Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's vision of a post-apocalyptic world includes a docile, diminutive, genetically-engineered species whose caretaker is human. The human is Snowman, formerly Jimmy, and the genetic engineer is Crake, Snowman's former best friend who is now dead. Oryx, also deceased, is a saintly, beautiful woman and Snowman's former love interest. Much of the story is in flashback to tell us what happened to Oryx and Crake, how the human race happened to be mostly annihilated, and how Snowman survived. In the pre-apocalyptic world everyone lived in either a company-run Compound or in pleebland. Oryx, an illiterate plebe, was sold as a child and then performed in child-porn movies, one of which was viewed by Jimmy and Crake. Jimmy and Crake met as adolescents in a Compound, but it became clear early on that Crake's cold, scientific mind would serve him better than Jimmy's more sensitive, word-oriented mind. The main event in the novel is Snowman's journey back to scene of the crime, so to speak--the compound where the three main characters were working at the time of the apocalypse. Certainly one of Atwood's most chilling revelations is that the drug companies are lacing their cures with newly invented diseases to preserve the consumer's need for more drugs. The book's ending is enigmatic, with Snowman being faced with a choice. I would vastly have preferred that the author not leave the outcome to my imagination. Hers is exceedingly more vivid.

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