Monday, January 30, 2012

Athena K's Review - Oryx and Crake

I had the fortune, or misfortune perhaps, to read this book during the recent major snow and ice storm in the Pacific Northwest.  Ice collected on our trees and brought down massive branches onto the electrical lines (to dramatic cracks and snaps!) across the region.  We lost power Thursday morning and didn't get it back until Monday night - nearly 5 full days of dark and cold. It was an ideal setting to read this novel about a horrifying dystopia set not too far into the future.

Jimmy/Snowman is perhaps the only human left alive on Earth, following a massive plague of dubious origin.  He co-exists with various animals and people (?) who have survived as the result of genetic engineering - the rakunks, pigoons, and wolvogs, as well as the Children of Crake, a humanoid race created by Jimmy's childhood friend.  Perhaps what is so frightening about the world described by Atwood via Jimmy's flashbacks is that is seems so possible - large self-contained communities owned and run by massive corporations, human obsessions with aesthetic perfection and agelessness, and even (and most horrifying to me) the ChickieNob chickens that have been modified to grow 12 legs and no heads.  Atwood criticises several social institutions and trends by taking them to their extreme but logical extension, with compelling results.

Atwood doesn't wrap nearly everything up, and I am still uncertain about the nature of the love between Jimmy and Oryx/Oryx and Crake, and she leaves the end unresolved and big questions completely up to the reader's determination.  Sometimes I find this way of completing a novel lazy, but in this case it was perfect.  And as usual, part of the brilliance of this novel was Atwood's facility with words - creating them, twisting their meanings, and substituting them for each other.

Of course, it could be that I was in a post-apocalyptic mood, but I thought this was a fantastic novel - FAR superior to Vernon God Little which won this year.

1 comment:

  1. How did I miss this on the Booker shortlist? I just read it last week, because it was on the Orange Prize shortlist. I'll post my review here soon. I agree, this is a better book than Vernon God Little.