Review: Oryx and Crake

oryx Last night, shortly after wrapping up the Sunday Salon, I was able to wrap up the last 100 or so pages of Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and, as I thought I would, I enjoyed the book IMMENSELY and was tempted to write about it immediately last night but, unfortunately, by that time it was already well past my bed time! However, even the night of sleep didn’t diminish my almost-possessed level of love and desire to talk about the book!

The plot of the book is almost to summarize quickly, but I’ll do my best! As I outlined briefly in the Sunday Salon, the book has a fairly-predictable dystopian plotline to a certain extent. The society in which Jimmy (who later goes by Snowman), Crake, and Oryx live is a divided one, composed of the ‘pleeblands’, dangerous and dirty cities where the illicit pleasures of the world can be sought. This is in contrast to the Modules and Compounds where the more ‘civilized’ members of society live. It is a society where the fear of disease has become paramount and the creation of new creatures (the’pigoon’, a combination of a pig and a human, is used to grow human organs for transplants, and ‘wolvogs’ – a combination of wolf and dog – are created as weapons) made by genetic modification and splicing is common place.

At his high schoo, Jimmy meets a young boy named Glenn, who goes by Crake for the rest of the novel. The two hang out together, surfing the ‘net and playing games like ‘Kwiktime Osama’ and ‘Extinctathon’, which requires an encyclopediac knowledge of extinct plants and animals. One of this sessions of ‘net-surfing take the two boys to a kiddie-porn site, where Jimmy is haunted by the face of a young girl, who later comes in to the novel as Oryx. The two boys remain friends through the novel’s equivalents of high school and college, and Crake proves himself to be an incredible scientist who immerges out of college with a plan. SPOILERS Jimmy joins Crake at his job, where Crake is attempting to event the BlyssPlus pill which would serve as a cure against any and all sexually transmitted diseases, boost sexual energy, and prolong youth. However, it was also a one-time birth control pill, and Crake uses Jimmy to largely distriubute the pill, touted as the cure for all humanities ills. At the same time, Crake has invented the Crakers, a group of psuedo-people who are leaf-eating herbivores, are incapable of the higher brain function that would lead to feelings like faith and jealousy, and have sexual intercourse during limited breeding seasons when they are polyandrous. Also joining Jimmy is Oryx, who Crake remembered from the kiddie-porn site and had brought to him to serve as a personal prositute and to also teach the Crakers about nature.This is when the novel gets REALLY interesting. Crake has, without the knowledge of Jimmy, planted a ‘bioform’ in the BlyssPlus pills and thus literally creates a gloabl killer, a disease without a cure that ravages the planet. Crake immunized Jimmy without his knowledge so that he would remain to teach the Crakers, which is exactly what happens when Crake kills Oryx and Jimmy kills Crake right after learning of his bioterrorism and megalomaniacal plans. END SPOILERS.

The book is told in a series of flashbacks between Snowman – what the Crakers call Jimmy after he does, indeed, take them in to the woods surrounding the compound where Crake was working – describing what it is like to live in a world where disease has killed everyone but a simple-minded hybrid-human. It is here that Atwood does perhaps some of her greatest writing, and I absolutely adored the details to which Atwood gave to issues such as what it WOULD be like to live in a tree, or to fear mutant hybrid creatures who were almost created to live in the world in which Jimmy now finds himself. The other parts of the book chronicle Jimmy and his relationship with Crake and Oryx and how his world came to be. These parts basically presented the basic issue I had with the book: it’s one of those books that can be really confusing the first time you read it. Atwood is a master of releasing details only when you need to know them, sometimes not until after, and while such a tactic does an AMAZING job at creating suspense (which this book does, believe me – it’s the textbook definition of a page turner!) it can also make the book a little hard to follow. The first time you hear of pigoons, Oryx, the Crakers, or of Jimmy, it is without any kind of provided definition or explanation. This would probably be one of those books that even better on a second read!

I can’t really describe what it is I love about this book, other than Atwood’s plot turns and skills as a writer. I suppose its the same as what inspires my love for practically all other dystopian novels: there is something about it that feels eminently real. While I think that the world that Atwood describes is still far off (then again, who really knows just how far) there are sections of it – the huge, global fear of disease and ‘pandemics’, the money that there is to be made in even false-cures, and, of course, the desire by humans to create a more perfect world, which can often lead to the destruction of the world we currently live in – that hit home in the scariest ways.

Please go read the book! It’ll stick with you, and I’m DYING to have someone to talk to about it (my mother is working on it, but she really is an abhorently slow reader! 🙂 Happy reading, and hopefully you’re enjoying the slow shift to winter as much as I am!



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeane
    Nov 17, 2009 @ 00:02:41

    Great review. I also liked the parts told in the present- when he was living in the tree, wary of and yet superior in ways to the Crakers. It gave me the shivers. A lot of those details you mention of the flashback sections- particularly the violent games the boys played online- really gave me the creeps. But such is the power of Atwood’s writing I couldn’t put it down regardless.


  2. Nymeth
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 00:31:31

    Okay, okay..I WILL read it 😀 I love Atwood, so it was just a matter of time anyway 😛


  3. Mrs.B.
    Dec 27, 2009 @ 00:45:54

    I just read this book and loved it too. Review to come soon.


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