So I very recently finished reading through my copy of Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and let me tell you this is one heck of a book.
I bought the book going purely off of Atwood’s name, having read The Handmaid’s Tale and adoring it. Oryx and Crake certainly lives up to Atwood’s reputation as a stellar writer, and the longer I read the book the more I was drawn into her world.
It’s set in present-day Earth, perhaps a few years from now. Human society has been separated into the haves and the have-nots, and is starting to crumble despite our best attempts at rescuing it with technology and medicines, and more exciting and different ways to pass the time. Companies have begun to try and find new ways of existing, as resources run out and diseases become widespread.
The story itself focuses on a young boy named Jimmy, and tells the story of the decline of human civilisation through his eyes as he grows up. He’s an old man when the story begins, living in a desolate world with nothing and no-one to keep him company but other strange humanoid people. People he calls Crakers. We slowly find out the story of how these people came to be, and how one of Jimmy’s childhood friends – Crake – was involved in their creation, and in the subsequent destruction of civilisation as we know it.
Crake himself was a boy genius, who became Jimmy’s closest friend through circumstance. Over time the two grew close, and -though it escaped Jimmy’s notice – Crake came up with his grand plan to help ‘fix’ humanity. He became a genetic scientist of sorts and created the Crakers, genetically modifying them for efficiency and to avoid wars, diseases, and hatred. He befriended a woman Jimmy had fallen for whilst still young, and she became close with both men. It wasn’t until Crake came up with a pill which was advertised to ‘increase sexual activity and repress the need for maladaptive expressions of energy’ that things started to go horribly wrong.
I won’t say any more on the plot, it’s much more intricate than what I’ve described here and well worth the read.
Atwood’s writing clearly shows her mastery of storytelling, especially in the way she describes her characters as if they’re real. As if you could look up and find that person standing in front of you. Jimmy is a figment when the book begins, but slowly he becomes real. Crake and Oryx, too, become real, and you see them as Jimmy does. They reveal themselves slowly and with import, as they are remembered, and you remember them, too, after the book is said and done.
The grasp on setting here follows the ‘less is more’ rule with strict adherence. A genetically modified pig on a rampage here, a destroyed building there, an apocalyptic vision against a majestic sunrise in the distance. You don’t need much to show what a disaster looks like, or to give it the gravity and feeling it deserves.
Anyway go read it! It’s a very poignant tale about what could be a possibility in the near future, and for me it was a solid reminder to always keep your perspective straight.
That’s all from me for now, until next time!