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Oryx and Crake Paperback – March 30, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 1,019 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the MaddAddam Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Oryx and Crake, a science fiction novel that is more Swift than Heinlein, more cautionary tale than "fictional science" (no flying cars here), Margaret Atwood depicts a near-future world that turns from the merely horrible to the horrific, from a fool's paradise to a bio-wasteland. Snowman (a man once known as Jimmy) sleeps in a tree and just might be the only human left on our devastated planet. He is not entirely alone, however, as he considers himself the shepherd of a group of experimental, human-like creatures called the Children of Crake. As he scavenges and tends to his insect bites, Snowman recalls in flashbacks how the world fell apart.

While the story begins with a rather ponderous set-up of what has become a clichéd landscape of the human endgame, littered with smashed computers and abandoned buildings, it takes on life when Snowman recalls his boyhood meeting with his best friend Crake: "Crake had a thing about him even then.... He generated awe ... in his dark laconic clothing." A dangerous genius, Crake is the book's most intriguing character. Crake and Jimmy live with all the other smart, rich people in the Compounds--gated company towns owned by biotech corporations. (Ordinary folks are kept outside the gates in the chaotic "pleeblands.") Meanwhile, beautiful Oryx, raised as a child prostitute in Southeast Asia, finds her way to the West and meets Crake and Jimmy, setting up an inevitable love triangle. Eventually Crake's experiments in bioengineering cause humanity's shockingly quick demise (with uncanny echoes of SARS, ebola, and mad cow disease), leaving Snowman to try to pick up the pieces. There are a few speed bumps along the way, including some clunky dialogue and heavy-handed symbols such as Snowman's broken watch, but once the bleak narrative gets moving, as Snowman sets out in search of the laboratory that seeded the world's destruction, it clips along at a good pace, with a healthy dose of wry humor. --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Atwood has visited the future before, in her dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale. In her latest, the future is even bleaker. The triple whammy of runaway social inequality, genetic technology and catastrophic climate change, has finally culminated in some apocalyptic event. As Jimmy, apparently the last human being on earth, makes his way back to the RejoovenEsencecompound for supplies, the reader is transported backwards toward that cataclysmic event, its full dimensions gradually revealed. Jimmy grew up in a world split between corporate compounds (gated communities metastasized into city-states) and pleeblands (unsafe, populous and polluted urban centers). His best friend was "Crake," the name originally his handle in an interactive Net game, Extinctathon. Even Jimmy's mother-who ran off and joined an ecology guerrilla group when Jimmy was an adolescent-respected Crake, already a budding genius. The two friends first encountered Oryx on the Net; she was the eight-year-old star of a pedophilic film on a site called HottTotts. Oryx's story is a counterpoint to Jimmy and Crake's affluent adolescence. She was sold by her Southeast Asian parents, taken to the city and eventually made into a sex "pixie" in some distant country. Jimmy meets Oryx much later-after college, after Crake gets Jimmy a job with ReJoovenEsence. Crake is designing the Crakers-a new, multicolored placid race of human beings, smelling vaguely of citron. He's procured Oryx to be his personal assistant. She teaches the Crakers how to cope in the world and goes out on secret missions. The mystery on which this riveting, disturbing tale hinges is how Crake and Oryx and civilization vanished, and how Jimmy-who also calls himself "the Snowman," after that other rare, hunted specimen, the Abominable Snowman-survived. Chesterton once wrote of the "thousand romances that lie secreted in The Origin of Species." Atwood has extracted one of the most hair-raising of them, and one of the most brilliant.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 389 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385721676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385721677
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,019 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps not. In terms of her use of language, form, depth of charaterisation etc. the 'The Blind Assassin' is technically Atwood's greatest novel so far. But having read all her novels, I've got to say that 'Oryx and Crake' is my personal favourite. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book, how engrossed I was with every word, and how moving, shocking and disturbing I found it. It's one of the best books I've ever read. It's one of those books that, once you've finished the last page, stays with you, and when you're not reading it you're thinking of it. And it's one of those books that, when you finally close it, you so wish that you could've put your name to it yourself. It's an immense work of imagination. I finished it well over a week ago and still think of it. I found it extraordinary. The way Atwood evokes her distopian futuristic world in every detail and makes it come alive and breathe is quite incredible. I was hooked. I was hoping it would be good but it far exceeded my expectations. The book's nightmarish vision of the future makes 'The Handmaid's Tale' look like a picnic, and while you're reading Atwood makes you live in that world, makes you feel what Snowman is feeling. What horror. Frighteningly, plausibly, brilliant!
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Format: Hardcover
ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003, ORYX AND CRAKE is Margaret Atwood's most apocalyptic story to date. For those of you who have read THE HANDMAID'S TALE, ORYX AND CRAKE is a lot more grim and depressing, in terms of the plight of the human race. It may be a challenge for some to get through this book. Those who are fans of Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction, however, may embrace this novel as I did. It is probably one of the best novels written by Margaret Atwood.
There are two main themes in ORYX AND CRAKE. First, the novel takes place in the distant future, where global warming has changed the earth so much that the coastal cities no longer exist, and New York is now New New York. Going outside in the sun is a death sentence, so the wealthier areas of the world are protected under places known as compounds, although areas known as The Pleebands still exist, where people live and are still exposed to nature in all its glory.
The second major plot line has to do with three central characters. Snowman is the narrator, also known as Jimmy, who at the start of the book is the only known surviving human being on the face of the planet. The book starts off with Snowman sleeping in a tree, barely alive, knowing that he does not have too much longer to live. Food is scarce, the sun is so hot he has blisters all over his body, and the genetically engineered creatures the wolvogs and the pigoons that have escaped are now roaming the grounds.
While he tries to keep alive, Snowman also keeps watch over a group of humanoid creatures called the Crakers, named after his "best" friend Crake, who was somehow responsible over the creation of these people. These Crakers are supposedly the ideal humans.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Atwood's latest and strangest novel is truly unlike anything she has previously written, and readers of Atwood's other novels may find themselves flipping to the front, checking to see if her name is really on the title page. Like "The Handmaid's Tale," which was also set in the future, "Oryx and Crake" describes a dystopic tomorrow-land--but there the similarity ends. Featuring an uncharacteristically sparse prose and an abundance of scientific content, Atwood's bitingly satirical and hauntingly apocalyptic novel seems heavily influenced by science fiction novels of the last three decades, even while it recalls such classics as "Frankenstein," "Brave New World" and especially "Robinson Crusoe."

"Oryx and Crake" is technically a single-character novel; "Snowman" (or Jimmy) is the surviving human after a cataclysmic global disaster. He serves as a mentor of sorts to the strange yet harmless "Crakers," who have been so genetically altered that they resemble humans only in their basic appearance. Their blandness is so thorough that neither Snowman nor the reader can tell them apart. Through a series of flashbacks, Snowman describes his closest friends Crake and Oryx and their role in bringing the world to its present state; and he mockingly details his attempts at elevating them to the status of gods for the new species. Atwood doesn't really develop these two characters; instead she (through Snowman's eyes) presents only the basic, painful "truth" behind a new Genesis mythology.

The novel, one could argue, depicts a second character: the scientific community.
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Format: Hardcover
This books follows Atwood's usual formula of a slight mystery and a slow revel. The plot centres around one character, Snowman, who is living in an abandoned post-global warming world. He retraces the events of his life, starting with his childhood on an elite research compound where people work to develop genetically modified creatures, a place separate from the "pleeblands" where most ordinary humans leave. Snowman also slowly reveals the characters Oryx and Crake and their role in his life and current situation.
Atwood definitely succeeds at creating a sense of place - a terrifying, overgrown world of characters split between the elite research facilities of Snowman's childhood and the dangerous "pleeblands" where average people live. I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to find how Snowman got to the place he was.
But the characters in this novel aren't fleshed out. At the end we are still left wondering about the motivations of Oryx and Crake and Snowman himself.
There is also a child pornography sub-plot that was kind of pointless. We are expecting a great denouement but get none. I was left wondering "so what?" Why was this tawdry industry explored if not to offer us some sort of meaningful criticism of it?
To a lesser degree, the same is true of the genetic modification theme. Atwood is clearly horrified by the dangers but also seems fascinated by the possibilities, and in the end the question is not entirely resolved.
While I enjoyed this book, it felt more like a tawdry paperback than a novel by one of Canada's foremost authors. I am shocked that of all of her novels, this one won the Booker Prize. If you want Atwood sci-fi read The Handmaid's Tale. And if you want a compelling, mysterious read try Alias Grace.
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