** spoiler alert **
I heard about this book from a book club that I've recently joined that focuses on post-apocalyptic fiction. Oryx and Crake definitely fits the theme. The only other book I've read by Margaret Atwood is The Handmaid's Tale
. Oryx and Crake reminds me of this book only in what seems to be its purpose - commentary on the flaws of modern society.
The near future of this book is one where the US is split between privileged and hermetically sealed Compounds (with all of the worse excesses and polished blandness of a suburban gated community) and the pleeblands where life is messier, more germ filled, and subordinate. Out of the Compounds comes the genius Crake, who uses his genius to create a virus intentionally designed to destroy humankind and to replace them with his humanoid creations. One of the few humans to survive (a friend of Crake's charged with caring for these creatures) called these things Crakers.
The book is really excellent and somewhat unsatisfying. The writing and the structure of the book are both wonderful - very thoughtful, deliberate and structured. Elegant. In terms of plot, I found the lack of actual rationale for Crake's decision to end the world a real problem. I also loathed the character of Oryx, who is basically an Orientalist cariature. If she is supposed to be a critique of current attitudes, it was too obscure for me.
I suppose in the end I liked the book but hated some of the characters and didn't love the plot. That's a sign of good writing, for me.