Customer Review

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book to feel ambivalent about, June 25, 2006
This review is from: Oryx and Crake (Paperback)
I have mixed feelings about Margaret Atwood: I enjoy some of her books quite a lot (e.g., "The Handmaid's Tale", while others I downright loathe (e.g., "Lady Oracle"). "Oryx and Crake" perhaps best sums up my feelings in that there were parts that I enjoyed, and then there were things that left me unsatisfied.

Without getting into a lengthy synopsis, O&C is the tale of a utopian society within a dystopian world. From the novel's onset it is clear that the main narrator, Snowman, is the only member of the human race who has survived whatever it is that has caused the world to spiral into a primitive wasteland. Through his recollections, we trace his life from childhood and discover who Oryx & Crake are and how Snowman's current existence came to be (of course, it's not exactly that easy because Snowman's world is already dramatically different from our own, although I'm betting that Atwood is hoping we draw enough parallels to see that the leaps aren't nearly that large and ought to start worrying...).

The writing style is fairly easy, and there were only a few moments where I read a line that had that quintissential Atwood flair that verges on an affectation (other readers may enjoy what I view as ersatz ballsiness, but I obviously do not). The most difficult thing for me regarding the writing was the jarring shifts in time - just when you feel like you're starting to get some pertinent backstory, you're slammed back into Snowman's present surroundings. Due to this (perhaps necessary) way of the telling the story, I started out highly intrigued by learning the cause of Snowman's situation, only to find that the more I read, the more my interest waned. It became clear to me that the explanation Atwood was preparing to give us was only going to be 'kind-of cool' rather than all-out awesome.

And it was. As another reviewer has so astutely pointed out, character motivations are pretty obtuse throughout the novel. We hear a lot about what people do, but we are frequently left hanging as to why they behaved as they did. In particular, the reasons for the actions of Crake are inscrutible, which is a huge flaw given that they drive the novel. I finished the book feeling that Atwood knew what her final destination was, but ran out of gas before reaching it. The more I think about it, the more I realize that despite the entire story being told only through Snowman's eyes, I feel that I understood/knew his character little better than Crake or Oryx.

Unfortunately, this is one of those books with great buildup, but disappointing returns. It captivates, yes, but is ultimately not as clever or as rewarding as it could have been. I found the ending so unsatisying that this joins the ranks of "books I am glad that I have read but will never read more than once".
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