Book Review: Orxy and Crake by Margaret Atwood

46756I know that no one can know everything, and I have a terrible time accepting it. This blog is in many ways an outgrowth of my own denial that I will never, ever be able to read every good book in existence, let alone the Twilights and Fifty Shades of Grey which don’t interest me at all (nor will I link to them here; you’re better than that).  It generates a sort of first-world paralysis knowing this, because there’s not always going to be a “I’ll get to it at some point.” I’m still in my twenties, granted, but even now I can’t pick a “next book” because I want to read all the books before I’m dead.  I’m sure Paradise has the biggest library ever, but since suicide is one of those uncertain things in terms of being forgivable, I’ll wait for my celestial discharge (according to Stephen King, Hell’s library is full of Danielle Steel novels).

So why should I be surprised when I find out about an author like Margaret Atwood, who’s been writing killer sci-fi for years, and read one of her books and like it?  I haven’t read everything, nor will I, so I get to keep discovering these amazing writers that have been writing amazing books all the time.   It’s like a never ending treasure hunt, these things I obsess over called books.  Sometimes I dig in the wrong place and find nothing; other times I’ve struck pay dirt and I’m happy.  Sometimes I strike an oil well and I’m overjoyed.  The latter two make me happy that I put myself through this.

Oryx and Crake is one of those discoveries that makes me pretty happy that I get to keep hunting for good stuff. I suppose I should write a review , since that’s why I’ve gathered all of you here.

The story follows a man who calls himself Snowman, the survivor of some sort of disastrous event that wiped out nearly the entire human population, save for a few people and a group of genetically modified humans called Crakers, whom he looks after, explaining the ways of the world to them by way of a sort of mythology he’s developed surrounding two figures known as Oryx and Crake.  Through a series of flashbacks interspersed throughout present-day events, we learn of Snowman’s upbringing as Jimmy,  a child of a geneticist working for a large pharmaceutical corporation on developing a new breed of pigs (called “pigoons”) to grow organ transplants for those who need it.  He meets his friend Crake in high school, who is a child prodigy (for lack of a better word) in science, and who goes on to do some pretty amazing (and horrifying) things in genetics and pharmaceuticals himself. Oryx is a woman Crake and Jimmy actually discovered by way of a child-porn site while they were in high school and whom Crake tracked down while in college, and is the first human the Crakers ever met. Snowman walks the reader through the events leading up to the present day as he interacts with the Crakers and journeys back to the last place he saw Oryx and Crake, his mind oozing with wounds that never healed from the destructive events that took place, wiping humanity off the face of the Earth.

This is definitely one of those hard-to-put-down books, especially if you’re into sci-fi.  Atwood weaves the present world in with future events in a way that you  accept everything in occurrence with her world (advanced genetic engineering and technology, extreme separation of the upper and lower classes, etc.) without question.  All she’s doing is extrapolating on current affairs (current to the early 2000’s; DVDs are still in use in the future), but it’s done with such fluidity that you accept it pretty much off the bat (it helps that it’s not exactly unbelievable).

Atwood also really brings out the idea of humanity destroying itself with its own progress in the character of Crake, but doesn’t beat the reader over the head by making it obvious or anything.  There were many times where she’d throw a twist into the mix or tie together a loose end in the story that make you go, “Oh wow…” and it’s so much fun when those hit.   I love it when authors don’t explain even little details up front; it keeps me reading through a story.

O&C is apparently the first part of a series, too, so that means I’m going to have to track the rest of it down at some point, though I might just sit on this for awhile.  No doubt this is a great book, but I have to admit to not being overwhelmed with its greatness.   That’s OK, though.  Not every book has to blow my doors off to get a good review out of me (or completely infuriate me to get a bad review).  I’m happy to say that I intend to read more of Atwood’s works in the future.  Definitely a fan.

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