Oryx & Crake is simultaneously one of the most imaginative and intriguing books that i’ve read, however, despite this… I ended up not enjoying this book – and honestly I don’t think you’re supposed to.
The only thing I knew about this book was that it was written by the same author who’d written The Handmaiden’s Tale – and though I haven’t read the book, I became familiar with it because of how well its television adaptation was being received critically, I personally chose not to watch it because of how miserable it sounded, and to be honest i’m tired of consuming content containing unequivocal amounts of misogyny.
Before I get into my review (Spoiler-free), here’s a brief synopsis:
SYNOPSIS: Published in 2003, Oryx & Crake is a post-apocalyptic work of speculative fiction about a man, once called Jimmy who now calls himself Snowman. He is presumably the last living human on earth and has been left in charge of a group of primitive human-like creatures called Crakers.
REVIEW: This story is essentially a cautionary tale about mans involvement and manipulation of nature. It explores some very dark and disturbing truths about people, systems and technology – some of which was rather uncomfortable to read about. The book starts of pretty slowly and during the first couple of chapters I began to question how reliable Snowman was as a narrator, the more i read the more I began to think about how much this book would have benefited from having multiple points of views, especially considering how detailed this story is.
“All it takes,” said Crake, “is the elimination of one generation. One generation of anything. Beetles, trees, microbes, scientists, speakers of French, whatever. Break the link in time between one generation and the next, and it’s game over forever.”
What I did like about this book was its originality and creativity – it’s thought-provoking, engaging and is very blunt about who these characters are as people. I would love to take a sneak-peek of Atwood’s notes on how she came up with some of the ideas for this story because it’s truly impressive. One thing that I really appreciated was how Atwood was able to name or briefly describe a scientific or abstract subject without making you feel as though you need to do further research on it – the context of the story is thankfully enough.
The romance aspect of the novel is both complex and controversial, I personally wouldn’t call it a romance, it read more as an obsessive, manipulative, ill-defined, but passionate relationship of sorts, that I still, as i’m typing this, can’t get my head around, which is why I again feel like this story needed multiple perspectives. Moreover, despite the exposition we get about why the world is the way it is when we meet Snowman, I found it difficult to understand the motivations of certain characters.
Overall, I enjoyed reading about this world – it’s imaginative but also realistic in the brutalist of ways that make you think about the many ‘what if’s’ about our own world which is what I enjoy most about the dystopian genre. If you’re like me and not a frequent reader of dystopian novels but want to read something different, i’d recommend giving Oryx and Crake a read. But know this, if you’re not familiar with Margaret Atwood’s work, know that this is not a story with a (generically) happy or hopeful ending.
3.9 / 5
P.S. I wouldn’t recommend this book for young readers.