kingshearte's Reviews > Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
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's review
Dec 13, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: cdn-books-worth-reading, way-better-than-expected, 2009, sci-fi, fiction, post-apocalyptic-dystopian
Read in June, 2009

The narrator of Atwood's riveting novel calls himself Snowman. When the story opens, he is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

With heartbreaking command of her shocking material, and with her customary sharp wit and dark humour, Atwood projects us into an outlandish yet wholly believable realm populated by characters who will continue to inhabit our dreams long after the last chapter. This is Margaret Atwood at the absolute peak of her powers.

I've read quite a few Atwood novels, and haven't much cared for most of them. I enjoyed The Robber Bride, and I think The Handmaid's Tale is worth reading, but most of the others have been pretty meh. The premise of this one sounded intriguing, so I gave it a shot, and I'm glad I did. It's definitely up there with her others that I've enjoyed. I do find, of her two dystopic novels, what's interesting about them is that she writes about dystopias kind of in transition. Most dystopic novels you read open with the dystopia firmly established, and by the end, maybe you've got the beginnings of a revolution on the way. Atwood's dystopias seem to be a little more recent. For example, in Handmaid's Tale, Offred remembered her former life. The new regime was recent enough that she was a first-generation handmaid, if you will. This one was a little more established in the part of the story dealing with the past, but you could watch things escalate, and then there was the transition to the state we open in, so again, there are the memories of the former life. Which I kind of find more interesting than the usual set-up. Not sure why, but there it is.

I thought she did a fantastic job of giving you clues about things, but not necessarily filling them all in. Basically, you know what Snowman knows, which leaves a few questions, but enough to speculate about. It's really well-done, though, leaving you wondering without feeling like you should have more information, but giving you enough information to draw your own conclusions without beating you over the head with the "real" story or whatever. Pretty cool. And Atwood does all those things the blurb says she does, and I really can't argue with the blurb-writer's assessment. I don't know that this book will haunt my dreams or anything, but it was a really good read, and I may even consider reading the sequel when it comes out in the fall.

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