222 of 251 people found the following review helpful
One of the year's best novels for 2003,
This review is from: Oryx and Crake: A Novel (Atwood, Margaret Eleanor) (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. They have no emotional desires, in particular no sex drives, except to pro-create. There is no reason for war, with this new type of human being. They are vegetarians, and do not desire meat. They are very simple people, and Snowman had promised to care for them if anything happened to Crake.
As Snowman goes back in time to reflect on the past, we learn more about Crake, who was an egotistical brilliant young man who had visions of a so-called better world. The third main character is Oryx, a woman whose history takes the reader to a third world Asian country where she was sold into a type of servitude, and eventually becomes a prostitute. She then finds her way to the western world and ends up working with Crake, becoming part of his plan when he creates the Crakers. Their story is revealed in pieces, told while Snowman goes on an adventure to find food and seek out the compound where it had all began. Snowman wants to go back to this place, hoping to find answers and food and supplies, and to remember the reasons why the human race was nearly obliterated. It's the story of these three and their lopsided relationship that leads us to answers of why the world "ended".
The new concepts and horrors that are being introduced in the book may overwhelm the reader. However, the most important theme to focus on is "what really happened"? Why is Snowman the only person left on the planet? What happened to Oryx and Crake? This is what drove me to finish this book. I could not put it down. The reader is left in the dark until the very end, when it is finally revealed how the human race was nearly wiped out. It is a very futuristic and depressing story of how mankind can go wrong in the search of a better world.
I have always had a fascination with books that take on a type of apocalyptic theme. Margaret Atwood's vision of the earth's future is not a pretty sight, but it was her story of Oryx, Crake and Snowman that made the book worthwhile. I am giving this book 5 stars, and it will most likely be in my top 5 for 2003.