Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood

Title:  Oryx & Crake
Author:  Margaret Atwood
Release date:  May 6, 2003
Publisher:  Anchor
Pages:  376
Genre:  Dystopian fiction
Source:  Personal copy

This story opens with a man named Snowman sitting in a tree, all alone, with only his thoughts to entertain him.  As Snowman slowly reveals to the reader details of his world, we learn that he used to be named Jimmy and that he used to be best friends with a man named Crake and with a woman named Oryx.  And somehow, the world as he knew it changed completely just a few short years ago, and now he is the only real person left that he knows of.

In terms of summary, that is all I want to give you because this novel is best read when knowing very little about it.  When I started reading Oryx & Crake, that was about all I knew, too.  And it was such a joy to slowly discover what was really going on in Snowman’s world, figure out how he got to be the only person left on the planet (that he knew of), and what Oryx and Crake had to do with it all.

I’d only read one Margaret Atwood novel before picking up Oryx & Crake (that novel is The Handmaid’s Tale – one of my all-time favorite books!) and when I finished this book, I couldn’t help thinking why in the heck haven’t I been gobbling up ALL of her books?  I cannot tell you how much I loved the experience of reading this novel.  The world Atwood crafted is both believable and terrifying.  And the way the story was paced, giving the reader just a taste of what was going on, one chapter at a time, was simply perfect.  I have to admit to being VERY confused throughout at least the first half of the novel – but confused in a good way.  Like I couldn’t put the book down because I knew that more would be revealed to me eventually, and I didn’t want to stop reading until it was.  I knew that Atwood was deliberately spacing out her plot, and I trusted her to show me what was really going on in her own time, which of course she did.

I can’t say that I really liked the character of Snowman.  I couldn’t figure him out.  At first I felt sorry for him, being all alone like he was, but later on in the story I just felt like he was such a follower, that he didn’t have a mind of his own, and that annoyed me.  I finished the book still unsure of my feelings towards him.  I definitely didn’t “like” Crake, but I sort of admired him.  In an evil genius kind of way.  He did some horrible things – a lot of horrible things, actually – but he was just so darn intelligent, way too intelligent for his own good, and was blind to a lot of things in the “real world” because of his genius mind.  He was definitely the most interesting character in the book – difficult to understand, but easy to sympathize with, even with all the reprehensible things he did.

If you like dystopian novels, I can’t more highly recommend Oryx & Crake. There is a reason Margaret Atwood is legendary – she is beyond awesome.  I am absolutely going to pick up The Year of the Flood next to see what else happens in this sad world she created.