good writing, that a story is compelling enough to make one even consider these things.

Unfortunately that story-line doesn't connect to the central plot in a particularly meaningful way... a lot of the book feels like that. Plot is secondary to the depiction of the world, and character development is at, like, 1.5. As a veteran sci-fi author (sorry, Marge), one would expect better integration, better showing-not-telling of the world in a way that gives depth to the characters and forces the plot forward. To some extent this was unavoidable given the structure of the book, which hops back and forth between the pre- and post-apocalyptic worlds (a device which is effective and probably necessary to tell this story in an interesting way). But it could have been done more elegantly than it was.

All told, though, this book is worth a read for the few chapters in the POV of Oryx... Atwood's deep dive into her psyche and the current, often unimaginable world of child-trafficking is truly remarkable.
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message 1: by Juanita (new)

Juanita Very well put, Dinah!!!

Dinah Thank you :-)

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