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MaddAddam #1

Oryx & Crake

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Pigs might not fly but they are strangely altered. So, for that matter, are wolves and racoons. A man, once named Jimmy, now calls himself Snowman and lives in a tree, wrapped in old bed sheets. The voice of Oryx, the woman he loved, teasingly haunts him. And the green-eyed Children of Crake are, for some reason, his responsibility.

436 pages, Paperback

First published April 22, 2003

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About the author

Margaret Atwood

585 books78k followers
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood's dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth ­ in the Massey series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood's work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.

Margaret Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Associations: Margaret Atwood was President of the Writers' Union of Canada from May 1981 to May 1982, and was President of International P.E.N., Canadian Centre (English Speaking) from 1984-1986. She and Graeme Gibson are the Joint Honourary Presidents of the Rare Bird Society within BirdLife International. Ms. Atwood is also a current Vice-President of PEN International.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,867 reviews
Profile Image for Michael.
274 reviews763 followers
July 29, 2012
So, you go to Wal-Mart to buy your groceries because it's so damn cheap, but then you realize Wal-Mart is hiring very few full-time employees and not offering reasonable health care to its employees and it's walking employees through the process of how to get Medicare, not to mention they're closing down small businesses by exploiting foreign economies to get the lowest possible fucking cost; so, Wal-Mart's making YOU pay medical benefits for ITS employees, and replacing good jobs with shitty ones, and you don't want to support that, not to mention most of their food comes from the big corporations that have copyrighted their grains and are in the process of pushing small farms out of business by suing them for copyright infringement after their seeds blow onto the smaller farmer's land, so you decide to shop somewhere else, and isn't it time to go organic anyway, so you drive over to Trader Joe's and load up your cart, that feeling of guilt finally subsiding.

So you get home and you unload your reusable bags and load up the fridge and then, as you slide a boxed pizza into the freezer, you see, printed across the bottom, "Made in Italy."

So now, you're shopping for your groceries at a different store from where you do the rest of your shopping, adding to your carbon footprint, not to mention they're transporting your pizzas across half the fucking earth before they land on your shelf. So, you may not be selling out your next door neighbor, but now you're shitting a big one right on Mother Earth's face.

You head down to the local farmer's market and buy some little pygmy apples the size of clementines, and they're all weird colors but they're from some local farm, and you buy some locally made bread and buy some. . . wait, what is this? Red Bull? Doritos? All of a sudden you realize only the fruit here is local, and some of the bread, so you find another farmer across town you can buy beef from, and another farmer who you can get pork from, and now you're buying all locally, and driving all over God's red desert to get everything you need, and spending twice what you did at Wal-Mart, and spending half your saturday collecting food. Now, you're contributing to the local economy and not giving money to the giant food corporations that are trying to push small farms out of business. . . but you're still driving all over to buy the shit, and burning through petroleum like a motherfucker.

Face it: when it comes to the continuity of life on this planet, you are a pest. You're the renegade cell, eating away at all of the nice and friendly cells around you. I know I'm not telling you anything new right now: you've seen The Matrix, you've heard about overpopulation, global warming, oil spills and you know how totally, absolutely fucked polar bears are right now, but it's always been like that ever since you were born, and we keep coming up with new sciences, so inevitably something will come up to save the day, right? We'll take some polar bear DNA and store it, and once we're all caught up with Jurassic Park technologies, we'll bring 'em back. And, by the time we get to there, we'll be able to stop raising cows; we can just raise steaks: little flat cows that don't have brains, don't have needs other than maybe watering them and spooning nutrients into their slack mouths, and sea-urchin-like chicken creatures without any minds that we can make into chicken fingers, and none of them will feel a thing, so there won't be any question, ethically speaking, right? Right?

Don't hit me up with your "playing God" argument, because that's bullshit. We "play God" when we amputate a gangrenous leg, when we remove a tumor, when we brush our fucking teeth. So, what is really wrong with growing steaks in soil, and not raising cows in huge concentration camps where they hang out in their own shit all day? What's wrong with doing away with coffins, and simply mulching our loved ones? They're going in the dirt either way.

If we're being utilitarian, is our urchin-chicken happier or less happy than our chicken in a lightless pen with ridiculous pecs so oversized his legs are broken? What about the chicken who has gone mad and is now pecking other chickens to death? Probably urchin-chicken. I'm just saying.

That said, I wouldn't eat urchin-chicken, if I wanted to go out on a limb and say a company would be required to even TELL me the product I was buying was urchin: "Warning: this product is made from something that tastes like, but isn't, a chicken." They don't tell me when my steaks are cloned, or through what fucked up chemical reactions they've made my food, so I have my doubts.

What's wrong with growing a mindless food animal, much the way we grow corn or rice or soy? What's wrong with growing mindless clones of ourselves, just for the purpose of harvesting their organs? This would be an easier question to answer if I wasn't an atheist, and I could quote an instruction book, but I can't.

I have to answer the question, and I'll give an answer that Atwood kinda-does-but-doesn't: we don't know what will happen. We didn't know sea walls would increase erosion in other parts of the river when we first started building them. We didn't know that lighthouses would kill tons and tons of birds because birds fly toward the light. We didn't know that carbon emissions could be a problem until we'd flooded tons of them off into the atmosphere. So, why shouldn't we use science to make the world cater to our every desire and impulse?

Because we can't even predict the weather.


Oh, you want me to talk about the book? Yeah, I guess I could do that. As you can tell by my meta-review, this one gets the gears in your head turning. But, the characters were all flat and, although full of potential, ended up dull. The post-apocalyptic world we're reading about is intriguing, as are the new creatures that have replaced humans. The bizarre, freakish animals created by science are also perfectly horrific.

That said, some of this feels like a pretty big stretch. According to Atwood, we'll eventually be desensitized enough that we'll enjoy watching people tortured to death online, and we'll also like watching little children having sex with grown men. And I'm not talking about in a "2 girls 1 cup," watch-it-once-because-it-sounds-fucked-up way. . I mean, she imagines people will sit around watching this shit all the time. Perhaps I'm a prude, but I don't think either of these will ever become popular with more than a small audience. My cynicism only goes so far, I guess.

Far as dystopias go, this is an interesting and unusual one. It's also an entertaining and quick read. I wish Atwood would've invested a bit more time in filling out these characters, and given us a five-star book instead. . . but nobody bats 100%. I'm looking forward to trying some of her non-science fictiony works soon.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
December 5, 2013
I wonder if all Margaret Atwoods books are like this one? Having read "Oryx and Crake" and "The Handmaid's Tale," I am curious now how many other ways of horrifying me she has up her sleeve.

"Oryx and Crake" is a dystopian (or as Atwood calls it herself, a speculative fiction) novel set in a future where genetic engineering rules the world. The story is told from the POV of Snowman, a seemingly last Homo sapiens sapiens on Earth. He is surrounded by the new breed of humans - passive, docile Children of Crake who are physically flawless, void of envy and jealousy, do not understand violence or sexual drive, unable to be artistic or comprehend technology. As the story progresses, through Snowman's recollections, we gradually learn the sequence of events leading to the fall of humanity as he knew it and Snowman's own contribution to it.

The structure of the book is very similar to that of "The Handmaid's Tale." So if you liked the writing style of that book, with constant shift of tenses, past and present mingled together, you'll enjoy "Oryx and Crake" too. Once again, Atwood takes a current trend (this time it's bio/genetic engineering) and extrapolates it to an insane extent, creating a horrifying world of social disparity, violence, genetic hybrids, raging man-made viruses... The author's imagination is limitless, her command of English language is mind-blowing. This book is so much more than a science fiction novel that it so often labeled. It is a deeply philosophical book that raises numerous questions: is it wise to artificially alter something created and perfected by Nature over millions of years? does a man have a right to engineer a "perfect human" and decide who lives and who dies? or is there such a thing as a "perfect human"?

Just like "The Handmaid's Tale," the ending is uncertain. The fate of Snowman and humanity is questionable. Will the humanity survive? Will Crakers overtake? Are Crakers really what Crake intended them to be - the perfect beings? There are no answers, and I am happy there aren't. This book is not intended to tell us what is right and what is wrong, rather it makes us think about what might be...

Reading challenge: #13, 3 of 5
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,963 reviews294k followers
May 17, 2015
Sometimes I'm torn between wishing I could get a glimpse inside Atwood's mind and thinking that might be absolutely terrifying.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
106 reviews30 followers
October 2, 2008
This is the second dystopia Atwood has written, and I think it's less successful than The Handmaid's Tale. Her vision here is of a not-too-distant future in which the US is divided into corporate-owned gated communities where the (biotech) companies' owners and highly-paid skilled workforce live and the lawless, sprawling urban wasteland where everyone else lives.

Unlike virtually every other Atwood book I know of, the two main characters are male. The narrator, Jimmy, and his childhood friend Crake grow up inside one of the gated communities, bonding over Internet pornography and shared cynicism. As Crake grows up, it becomes evident that he is a genius, so he gets accepted to an elite science-and-technology school and drafted into a biotech firm while he's still a student. While he works there, he cooks up an apocalyptic plot to release a superbug disguised as a libido-enhancing pill once he's perfected his own synthetic race of humanoids, which he designed as an answer to everything he's identified as "wrong" with human nature. For example, the "Crakers" have photosynthetic pigment in their skins, which means they do not have to kill to eat. Crake also designed them to be cheerfully promiscuous and have obvious signals of sexual receptivity, thus eliminating conflict over sex. Crake's a real humanitarian, except for the whole "kill off Mankind 1.0" part of his plan.

Structurally, the novel suffers from being too long and taking too long for the story to move forward. Indeed, the whole thing is told in flashbacks, with Jimmy reminiscing as the Crakers pester him for stories of their creator. Atwood erred on the side of too much description in Handmaid's Tale as well, but that was a shorter novel (maybe 100 less pages than Oryx and Crake) and the society she was revealing to us was better realized.

Also, a lot of touches that were clearly meant to be satirical fall flat. One of Crake and Jimmy's favorite pastimes in youth is playing computer games, and the games Atwood comes up with are transparent attempts to shock us with the nihilism of her young antiheroes. Also, every other object in the novel is given some cutesy brand name. This is clearly an attempt to mock the corporatization of global culture, but the effect is just irritating.

None of the characters particularly register, either. Two of Atwood's trademark Elusive Women figure in this novel --- Jimmy's mother runs off while Jimmy is a preteen, for reasons we never learn, and when Jimmy meets up with Crake again when they are adults, and Crake is designing his new species, Crake has a mistress named Oryx, who never allows either man to get to know her, though she sleeps with both. The difference between these and other Elusive Women (say, Grace Marks in Alias Grace, Zenia in The Robber Bride, Joan in Lady Oracle or Marian in The Edible Woman) is that the others either revealed themselves to the reader if not to the men in their lives, or (like Zenia and Grace) gave us enough interesting possibilities that we cared to speculate as to their true natures. These women elude not only Jimmy and Crake, but also the reader.

The men, though given (many) more pages of character development, are nearly as flat. Crake is a clear instance of metaphor abuse: he is indicated to be "mildly autistic," as the college he attends is nicknamed Asperger's U. and he disparages his old high school as containing "wall-to-wall neurotypicals." As his autism never appears in his behavior or becomes relevant to the story (indeed, it is never mentioned except in the chapter titled "Asperger's U."), I suspect it was only brought up to underscore the single salient point of his character, which is his detachment from the rest of the human species. The sole salient point of Jimmy's character seems to be that he is not Crake.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
October 17, 2021
One Generation Away

I find it difficult to tell whether Atwood’s dystopian fantasies are meant as constructive social criticism or as sarcastic prophecy. Recent headlines suggest that her prophetic skills dominate, and with them her anticipatory sarcasm.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the MeToo movement, for example, the British actress Joanna Lumley is reported to be fervently hoping that “not all men are bad” [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainm...]. As Spencer Tracey said in the 1955 film, Inherit the Wind, when told by the trial judge in the Scopes monkey case that he hoped that Tracey wasn’t mocking the court, “Your Honor has every right to hope.” So, no Joanna, it’s hard to find a good one; but please go on hoping.

I think it’s fair to say that there is little hope for males in Oryx and Crake. Certainly not for the protagonists of Jimmy/Snowman nor the eponymous Crake who are both thoroughly misogynistic from puberty onwards. They humiliate females in their fascination with kiddie-porn and their fantasy of women as either saints or incompetents. But the oblique references to male oppressors goes far beyond the characters of the story. If I interpret Atwood correctly, she includes Adam Smith, Moses, Freud, Darwin, Gandhi, and perhaps even the genetic scientists Watson and Crick as symbols of a male-dominated corporatocracy.

And she’s undoubtedly right: The XY genetic make-up is clearly defective. After all how does one otherwise explain the recent tragedy in Toronto in which ten people were killed and another fifteen seriously injured [https://www.thelily.com/who-are-incel...]? This insane atrocity was carried out by a so-called ‘incel’, that is, an involuntarily celibate male. His murderous grievance was against women because they found him sexually unattractive. His considered strategy for revenge was random homicide by motor vehicle. One such nut-case would be embarrassing for man-kind; but it is reported that more than 40,000 men subscribe to a Facebook account which promotes an Incel Movement.

Atwood’s anticipation of the Incels is remarkable. Crake is a Jim Jones-type of scientific genius who is responsible for a world-wide genetic make-over. Part of the Crakian genetic re-design for humanity - thereby creating the ‘children of Crake’ - is the ritualization of sexual activity so that males don’t feel bad when rejected by prospective female mates. Otherwise the world would continue to be plagued by “... the single man at the window, drinking himself into oblivion to the mournful strains of the tango. But such things could escalate into violence. Extreme emotions could be lethal. If I can’t have you nobody will, and so forth. Death could set in.”

As a solution, the losers in courtship rituals in Crake’s new world immediately lose all sexual desire - as well as their glowing blue penises - as soon as they receive the negative news. Men are pigs and are in need of fundamental reconstruction in other words - even by their own assessment.

Or more accurately, men are ‘pigoons’ according to Atwood’s story-line. Pigoons are one of the many new species created by modern genetic ‘splicing’. In this case: of pigs and raccoons. Other varieties include rakunks, snats, wolvogs, bobkittens, spoat/ giders, and rabbits that glow with the genes of jellyfish. These invasive and predatory animals are mis-attributed as the ‘Children of Oryx’. This is another misogynistic swipe since Oryx is an Asian girl sold into slavery who becomes both a porn-star and Jimmy’s feminine muse (a dig at Jung?) whenever he has enough booze to stimulate alcoholic hallucinations.

One might think that Atwood’s literary reach might have exceeded her intellectual grasp in conceiving such strange creatures as pigoons. But in today’s news appears the astounding announcement that pigs’ brains are now being kept alive outside their bodies [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetec...]. The scientists involved (apparently all of them men) believe that it is possible to repeat this remarkable feat with any mammal. And that, therefore, inter-species splicing is indeed feasible. Human immortality, some believe, is at hand. The children of Crake indeed: “... human beings hope they can stick their souls into someone else, some new version of themselves, and live on forever.”

It is not just their genes that are questionable. Male minds are philosophically harmful in their rationalization of male power as beneficial in an Invisible Hand sort of way. The benign logic of competitive personal ambition - for advancement, for reputation, for wealth, for making the world better - is a mere excuse for power-seeking. The male mind is warped in its essential isolationism: “He [Jimmy] wanted to be himself, alone, unique, self-created and self-sufficient.”

The quest for power ensures only one thing: an increase in the destructiveness of power. Another way of saying the same thing: an increase in power requires exploitation - of the environment, of animals, and of other people, particularly of women. Someone or something always loses in the competitive hormonal struggle. “Crake made the Great Emptiness,” say the men.

The zero-sum game in the male-dominated world is enshrined by the children of Crake in its creational mythology:
“Crake made the bones of the Children of Crake out of the coral on the beach, and then he made their flesh out of a mango. But the Children of Oryx hatched out of an egg, a giant egg laid by Oryx herself. Actually she laid two eggs: one full of animals and birds and fish, and the other one full of words. But the egg full of words hatched first, and the Children of Crake had already been created by then, and they’d eaten up all the words because they were hungry, and so there were no words left over when the second egg hatched out. And that is why the animals can’t talk.”

Crake, in other words, not only eliminated sexual rivalry, he also destroyed the possibility of intelligent conversation. Even Jimmy, his disciple and quondam advertising copywriter, recognizes the profundity of the loss: ‘“Hang on to the words,” he tells himself. The odd words, the old words, the rare ones. Valance. Norn. Serendipity. Pibroch. Lubricious. When they’re gone out of his head, these words, they’ll be gone, everywhere, forever. As if they had never been.”’

Crake’s debasing of language is actually part of an ideology: “The whole world is now one vast uncontrolled experiment – the way it always was, Crake would have said – and the doctrine of unintended consequences is in full spate.” This ideology is, I think, the central theme of Oryx and Crake. It is an ideology of chaos, of irrational rationalistic inquiry and technological development, an ideology which conforms to the competitive, driven strangeness of masculine ‘nature’.

The latest headlines from California about Bill Cosby’s conviction make it difficult to disagree with Atwood at any point. [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/artic...].
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
May 6, 2020
Oryx and Crake is an exceptionally weird novel that left me baffled, stunned and even disgusted; however, as time went on, it developed into one of the cleverest pieces of fiction I have ever read.

Behind the child pornography, ritualistic killings and animal abuse two young teens relished watching in their spare time on the internet, resided a dormant drive to understanding the excesses of human behaviour in order to dominate it. One of the boys (Crake) is phased by nothing; he is cold, calculating and utterly detached from the passions most people experience. He watches such sick things in order to understand humanity in all its dark and gruesome facets. His best friend, Jimmy, is lead along due to his loneliness and curiosity. His personality is overshadowed by that of his more intelligent friend’s. And what they discover together drives Crake onto a very dark and dangerous road.

But why? What’s Crake’s endgame? I couldn’t have guessed until the end. I was sure something big was coming, but I wasn’t expecting something quite as radical as what we got. The set-up for it is massive. I’m currently reading the book for a second time, and I can see all the early warning signs of what’s to come. If I’m being a little bit cryptic here, it’s because I don’t want to land a massive spoiler in your lap. The point is, Atwood has done something exceedingly clever in these pages. And I can’t wait to see where she takes it in the rest of the trilogy. There are so many themes she can address and so many interesting places she can take this.

This is a difficult novel to read in places because it depicts some truly horrible things, but I urge you to look beyond such representations and consider what Atwood was trying to say. It’s worth listening to. And as much as I love The Handmaid’s Tale I would go as far to say that this is a much more accomplished novel. It doesn’t have any feminist qualities, though instead it turns its critical eye towards issue of survival for humanity in a world on the cusp of environmental and economic collapse. It’s on par with 1984 and Brave New World with its subversive qualities and imaginative representation of a future that is not too far from reality.

At times it reminded me of Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go with its depiction of depressed youth in a world the characters cannot fully navigate as they chose to suppress memories and ideas. Oryx is the prime example, but the limiting factor of the novel is its protagonist Jimmy. Jimmy is quite stationary and flat as a character. I hope he progresses in later books as here his experiences are vanilla when compared to what Oryx and Crake have. He felt like a means to tell their story, a mere narrative device, so I’m hoping (given how this novel ends) he starts to take a stronger grasp on the story and infuses it with a sense of ownership.

Time will tell, for now this a great book full of great ideas. And potentially, depending how Atwood uses them in the rest of the trilogy, it could be one of the best dystopian fictions ever written.

MaddAddam Trilogy
1. Oryx and Crake - 5 stars
2. The Year of the Flood - 5 stars
3. MaddAddam - 2 stars



You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
643 reviews20 followers
February 17, 2009
I am calling complete, and total, bullshit.

There are so many things wrong with this book that it's hard to know where to begin. For starters, the idea of having a couple of different timelines going at once, and shift tenses according--present tense for the present, regular past tenses for the past--causes some serious grammatical problems, and is an utter BS plot device. I'm not a huge fan of telling a story through flashbacks, but it can be done reasonably while retaining proper grammar. It's not brain surgery.

I admit that I went into this book predisposed not to like it, for a variety of reasons. I didn't like The Blind Assassin (yes, I might be the only person IN THE WORLD who can say that), but I thought that I should be fair and give an author another chance before I make up my mind. I also generally dislike dystopic literature, because it's so rarely done right. Her basic idea was kind of interesting (if done better in Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, and even that had its problems), but the execution was fatally flawed. I don't know much about science, but I do know that some of the research was wrong and the timelines don't add up. She seemed like she researched just enough to be able to throw words around, but not enough to use them correctly--a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The biggest problem was the characters, though: three such utterly unsympathetic main characters do not make it easy to like anything about the story. Crake was a rabid dog that needed to be put down a lot sooner than he was, Oryx was probably insane and too cold to make you care, and Snowman was just too damn stupid. Also, characters that you meet while they're watching child porn to me means that they should be first in line for the electric chair, not that I should care about their personal problems.

The biggest problem I have with Atwood, though, is a problem that seems to be systemic in her works: she's so bloody arrogant. When you open one of her books, you're immediately hit in the face by a thought bubble: She is writing World Changing Literature, and you should grovel before her genius. You have to dig through layers of ego just to get to the plot. She has talent, no doubt, but she is so full of herself and her ability to be a Literary Writer that you miss the book forest for the literary trees.

Also-also, she probably thought that ending was clever, but it was, in fact, a cop out. She was bored with the book, she wanted to end it, so she did. It must be convenient to not have to actually tie up her loose ends.

In summary, I am clearly too much of a plebeian to appreciate the full extent of her genius, and I should crawl back to the benighted hole from whence I came.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,296 reviews120k followers
February 27, 2020

I had read Year of the Flood not realizing that it was a sequel to Oryx and Crake. Thus a desire to see what else was in store in this post-apocalyptic vision. Atwood portrays a world in which short-sightedness causes a major, global collapse in civilization. We travel with a few characters through the transition from bad to unimaginable and see what might happen if we continue along some of the paths we now trod. Genetic engineering is at the core here, and along with it flows a consideration of what it means to be human. Are the highly engineered tribe of innocents still human? Are pigs with human brain elements at least partly people? Where should lines be drawn in our capacity to modify reality? Classic questions of the genre, for sure. The if-this-goes-on notion extends to political and security issues as well as scientific ones.

I felt at times that the book was addressed to a young audience, maybe a cut above YA. That stems at least in part on the story's focus on young characters. It was a very quick, engaging read. I liked the book and it addresses real issues. Having read two in the series, I am looking forward to a promised third.

December 5,2019 - Daily Beast - Feral Hogs Terrorize Senior Citizens in Texas - by Tracy Connor - Makes one wonder
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews723 followers
August 2, 2019
How can someone make up such a fascinating and terrifying story? Wow.... I absolutely loved it. It took me some time to take this book from my book shelves, it was there already some time, it seemed a bit weird, but after having read the Handmaid's Tale, I took up the challenge and it was well, well worthed. An apocalyptic story about a guy who seems to have remained as the sole human alive after an epidemic catastrophy leading to mankind going down. Together with the weird Crake's children he survives and it's tough. The story alternates beween his youth and past and the apocalyptic world in which he has to survive and the story leads up slowly to the events that lead to the catastrophy. Highly recommended and highly fascinating. It took me some time to read it as I did not have much time to read, but every page was worthed and it was even worthwhile taking everything in intensively in stead of reading fast.
I am now officially a big fan of Margaret Atwood and looking forward to read the sequel.
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,563 followers
October 7, 2020
What a fantastic dystopia awaits! Our post-apocalyptic fate will surely be a wonder to behold. Atwood BUILDS UP when any other 'sensible' writer writing today about the doomed future would simply TEAR DOWN. In this compulsively-readable novel, the fabulous formula borrows some ingredients from such classic books as "The Island of Dr. Moreau"& "Jurassic Park"; "The Road" and "Never Let Me Go*" derive from the same line of thought as it! It's basically SUPERIOR to all of those books (save, maybe, the fourth*) & in bringing so much imagination to the forefront it gives us good evidence that great, lasting literature does not have to be boring. Inventing a Whole New World, creating an Origin tale, establishing a stream of consciousness which gives up to the reader enough clues to continue on his way to unravel the secret at the center of the novel (Who is the elusive Oryx? Who is the mysterious Crake?). Miss Atwood does it all, & not a single page disappoints. Seriously. Here is a rare example of chaos being handled with expert skill.

It is WAY more accessible, it should be mentioned, than the often-(over)praised "Handmaid's Tale", which is as feminist a tale as this modern novel is humanist. (Individualism of the 80's in strict contrast with the Globalization of the 10's). Animal hybrids and new species are invented, as are whole new words and classification systems. Atwood is intrepid in the creation of this fun, original terrain, which is in itself a theme of the novel (!!) And let's not forget to mention a fresh plot, heavy with allegory but also as effortless as air, in both the elements of comedy and surprise. It is a book as exotic as any blue-assed member of the Children of Crake.

Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews867 followers
March 7, 2020
Image result for oryx and crake

Most Recent Reading (3/6/2020)
Again, absolutely amazing! And I loved it even more after reading The Year of the Flood!

Even though Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake was absolutely amazing, it took me a few readings before I was ready to review it. Like many of her other novels, Atwood presents events leading up to her dystopian future with a cold logic. How the characters participate in these events as well as the world of the 'crakers' (which comes after humanity) makes this story truly memorable. It can be a little difficult following events in the beginning; however, it is well worth the effort. Atwood's stories have a lyrical quality which really fits the new mythology which is being created in her new world. Her character's transformations are equally compelling. I will be rereading this book and reading the rest of the trilogy.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews859 followers
October 22, 2021
2016 review One of my all-time favourite constructed realities and on second reading still as good! The author and the series that coined the words 'speculative fiction' in which a story is set on modern day Earth but where the history is slightly or sometimes, hugely different. That a literary writer could create such a well thought out, yet very real feeling with this 'what if business and business interests become more powerful than states?' reality is extremely impressive... but not to make things easier Atwood then has virtually the entire book and indeed the trilogy as massively character-led. Words cannot express how much I enjoy reading this immensely original, innovative and damning dystopia. 9.5 out of 12.

2010 review Another highly accessible and exceptional piece of 'speculative fiction' by Atwood… one that is well deserved of the Man Booker shortlisting it received. A dystopian tale told from the viewpoint of the lifelong friend of one of the world' greatest scientific minds Crake, and a woman they are both obsessed with from their youth, after seeing her on a pornographic website Oryx. The tale shows how these three people's lives impact on the entire world. The beauty of this book is how Atwood creates a believable world where capitalism has run amok alongside bio-genetics and bio-chemistry, where man has attempted to totally subjugate nature with science (especially genetics) primarily to create money and power. A wondrous tale by Atwood, who in the space of three books I have read of hers, has blasted into my top ten authors. 8 out of 12
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
September 16, 2018

bore-x and crake. this is a very all right book. i was just unwowed by it. initially, i liked the pacing of the book, and the way the story was spooling out between the present and past, doling its secrets out in dribs and drabs. but the characters just seemed so flimsy, and i was ultimately left with more questions than explanations. and the cutesy futuristic products and consumer culture bits are best left in the hands of a george saunders, not the queen of the long pen. however - and this maybe counts as a spoiler, but its just a minor plot point that is revealed somewhere in the middle and its not like - "oh - she has a dick!" or "they were dead the whole time", so i say it does not qualify. but riding the train to school today, i understood the potential value for pills given to the public that they would think were to improve their sex lives but were secretly sterilizing them. the thirty or so teenagers that plowed into the train screaming and carousing who then decided that the crowded subway was the best place to get into a full-on hair pulling bitchslap fight cannot be allowed to breed. please give us those pills, geneticists... i will bake you a delicious raspberry pie.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,639 followers
December 3, 2022
Where The Handmaid’s Tale started off strong then fizzled out, Oryx and Crake maintained its momentum all the way through. This is mostly thanks to the unforgettable character of Jimmy (also known as Snowman). To be honest, I have to think deeply to recall the name of the unfortunate handmaiden who was central to that Atwood novel I read just a couple months ago. But then, that’s probably the point. The Handmaid’s Tale was certainly a clear warning of what might happen to women’s rights, but for me that was old news. I’ve been afraid of that shit for years now. The stuff of genetic or bioengineering gone wrong in this book was a lot more fascinating. Not that I’ve never considered such dire consequences before now, but I most definitely thought about it more intensely- and still am for that matter. I know this is not anything unique in publishing either, but the delivery style of the subject and Jimmy truly made this superior.

“His time, what a bankrupt idea, as if he’s been given a box of time belonging to him alone, stuffed to the brim with hours and minutes that he can spend like money. Trouble is, the box has holes in it and the time is running out, no matter what he does with it.”

Jimmy’s in a bit of a jam. It seems he’s the only human being left on earth. Or at least, he’s not seen any others like him in quite some time. There are the Children of Crake, of course, but they’ve been so genetically altered from humans as we know them that they are a different species altogether. They’re damn near “perfect”. Jimmy is far from perfect, however, which makes him so damn loveable. He’s dirty and smelly, he can’t think straight, he’s hooked on booze, and he can’t stop thinking about sex. But he has a heart and a sense of humor that endears him to the reader (well, to this one, at least!)

“Sex is like drink, it’s bad to start brooding about it too early in the day.”

The story alternates back and forth between Jimmy’s present (a date set in our not too distant future) and his past. We eventually find out where Oryx and Crake fall into the story, but Jimmy is the one that remains central to it, despite his name being left out of the title. Jimmy is the most developed character of them all, with Crake rounded out a wee bit and Oryx remaining mostly a blur. Perhaps she’s the most damaged of all. As a result, she comes across as a rather passive victim. Like Jimmy, I wanted to shake some feeling out of her!

“Oryx had neither pity for him nor self-pity. She was not unfeeling: on the contrary. But she refused to feel what he wanted her to feel. Was that the hook – that he could never get from her what the others had given him so freely?”

Atwood is clever and imaginative and what she comes up with here really fascinated me. It’s not completely unrealistic. We know or can look up where strides have been made in genetic engineering already. It’s not hard to presume what might be underway in those laboratories and what ideas might be percolating in those brilliant scientist minds. How far should we go when trying to improve the human condition, the lengthening of our lives? Where is that fine line that we should not dare to cross? Good intentions don’t always lead to the best of endings.

Coincidentally, I read this while beginning Thomas Halliday’s Otherlands. It made for quite the reading experience! The evolution of species, the birth and death of various ecosystems, and the inevitable changes that will occur with or without the meddling of humankind is a topic Halliday covers with undeniable skill and vast research. That book paired with Atwood’s imagination made me more passionate about these topics in a way I’ve never been before. Naturally, both had me reflecting on the topic of organized religion – something that I’m sure Atwood intended here as well. Both works make for some very vigorous discussions if you can find anyone open-minded enough to engage with. The more I learn, the more I realize I’ve learned so very little and understand even less! As a friend recently said to me, “I know nothing. I’m just stuck on this rock flying through space like everyone else.”

“After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.”
Profile Image for Julie G .
883 reviews2,749 followers
February 23, 2019
It's the end of the world as we know it

It's the end of the world as we know it

It's the end of the world as we know it

and Jimmy feels fine.

Jimmy feels fine.

Actually, wait. That's not true. It's the end of the world, and Jimmy's the last human standing and he feels. . . he feels. . . well, Jimmy feels like shit.

He's wrapped in a bed sheet, he's filthy, he's hungry, and he's alone, with nothing but his worries, his regrets and some strange non-humans, known as Crakers, to keep him company.

And why is Jimmy, the B student, the sex addicted playboy, the wordsmith, the Everyman, still alive? Why should HE still exist while almost everyone else has perished?

Well, he had the jackal position and the trust of a madman, known as Crake, and was therefore favored in the end, when Crake's one man show brought the world down.

And as the famous Margaret Mead once said:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Yes, Margaret. . . all groups good, and bad, am I right?

This book is a great reminder to beware the despots (know any?), the disgruntled and/or depressed. . . oh, and BIG CORPORATIONS.

There is no madness here that seems a spoof, and dear Ms. Atwood confirms for us at the end of the entire trilogy (this is book #1), that all of the science in her fiction trilogy has a solid basis in truth. Be afraid, people. Be very afraid.

This is dystopian fiction, set not too far in the distant future, and, as always, Ms. Atwood gives us a character who is so real, he appears to have DNA.

Her side characters are surprisingly unformed (there's far more meat overall on the bones of books 2 and 3), but this is the beginning and it's Jimmy's story, and his well-developed self and the unbelievably quotable quality of this story bumped it up to 5 stars for me in this, my re-read.

Oh Jimmy!

Ms. Atwood, who is a literary oracle as far as I'm concerned, doesn't preach to us, just reports:

There are too many people and that makes people bad.

For shit sure, Margaret.

In goddess we trust.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book863 followers
July 11, 2020
Margaret Atwood once reported that, when she was a child, many discussions at the dinner table revolved around climate warming, extinction of species, and other similar topics that are nowadays on the front cover of magazines. Oryx and Crake, in the same vein as The Handmaid's Tale, is a novel that speculates about the near future of humanity.

What if social disparities were no longer fought against but admitted and institutionalised as a form of urbanism, such as fancy gated communities, next to impoverished and crime-infested neighbourhoods? What if we genetically engineered animals on a similar scale as what is now usual for crops? What if drugs that increase sexual appetite while smothering violent impulses were available everywhere? What if we started engineering viruses for biological warfare? Some of these questions are no longer just speculations.

Margaret Atwood, with her satirical humour and her sophisticated prose, develops these concerns throughout this novel. The narrative is a bit slow and perplexing at first. On the one hand, Snowman’s story inside a post-apocalyptic landscape; on the other hand, Jimmy and Glenn’s teen years playing video games and watching porn or snuff videos. Later, as the novel progresses, things gradually come together. But the primary payoff lies in the last hundred pages of the book. At that point, as in The Handmaid's Tale, the narrative takes a biblical turn: Atwood provides a parody of the fall of man, cast out from the Garden of Eden (see the Book of Genesis), with Crake standing for Yahweh and the post-human Crackers playing a comical version of Adam and Eve. One may also think of it as a parody of the Gospel: a Christlike Snowman making up ridiculous answers to the existential questions of his Crakers disciples.

Atwood is a brilliant writer who demands a keen and patient reader. It is also possible that she was already thinking about writing The MaddAddam Trilogy, of which Oryx and Crake is the first installment, and paced her novel accordingly, leaving an open ending. She is also surprisingly convincing when writing for Jimmy / Snowman, the young male protagonist.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.7k followers
October 24, 2019
Snowman has spent a terrible night, full of confused, whiskey-sodden dreams, and when the Children of Crake call to him from the bottom of his tree he is still mostly asleep.

"You don't exist!" he shouts. "You're not even characters in a Margaret Atwood novel! You're just part of a review. And Manny won't write it until Jordan's finished the book as well."

None of this makes sense to Snowman, and it makes even less sense to the Children of Crake.

"What is a novel?" asks Eleanor Roosevelt.

"And who is Jordan?" asks Madame Curie. "Is she the same as Oryx?"

"Go away!" shouts Snowman, and tries to go back to sleep.

That showed them honey

He ignores the voice as best he can.

When they come back, Snowman is awake and has had time to prepare a strategy. He reflects, not for the first time, that one would ideally refrain from creating new points of dogma when hung over and barely conscious. But maybe this is a problem all prophets have to face.

He descends from his tree as steadily as he can, and smooths out the creases in his sheet.

"You have asked me where you came from," he begins, "and I have said: Crake made you."

Madame Curie nods vigorously.

"But," continues Snowman, "where did Crake come from?"

Abraham Lincoln furrows his brow. This thought is evidently almost beyond his comprehension, and Snowman hopes he hasn't gone too far. But it is too late to retreat now.

"I will tell you," says Snowman. "First came Margaret Atwood. She sang a song of Oryx and Crake, and thus they came into being."

The Children of Crake are familiar with singing, and for a moment Abraham Lincoln looks happier. Though now Eleanor Roosevelt pipes up again.

"Who are Manny and Jordan?" she asks timidly.

Snowman had been hoping to avoid this subject. Unfortunately, Crake has included some elephant genes in the splice, and his Children have excellent memories.

"Margaret Atwood needed someone to listen to her song," Snowman explains, looking at his audience with all the seriousness he can muster. "She made Manny, and Manny listened to her just as you are listening to me now. And then she made Jordan, but Jordan had other things to do, so she only listened to half of the song. Jordan is very busy."

He worries for a moment that the concept "busy" will be unfamiliar to them, but then remembers the early morning pissing ritual and relaxes. The Children are nodding, taking in this interesting new knowledge. Once again, he's got away with it, even if there is an unexpected last-minute interruption from Madame Curie.

"What will happen when Jordan has listened to the whole song?" she wonders. Snowman can see that this doctrinal point is important to her, and unfortunately he hasn't prepared an answer. He decides to quit while he's ahead.

"That is enough for one morning," he says firmly.

The Children disperse again.
Profile Image for HaMiT.
166 reviews28 followers
August 27, 2020
اتوود آدمیه که اگه در مقابلش بشینی و یه لیوان که تا نیمه آب داشته باشه رو جلوش بذاری و ازش بپرسی نیمه ی پر لیوان رو میبینی یا نیمه ی خالی اش رو، لیوان رو تو سرت خرد میکنه
ولی از اونجا که به همه ی آدمایی که دوس داره این بلا رو سرشون بیاره، دسترسی حضوری نداره، این کار رو با داستانها، کتابها، کلمات و قلمش انجام میده

داستان کتاب توی زمان حال و گذشته پیش میره. زمان حال مربوط به قسمت پساآخرالزمانی داستانه که یه انسان عادی به اسم اسنومن زنده مونده و زمان گذشته روایتگر سیر حوادث و بیانگر خاطراتی هست که از بچگی شخصیت اول داستان (اسنومن) شروع میشه و پیش میره
در واقع این کتاب هم مثل سرگذشت ندیمه زمان حال رو به همراه فلش بک هایی از گذشته روایت میکنه و مثل ندیمه در ژانر علمی- نه چندان تخیلی قرار میگیره
اما این کتاب یه تفاوت با سرگذشت ندیمه و کتابهای آخرالزمانی دیگه داره و اونم اینه که دیستوپیای این داستان در گذشته روایت میشه
اینجاست که اتوود لیوان رو توی سر خواننده میکوبونه و میگه نیاز نیست از آینده بترسونمتون. شما همین الان هم دارید توی یه جامعه ی نکبت و به صورت فلاکت بار زندگی میکنید
زیرنظر نظام های سرمایه داری که امکانات، قدرت و ثروت در اختیار عده ی خاصی هست که عوام ازشون بی بهره اند
توی دنیایی دارید زندگی میکنید که هرساله عده ای بخاطر اضافه وزن و عده ای بخاطر فقر میمیرند
اعدام در ملا عام، شلاق در ملا عام، سنگسار زنان، بریدن سر، قطع دست دزد، پورن کودکان، سوء استفاده ی جنسی از کودکان، فروش کودکان توسط خونواده های فقیر، برده داری نوین، برده داری جنسی، قاچاق انسان و اعضای بدن، تجاوز، ترور و حملات انتحاری (عملیات شهادت طلبانه!)، نژادپرستی، زن ستیزی، حیوان آزاری، سنگسار توله خرس! و انواع و اقسام رفتارهای کثافت دیگه ای که توی جوامع مختلف میگذره رو دارید میبینید یا در موردشون میشنوید و باید نگران اونها باشید
و در همین حین اتوود گونه ی جدیدی از انسان رو معرفی میکنه که از همه ی این رذایل به دور هست. مطلقا گیاهخواره و غذاش چمن و برگه. پوست بی مو و کلفتش در مقابل اشعه ی فرابنفش مقاومه. مثل خیلی از حیوانات جفتگیری فصلی داره و در نتیجه روابط جنسی افسارگسیخته نداره و خشونت رو درک نمیکنه و مثل یه صفحه ی سفید پاکه

داستان پر حادثه ای نیست ولی کشش و جذابیت خوبی داره و از خوندنش خیلی لذت بردم و هیچ بخشی ازش برام خسته کننده نبود. ارجاعات و اظهارات مذهبی جالبی هم داره
چیزی که در مورد یه کتاب خیلی حال می‌ده اینه که وقتی آدم کتاب رو تموم می‌کنه دوس داشته باشه که نویسنده‌ش دوست صمیمی‌ش باشه و بتونه هر موقع دوست داره یه زنگی بش بزنه
کاش اتوود دوست صمیمی من بود و عصرای جمعه میرفتم پیشش و برام چای میریخت و اون حرف میزد و من گوش میکردم
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,824 followers
November 20, 2009
Geez. That was the most depressing apocalypse ever.

A guy called Snowman is playing caretaker and prophet to a strange new race of people he calls the Crakers in the ruins of civilization. As Snowman forages for supplies, his recollections make up the story of what caused a massive biological and ecological disaster that has apparently wiped all the old humans out except for him.

Snowman’s past takes place in our near future where he was once known as Jimmy in a society where genetic engineering was commonplace and the privileged lived in compounds owned and maintained by the corporations they worked for. Jimmy/Snowman’s memories of his brilliant friend Crake and the woman he loved, Oryx, haunt him even as he struggles to survive.

Fascinating book that seemed all too plausible in its depiction of a future state where brainless, nerveless chicken blobs with multiple breasts are created in a lab for chicken nuggets and animals are routinely crossbred. And all this set against a society where the only thing that matters is the bottom line so the idea of questioning the ethics or morality of what’s being done makes you a traitor.

This is a story that takes the idea of playing god to a whole new level. When you can create any kind of life you can imagine, where do limits come in? And if you think that human society is beyond saving, what kind of people would have the arrogance to think they can come up with something better?
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
485 reviews808 followers
November 17, 2016
My introduction to Margaret Atwood is Oryx and Crake, her 2003 science fiction novel that leaps from the post-apocalypse back to the months leading up to it. This is a future that owes its legacy to Philip K. Dick, where ecological disaster and civil unrest are kept outside the compound walls of the biotech industry, whose engineers toil on some troubling new creations. The novel is lesiurely paced and droll but kept me engrossed via the sharpness of its wit and a creeping dread that builds under the immorality of its concepts. Once I warmed to Atwood's protagonist--a middling Mad Max named Snowman--the novel took off.

After teasing quotes from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Atwood drops us in a lagoon of some unnamed part of what was once the world. A survivor who calls himself Snowman spends his time foraging about in self-pity. He's a shaman of sorts to a genetically engineered tribe of humans with 30-year life spans, naked and green-eyed perfections who speak, but harbor a child's understanding of the world based on the mythology Snowman is making up as he goes, myth built on deities he refers to as Oryx and Crake. The story jumps back in time to introduce these characters and how Snowman got himself here.

Snowman was once known as Jimmy. His father was a gifted genographer responsible for the pigoon, a genetically adapted pig bred to grow human-tissue organs. Jimmy's mother was a microbiologist whose job had been to study the proteins unhealthy to the pigoon. She suffers a nervous breakdown over her work and quits. Her marriage begins to dissolve after Jimmy's father is recruited by HelthWyzer, a company which fortifies its people and their families inside a sterilized compound. Outside the walls are the pleeblands, the inner cities, where bioterrorists and criminals apparently run riot and Jimmy--a class clown--has never set foot.

The HelthWyzer Compound was not only newer than the OrganInc layout, it was bigger. It had two shopping malls instead of one, a better hospital, three dance clubs, even its own golf course. Jimmy went to the HelthWyzer Public School, where at first he didn't know anyone. Despite his initial loneliness, that wasn't too bad. Actually it was good, because he could recycle his old routines and jokes: the kids at OrganInc had become used to his antics. He'd moved on from the chimpanzee act and was into fake vomiting and choking to death--both popular--and a thing where he drew a bare-baked girl on his stomach with her crotch right where his navel was, and made her wiggle.

Jimmy's mother ultimately runs away, subverting the CorpSeCorps security force which policies the HelthWyzer compound. She liberates Killer, Jimmy's pet rakunk, a pet that is part racoon, part skunk. Jimmy is devastated, unsure who he misses more: his mother or his genetically altered skunk. A few months before this loss, Jimmy meets Glenn, a transfer student with a calm aloofness and maturity beyond his years. Eager to make a dent, Jimmy befriends him. The boys play strategy games like Kwiktime Osama or Barbarian Stomp. Glenn's favorite is Extinctathon, where the object is to name that dead species. The game is monitored by a network of biofreaks calling themselves MaddAddam. Glenn's codename is Crake, as in the doomed red-billed waterbird from Australia.

Jimmy and Crake browse the web, which offers newscasts in the nude, live coverage of executions in Asia, a game show where contestants eat live animals, and global sex sites. It's on a porno show where Jimmy becomes smitten with a girl who looks no older than eight, small-boned and exquisite who stares into the camera with a substance that captivates him. Years later, Crake will introduce this girl to Jimmy as Oryx. In the post-apocalypse, Snowman has based the mythology he shares with the genetic perfections in his charge around the idea that they are Children of Crake and all animals are Children of Oryx, which Jimmy realizes too late bans him from killing a rabbit for food.

Snowman has decreed that the tribe bring him a fish per week, which also occurs to him too late as being short-sighted. He makes the decision to trek to a place he once knew as the RejoovenEsense Compound, whose inhabitants dropped dead or fled, leaving behind canned goods, sprayguns and booze. On his journey, Snowman contends with wild pigoons, which travel in packs and possess strategic skills. Crake and Jimmy parted ways when they are accepted into the Watson-Crick Institute and Martha Graham Academy, respectively, but stay in touch until the day Crake, a VIP at RejoovenEsense, offers his friend a job marketing the revolutionary BlyssPluss Pill.

The aim was to produce a single pill, that, at one and the same time:

a) would protect the user against all known sexually transmitted diseases, fatal, inconvenient, or merely unsightly;

b) would provide an unlimited supply of libido and sexual prowess, coupled with a generalized sense of energy and well-being, thus reducing the frustration and blocked testosterone that led to jealousy and violence, and eliminating feelings of low self-worth;

c) would prolong youth

These three capabilities would be the selling points, said Crake, but there would be a fourth, which would not be advertised. The BlyssPluss Pill would also act as as a sure-fire one-time-does-it-all birth-control pill, for male and female alike, thus automatically lowering the population level. This effect could be made reversible, though not in individual subjects, by altering the components of the pill as needed, i.e., if the populations of any one area got too low.

"So basically you're going to sterilize people without them knowing it under the guise of giving them the ultra in orgies?"

"That's a crude way of putting it," said Crake.

Rather than trade on space travel, rayguns or aliens, Oryx and Crake is in the comedy horror vein of the science fiction genre. Much of it is subtle yet exhilarating. Atwood takes the most toxic elements of consumer culture and industry and pushes them to their most logical extremes. The satiric effect is both humoring and chilling. English has been bastardized to make words out of SoYummie Ice Cream or Noodie News. One of the first successful genetic splices was the spoat/gider, a goat crossed with a spider to produce high-tensile silk in the milk. An animal snuff site called Felicia's Frog Squash is popular with the children. Atwood's tongue-in-cheek vision throbs with a doomsday pulse.

Oryx and Crake was an acquired taste. I wasn't blown away by the post-apocalyptic world Atwood teases the reader with in the early going. Snowman could be considered an inert blob as a character and nothing particularly exciting happens in regards to the end of the world setting. But the novel is anything but boring. Atwood's vision, her sense of humor and her language--often plain in manner and style but sometimes as fantastic as skywriting--that kept me turning the pages. Flashbacks into Oryx's childhood or Jimmy's collegiate ennui are imaginative and infused with wit and tragedy. The novel closes well and concludes with a final chapter that is close to perfect.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
457 reviews942 followers
April 12, 2015
I'm coming back to the authors who marked my literary 'coming of age': Vonnegut, Atwood. These two, for me, are the grand-daddy and grand-mammy of my bookish adolescence. They were life rafts held out by a couple of high school teachers. I grabbed them and held on. I simply cannot review either properly, so wrapped in nostalgia is my own point of view; so personal my reaction. I'm reading them now to see how they hold up and what they have to say to me 30 years later; and in Atwood's case, to pick up where I left off.

This one marked the point when I split from her pretty definitively. At the time, I couldn't deal with her movement away from what were female-centric stories grounded in a very concrete and recognizable reality (Blind Assassin was perhaps the first stumble I made; and Oryx and Crake did me in). So who knows what actually changed, and why these dystopian landscapes with their much broader themes are now appealing to me.

Could it be that I've recently left a soul-destroying career in -- gasp (please don't hate me) -- marketing? Could it be genocide in Darfur; earthquakes in Haiti and Chili and unstoppable oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico? Could it be police in full riot gear in my very own city? Sigh. Maybe my state of mind now is remarkably the same as it was in 1981--back when I was blockading and protesting and raging. And reading, reading, reading.

Could it be I need another life raft? Could it be I need hope? Funny place to look for it, here in Oryx and Crake.

This is the Atwood I remember loving, in so many ways: dense, DENSE stories full of symbolism, perfectly-rendered imagery, jam-packed with ideas, scathingly vicious about society going awry, science being co-opted whole scale by consumerism (anyone up for a game of Blood and Roses?). Arts and humanities (our moral centre) being reduced to brand management and advertising.

Everything here is horrifyingly real, and even more so because one can see its genesis in the here-and-now.

She gets it all in here...and she does it with prose, plot, character (broad strokes, I grant you), imagery that leaves one (me at least), absolutely stupefied by her sheer brilliance. Here:

"Across the clearing to the south comes a rabbit, hopping, listening, pausing to nibble at the grass with its gigantic teeth. It glows in the dusk, a greenish glow filched from the iridicytes of a deep-sea jellyfish in some long-ago experiment. In the half-light, the rabbit looks soft and almost translucent, like a piece of Turkish delight; as if you could suck off its fur like sugar."

I read Atwood with a kind of synesthesia:* I recall, in high school, handing in a book report on Surfacing as a painting. I could not express what I felt in words; I needed a visual medium. I still see her prose in pictures. Nothing has changed, and I see she's still up to her old tricks with colour symbolism.

Atwood's control is amazing. I picture her (more synesthesia) as a mad conductor, her corkscrew hair flying, her impish grin and twinkling eyes blazing. In front, an unruly orchestra smashing away on five or 18 or 326 different symphonies at the same time. There's the genetically-modified foods string section; over there, Internet kiddie porn on flutes and piccolos. Totalitarian regimes executing protestors on percussion, of course. Rat-a-tat-a-tat. Pigoons root around amidst the snare drums; giant green bunnies gnaw away at the spare viola bows. At any moment, they may turn on the orchestra and the audience will be treated to a bloodbath in the pit. All under the watchful and encouraging eye of the conductor, urging them on to a cataclysmic, orgiastic finale--only she can see where this music will end, if it ever will. Standing ovation. Curtain comes down. But the concert is not over.

Year of the Flood is next up (after I re-read Sirens of Titan).

ETA: *I realize she pokes fun at this very thing here in O&C, esp. in the women of Martha Graham scenes. So, I am an Atwood archetype, so what? :-)
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
385 reviews325 followers
May 12, 2023
Margaret Atwood has a brain the size of a planet and an even bigger imagination. I first realised this when I read her book The Blind Assassin , that story took me places I didn’t expect to go. Oryx and Crake is the result Atwood’s imagination operating in over-drive, this is one intelligent, wondrous and a troubling story of a post-apocalyptic world.

We aren’t sure how this apocalypse occurred.

First up we are introduced to Snowman (our narrator) who lives in this future world, in a tree, he wears a sheet and oversees a group of humanoids called The Children of Crake. These people are different to humans, they are childlike with a simple innocence about them. Snowman scrapes out an existence and looks back at his past pre-apocalyptic life when he was a child as a boy named Jimmy. This story follows these two timelines – pre and post-apocalypse.

Snowman/Jimmy is our main character, we learn about his childhood and his friendship with a genius boy called “Crake” (real name Glenn). Crake is an unusual boy who seems to march to a different beat, he doesn’t act like a usual lad, but after a while he and Jimmy become close mates. Crake is very, very intelligent and this sets him on a path of studying at the best academic institutions and he is eventually employed in genetics (creating new hybrid species) all this, while Jimmy battles through lesser-known schools and ends up working in advertising.

Jimmy’s father was a genetic scientist and he didn’t show much affection towards Jimmy, in fact he was rather cold and critical towards him. Jimmy’s mother was a bit of a nutter and left the family one day, out of the blue. Jimmy grew up angry and sex obsessed.

Oryx first spotted by the boys when watching a child pornography video, when she was a small girl. Beware: Even though there are some fantastic scientific ideas and concepts going on in this story and even some funny interactions between Jimmy and Crake, the back-story of Oryx is sad, dark and confronting. Anyway, as adults they meet Oryx and there is a rivalry between the two (probably more from Jimmy’s point of view) over Oryx’s affections (sex). Crake seems indifferent.

Snowman (the older Jimmy) is a sad lonely character, he doesn’t find much value in his relationship with the innocent, agreeable Crakers. Eventually, he decides to look for more supplies by visiting the compound he, Crake and Oryx worked at before the apocalypse event. This odyssey of Snowman brings the two timelines together and everything is eventually revealed.

The above description is a hollow attempt at describing an intricate piece of work which includes so many scientific factoids (and facts), a bizarre world of genetic developments, great main characters, a few laughs and lots of ‘oh gosh’ moments. It’s also a very human piece as Atwood takes us on a journey of friendship, friendship gone bad, obsession, rivalry and jealousy, the dark side of humanity, innocence, religious themes and the future.

Future naval-gazing is perhaps the most fascinating aspect here – how far can we, and should we, push scientific (genetic) advances? How much power should be put in the hands of scientists and corporations? After just emerging from a pandemic, we know some of the issues caused by infectious agents - imagine what kind of conversations we would be having now if the virus wasn’t a SARS virus, but a haemorrhagic, highly contagious virus with a mortality rate close to 100%? Even if it had a mortality rate close to that of Ebola (60+ %) our conversations would be very different – many or most of us would not be here.

It truly makes one wonder, with scientific developments forging ahead, the destruction of so many ecosystems and species in this world and with humans being what we are – the type of scenario described in this book – well, maybe it isn’t so fictional.

Atwood, is not only a great writer she is quite simply a genius.

5 Stars
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
December 4, 2018
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake is a novel by the Canadian author Margaret Atwood. She has described the novel as speculative fiction and "adventure romance" rather than science fiction because it does not deal with things "we can't yet do or begin to do" and goes beyond the realism she associates with the novel form. The novel focuses on a post-apocalyptic character with the name of Snowman, living near a group of primitive human-like creatures whom he calls Crakers. Flashbacks reveal that Snowman was once a boy named Jimmy who grew up in a world dominated by multinational corporations and privileged compounds for the families of their employees. Near starvation, Snowman decides to return to the ruins of a compound named RejoovenEsence to search for supplies even though it is overrun by dangerous genetically engineered hybrid animals. He concocts an explanation for the Crakers, who regard him as a teacher, and begins his foraging expedition.
Main characters: Snowman, Crake, Oryx, Sharon, Jimmy's father, and Ramona.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هفتم ماه دسامبر سال 2006 میلادی
عنوان: اوریکس و کریک؛ نویسنده: مارگارت اتوود؛ مترجم: سهیل سمی؛ تهران، ققنوس، 1383؛ در 511 ص؛ شابک: 9643115119؛ داستانهای نویسندگان کانادایی - سده 20 م
اوریکس: نوعی آهوی آفریقایی ست، و «کرِیک» پرنده‌ ای ست، که در فارسی به ترتیب به آن‌ها : «تیزشاخ» و «یلوه ی حنایی» گفته می‌شود. «اوریکس» و «کریک» لقب دو نفر از شخصیت‌های اصلی کتاب است، که از نام همین دو حیوان، که در زمان رخداد داستان، منقرض شده‌ اند انتخاب شده است. رمان در زمانی آغاز میشود، که نسل انسان بر اثر شیوع بیماری، از بین رفته؛ و تنها یک نفر از بازماندگان آنها، در کنار نسل جدیدی از انسانهای تولید شده در آزمایشگاه، به زندگی ادامه میدهد. با فلش بک، و یادآوری خاطرات، توسط همین «جیمی»، خوانشگر کتاب، از چگونگی ماجرا آگاهی پیدا میکند. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews671 followers
February 26, 2023
Margaret Atwood is one scary lady.  The world as we knew it no longer exists.  Racked by plagues, extreme weather that can no longer be predicted with any accuracy, angry mobs, and a trend toward genetic engineering and all that it implies.  Sound all too familiar?  Sure, but what about in 2003 when the book was first published?  It's finally happened - we have gotten too big for our own britches. 

I love dystopian novels, and am gobsmacked at just how close to the quick this tale cut.  Despite that, the read itself was a grind for me.  Typically, I dig on darkness.  Still do.  But here, I actively wanted to finish this story and move on to something else.  Thus, I find myself deep in outlier territory as I am only willing to give 3 stars.  I will not be pursuing the series.
Profile Image for Pedro.
191 reviews403 followers
June 16, 2021
I’m so glad to be back to my (literary) apocalyptic journey. This time, after coming across it in a few lists of best apocalyptic fiction, and despite some reservations, I decided to give Mrs Atwood a third chance by picking this one up.

And my friends, I’m also glad to report that it only took me a couple of pages to realise that I had a bloody clever page turner in my hands.

Jimmy. This was all about Jimmy. Jimmy as a child, Jimmy as an adolescent, Jimmy as an adult... Jimmy before the apocalypse. Jimmy during the apocalypse and also Jimmy after the apocalypse. Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy... and more Jimmy.

Jimmy doesn’t know which is worse, a past he can’t regain or a present that will destroy him if he looks at it too clearly and neither do I, to be honest. Then there’s the future. Sheer vertigo , don’t you agree?

At this point I have to say that this novel has as many dystopian elements in it as it does apocalyptic ones. The narrative jumps backwards and forwards in a way that usually only leads me to despair. Oh, and with the exception of Jimmy, I can’t really say that all other characters were well developed. But here, somehow, it all worked. And exceptionally well, I dare say, because this underdevelopment only added more mystery to the already very mysterious (and quite dark) nature of these same characters.

As I’ve already said, this was ALL about Jimmy, and the fact that there were so many time jumps only turned this into a more compelling read.

Now, in case you’re wondering, let me give you one example (of many) as to why I think this story is even more relevant now than when it was first published back in 2004. Here’s a passage from page 209 of my edition:

The students of song and dance continued to sing and dance, though the energy had gone out of these activities and the classes were small. Live performances had suffered in the sabotage panics of the early twenty-first-century - no one during those decades had wanted to form part of a large group at a public event...

You should’ve seen me grimacing when I first read this... Aha.
How Mrs Atwood could see this coming is completely beyond me.
How the world changed so completely in a matter of months is, I believe, completely beyond any of us, right?

Maybe we understand more than we know or maybe we don’t understand nothing at all and the whole world is now one vast uncontrolled experiment (...) and the doctrine of unintended consequences is in full spate.

The same people who emptied the shelves of toilet roll in the supermarkets now believe we’re going to be out of this situation soon but I’m as sure about this as I was about their “obsessive hygienic behaviour”. (What were they so scared about? And why wasn’t I?)
Perhaps I just have what some might call a pessimistic view of all this situation and that’s okay. What I think doesn’t really matter.

After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.
Profile Image for Ron.
388 reviews90 followers
March 25, 2022
Oryx and Crake opens upon a seemingly blighted place and the sole existence of Snowman rummaging for his next meal. Mangoes and a can of No-Meat cocktail sausages. Most readers probably know through hints or blurbs that the setting is not today, but the world feels like our own with a few children running on a white beach. They spot the man and call his name, “Snowman, oh Snowman” to ask about the treasures they've found – a hubcap, a chunk of glass and other flotsam. “These things are from before”, he says. Before what, I wondered and knew I had many questions of my own.

Atwood reveals that Snowman's name was once Jimmy through fragments of his past. Back and forth in time. As Snowman ventures out of necessity away from his beach. Jimmy at three years old. Jimmy at twelve. The first time he met Crake. I never tire of this style of writing, especially a childhood revealed by the narrator telling it. Atwood does it better than most. The plot is both complicated with how it uses our own desires in this world, satirically so, while being deceptively simple to read. A new dictionary of words were made for this, using our own, so all is well understood. At times it is a boy missing his mother; at times an unconventional love story; friendship; dystopia; irony, etc.

”Once upon a time, Snowman wasn't Snowman. Instead he was Jimmy. He'd been a good boy then.”
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,534 followers
May 20, 2016
Talk about timing.

Just as the weather goes nuts – sunscreen and shorts one day, parkas the next – and mysterious diseases warrant masks, along comes Margaret Atwood's Oryx And Crake, a novel that explains these and other global warning signs.

This is Atwood's second successful work of speculative fiction. But where The Handmaid's Tale focused on gender and reproduction in a totalitarian regime, Oryx And Crake examines genetic splicing and disease.

We begin in a post-apocalyptic world, barren and seemingly unpopulated except for sheet-clad protagonist Snowman and a group of naked, multi-hued green-eyed beings called the Children of Crake.

Oh yeah, dangerous hybrid creatures called wolvogs (part wolf and part dog) and pigoons (vicious piglike creatures formerly used for harvesting organs) keep the defenceless Snowman stuck in a tree.

Before long, Atwood skilfully sets up two narratives: Snowman's journey across the sunbaked landscape for survival (he's running out of food), and his tortured recollections of how he got there in the first place.

The present-tense tale is full of adventure – a scene of Snowman being pursued by pigoons is gripping stuff. But it's in the recreation of his past that Atwood lets rip and has fun creating a world of well-intentioned science gone wrong.

Raised in a gated corporate-owned community by two scientist parents, Snowman, aka Jimmy, meets charismatic loner Crake, and together they do good-ol'-boy activities like watching executions and kiddie porn on the Net and playing games like Extinctathon, about dying species.

After high school, the two go off to different schools – Jimmy's word-related skills aren't as desired as Crake's scientific ones – only to meet up later when Crake's become frighteningly powerful.

The Oryx of the title refers to the mysterious woman who comes between them, a former child prostitute who's passed from one country (and man) to another. Exotic and idealized, she's the weakest link, surprising since Atwood's known for her female characters.

As in The Handmaid's Tale, the ending feels anticlimactic, which will make the inevitable Hollywood adaptation problematic.

For the record, Jimmy is Atwood's most complex male character to date. His lusts and motivations ring true. And her imaginative touches – outdoor sculptures made of living vultures, penis-shaped cock clocks – will probably turn up in arts pages and stores next week.

Running beneath the darkly funny observations and warnings, though, is Atwood's humanistic love of the earth and language. This is a cautionary tale. After staying up all night with this book, you won't look at the world in the same way again.


Originally published in NOW Magazine here.
123 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
November 7, 2018
"Why is it he feels some line has been crossed, some boundary transgressed? How much is too much, how far is too far?"

I read a book on the future (a nonfiction on the future, that is a bit of an oxymoron, I know!) about the fourth industrial revolution last week, and going through the list of paradigm shifts that are taking place at this very moment in time, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. "I know this already", I thought. "And I know where it is going to lead."

Almost by instinct, I took Oryx and Crake from the bookshelf, and opened it in the middle. "Just checking a little," I thought. And then I went back to the beginning of the novel, which is in fact ... the end ... of the fourth industrial revolution, if all that can go wrong goes wrong. And please tell me if I missed the moment when Murphy's law stopped applying?

Rakunks and Pigoons may make up for all the extinct species, but where is Snowman to find a comfortable cave with a view and air condition for his lonely and hopeless Robinsonade in a post-Anthropocene world with a few Crakers for only company?

As I am a diehard Atwood fan, I know she will deliver the myths for the post-human phase as well, but it still breaks my heart when former Jimmy realises that as he loses the concept of certain words, they die with him, for there is nobody out there to share them with him. All this striving for perfect power, only for humanity to destroy itself out of ambition.

Please, Margaret Atwwod, stop being such a prophet of doom. It is scary reading over Halloween. Even if it is the second time. Especially as it is the second time, and we are deeper into the paradigm shift now than ten years ago, with no insight in sight. Sorry for the pun. They will die out too, if stupidity has its way. And it always does, doesn't it?

So, as long as we are a literate species, why not try Oryx and Crake? It is a sign of occasional intelligence occurring in our species. Let's celebrate that:

"When any civilization is dust and ashes," he said, "art is all that's left over. Images, words, music. Imaginative structures. Meaning—human meaning, that is—is defined by them. You have to admit that."
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