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.


25 thoughts on “Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood”

  1. I didn’t really enjoy Oryx & Crake, coming to it after The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin (both amazing books and two of my all time favourites), but I did enjoy The Year of the Flood and I think I’ll give O&C another go. I missed out certain parts of Flood because I couldn’t remember what had gone before, but it was still really good. Most of it is not so much a sequel as it is happening simultaneously, and the characters are great. I think she might be writing a third, and I hope so.

    1. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Oryx & Crake too much, but I’m happy that you liked Year of the Flood! Makes me think I’ll probably LOVE it. I definitely want to read The Blind Assassin too, in fact I want to read all of her books now.

  2. When I read The Year of the Flood, I didn’t realize the two books were about the same world, until the very end. Then I started to pick up on things and actually had to look it up to make sure I wasn’t just imagining it. I really enjoyed both books though.

    1. LOL, the only reason I knew they were about the same world was because of all the reviews I’ve already read of Year of the Flood. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have known either!

  3. I’m sorry that teabelly didn’t particularly enjoy Oryx and Crake because, I just have to say, I ABSOLUTELY ADORED EVERY PAGE OF THIS BOOK! I, too, was fascinated with Crake in that “I like you, but I know I shouldn’t” way, although I found the character of Oryx much more fascinating. Atwood is such a master at revealing just the right amount of detail – meaning she never gives you more than you need to know until the last possible second, which gives her books such drive. Did you have any opinion at all on the book’s treatment of science as both the ultimate destroyer (what Crake does to everyone using science) as well as the ultimate safe-haven (such as where the Snowman and Crakesters go)? It might have been one of my favorite parts. I’m glad you enjoyed the Atwood, and I’d go out and pick up The Blind Assassin – you won’t be sorry!

    1. I agree completely about Crake. And I found Oryx interesting too, but I didn’t feel like I ever learned enough about her, unfortunately. I’m not sure about the science thing. It felt like, in this book, all it did was really destroy. Because if everything wasn’t destroyed in the first place, Snowman wouldn’t have needed a safe place at all. Anyway, I definitely plan to read The Blind Assassin. I have all her books on my TBR list now!

  4. The only book that I’ve read by Atwood is also The Handmaid’s Tale so I’m taking your recommendation on this one. It sounds wonderful so thanks for sharing your thoughts on it!

  5. I’m actually reading this book right now. I’m about 150 pages in and am so intrigued with each new chapter. I also read The Handmaid’s Tale, the only other book I’ve read by Atwood. I really enjoyed that one, but I think I am liking this one even more. I’m sure I will be picking up The Year of the Flood pretty soon as well. Thanks for the review. Very well writtern.

  6. YES! Such an amazing book! I have to say that I loved Year of the Flood even more, so I hope you enjoy it! The connections are just so annoyingly wonderful.

  7. Did it strike you as science-fictiony? Margaret Atwood seems so set against science fiction, but Oryx and Crake always sounds like science fiction to me.

  8. This book was even scarier for me than the Handmaid’s Tale. I do want to read Year of the Flood but am waiting a bit because I have to be in the right mindset to handle it!

  9. I’m reading the Year Of The Flood at the moment (3/4 through) and recognised the names from YOTF. It’s not a sequel is it? Just about the same word?

    I’m LOVING YOTF and I totally didn’t expect to – it’s an amazing book. I remember trying the Handmaid’s Tale years ago and not liking it – I might have to try it again now that I have read something of MA’s that I enjoy!

  10. Oryx and Crake … I must get at it. It was a Christmas gift a while back. I keep forgetting its on the shelf and then re-discover, “Oh, right. Gotta read that one.” It on my desk now thanks to your review. I’ve listed Book Addiction as one of the ‘sites I like’ on my blog. You sure do work hard … 200 books in 2010. Don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do!

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