Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: "Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel Oryx and Crake was published back in 2003. I don't know how I managed to read so much dystopian fiction, including Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and never came across this trilogy. I've remedied that oversight.

Oryx and Crake is set in the future and follows a man who goes by the name of Snowman who may just be be the last human alive. Snowman lives as a kind of guardian of the Crakers, a genetically modified humanoid species that he has liberated from their life in a dwindling habitat under a great dome of biological experimentation. As we follow Snowman's (Jimmy's) depressing daily routine and slow starvation we are introduced to his back story, and hence the back story of this broken world. The structure of the story clips back and forth between the story of Jimmy's childhood and early adulthood and Snowman's journey into wild territory to forage for survival supplies.

Some readers may not like the back and forth structure, but the sections flow seamlessly into one another. The pace is aided by this structure and is relentless in the unfolding of the greater story. Atwood excels in making Jimmy a well realized character with a childhood spent living in corporate science established compounds. These compounds are the gated communities of the elite set apart from the pleeblands where the general population resides. Such social stratification already exists in many ways, so Atwood is merely enhancing the nightmarish possibilities that could emerge from unchecked biological science and corporate influence.