Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
**This review was originally posted to Goodreads for a book club review and has been cleaned up for this blog**
A dark look at our future, and fragile psyche of society, Oryx and Crake took me a long time to read, firstly because of personal circumstances, and secondly because of the content. I found it a very interesting, but heavy novel, and frighteningly realistic, if somewhat exaggerated in some ways.
The entire book struck me as a bit disturbing, but it really made me think. The slow, but realistic decline and decay of society touched just a bit to close to home for me. So much of what was described in the begininng of the book is exaggerated, if not outright examples of what happens today. This post apocyliptic world is not created by aliens, or vampires, or magic, it is just us. Even the 'science fiction' aspect of it is not far from reality with genetic manipulation and such.
The characters in this book were by far the most interesting part, and they were amazingly written. Oryx, as a character was seen only through Jimmy, and I get the impression it was a romanticized view of her too. I thought that her character was awkward. I felt as though I was being steered in two different directions with her. One direction was the 'nurturing mother' figure that cared about the Crakers and taught them things, and who's dying wish was that they be cared for. On the other hand there was this manipulative girl who knew how to play off of people's emotions as well as how to act. I wasn't sure if I believed anything that she said and I almost feel like she was multiple characters all threaded together. This was, obviously, seen best through the girl from the website, the girl from the news, and then what we know is Oryx herself.
Jimmy, or Snowman, being the main character was obviously the character you are able to best inspect. The thing that I noticed repeatedly throughout the book was Jimmy/Snowman's concern for how he sees himself. I think that for most of this book he acted like he was better than Crake, somehow more moral, and I wasn't sure if the author wanted us as readers to think that too, or if we were meant to pick up on the hypocrisy of it. I think that, although Crake was an extreme individual in an extreme environment, and I don't agree with what he did, I think that he at least stuck to what he genuinely (or at least from what I could see) thought was right, or best for the Earth and intelligent life on it. Crake was upfront about watching the kiddie porn, and enjoying all of the horrible games and shows and websites that they frequented, but Jimmy tried to act like he was better than it all. There is even a passage where he says: //"He'd meant well, or at least he hadn't meant ill" He never wanted to hurt anyone, not seriously, not in real space-time. Fantasies didn't count." // I think that says a lot about his character. Also he created a new name for himself so that he could wipe the slate clean. I didn’t realize how much he had separated himself from his past until he was reading what he had written just after the outbreaks and he says: //”Whatever Jimmy’s speculations might have been on the subject of Crake’s motives, they had not been recorded. Snowman crumples…”// This felt a lot like him separating himself to the point that he thinks of his past self (Jimmy) and him now (Snowman) as two different people. I did not particularly like Jimmy, or Snowman for that matter, and I felt as though he almost represents the masses. Everyone looking for the guy next to them who is 'way worse than me'.
My favorite character was Crake, because he was the most interesting and also I can really appreciate a straight forward person. I think that part of the reason he ended up the way that he did was that he grew up playing God. He graduated from a high school in a development for family members of genetic scientists, went to a college that encouraged creating new species or animals and plants. He spent his whole life playing God while surrounded by a world that was tearing it's self apart, and entertainment that made death into a game. I do not think he was a good person, nor do I think that that is an excuse, but I did find it interesting.
It was interesting that the Crakers did seem to be developing the spiritual/religious aspect regarding Oryx and Crake despite Crake's efforts. I think it is an interesting link the the Nature vs. Nurture question. Were they naturally developing the spiritual aspect or was it more to do with the way Jimmy/Snowman taught them about Oryx and Crake. Is it a part of being alive that makes living things look to a higher power, or were they mimicking Snowman's reverence towards Oryx? I think he turned it into a mythology for them because that is what he understands. When children are young, they get mythology, so that's what he gave the Crakers.
There was plenty more points of interest in this book, and I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts about it!
Anyone have thoughts on Jimmy & Crake? What about Jimmy and Oryx? What do you think about these characters and who was your favorite?