Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood, Nan A Talese, 2003, 383 pp
Though I read this dystopian novel back in 2003 when it was first released, I gave it another read before tackling her new novel, The Year of the Flood. I had forgotten a good bit of it and rereading made the new novel more clear, as both cover a similar time period, each being told through the eyes of a different set of characters and from opposite sides of the story.
Here is what I had to say after the first reading in 2003:
She did it again! It is the future and bio-engineering has screwed up everything. Snowman, who used to be Jimmy, is out in what is left of the world, hanging out with some bio-engineered "people", trying to survive.
Most of the book is back story explaining how they got where they are. Atwood creates a whole futuristic world with "compounds" for the science/business guys who run things and the "plebelands" for the rest of the world.
It is scary, hilarious and a logical progression from where we are now with global warming, screwed up weather, fake food and science gone out of control. My only complaint is that the book was over so soon.
Now I have this to say:
The most striking and ominous result of re-reading Oryx and Crake in 2009 was how much more realistic it now seems. It was a gripping futuristic tale six years ago but now feels like a world that could be just around the corner.
Having read over 300 books since I first read Oryx and Crake made for another interesting comparison. I am that much more experienced as a reader which makes me able to get more out of reading. This time I really got the connection between Jimmy and Crake who are the two main characters. It was Crake who unleashed his madness on the world with Jimmy as his unwitting accomplice. In many ways, the book is a coming-of-age story, showing how these two boys reacted so differently to their dysfunctional and soulless upbringings.
Atwood's fiction has always been complex, working on many levels simultaneously. Now I wonder how much I missed in her earlier novels and am determined to reread all of her novels as they come up on the lists of My Big Fat Reading Project.
If you have read any of Atwood's novels, I would like to hear from you on which you liked and why. It would be great to form a Margaret Atwood reading group someday.
(Oryx and Crake is available in paperback by special order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. The Year of the Flood is available on the shelf in hardcover.)