Do you like dystopia fiction? Oryx and Crake (2003) is a dark tale of the near-future about Jimmy, reinvented as Snowman, who survives a contagion created by his friend Crake. Now Snowman is alone in a world inhabited by mutated creatures and a perfect species known as “Crakers”. Vonnegut Jr., Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury, four kings of science fiction, would have gladly penned their names to this Margaret Atwood nightmare although she prefers to think of her dystopia as a romantic adventure.
Atwood’s satire is a warning for us in the present, and her message is as clear as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: scientists beware and do not interfere with God’s work. A society that allows genetic manipulations, splicing, and cloning is a doomed society. Take out the testosterone and people won’t war. Insert the beauty gene and humans will be happy. Solve the riddle of cancer and we will live longer. The JUNE virus is created and destroys everyone leaving Snowman the lone survivior to tend to the new race. It’s a new Garden of Eden, and Snowman plays God, or maybe he’s the snake?
Oryx is the most interesting character of the three. She is Asian and her family sells her into slavery as a young girl. She only knows masters who have exploited her for sex. Oryx is nonchalant about it all, and Jimmy wants to defend her, protect her, but the beautiful Oryx finds Jimmy’s sentimentality at best, quaint. She is stronger than Jimmy could ever hope to be. Oryx is unaffected by the horrors of her upbringing and through a series of plot twists becomes the Eve in the new garden.
Crake is the loner boy-genius who rises to the corporate top and creates a whole new biological world of mutated animals. He is the grand master of the video game come to life, and he bequeathed his kingdom to Jimmy. It’s only a matter of time for the film version to come to theaters; I can’t wait!
Oryx and Crake is the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy. Now that I’ve been exposed to a world that is horrifying because it is realistic, I’m starting the second novel, The Year of the Flood (2009).I’ll let you know how that turns out.
If you haven’t read Oryx and Crake yet, and you like science fiction, you will become seduced by the excellent prose of Margaret Atwood.