Genres: Adult fiction, science fiction, dystopia, post-apocalyptic.
In the beginning, there was chaos…” Margaret Atwood’s chilling new novel Oryx and Crake moves beyond the futuristic fantasy of her 1985 bestseller The Handmaid’s Tale to an even more dystopian world, a world where language—and with it anything beyond the merest semblance of humanity—has almost entirely vanished.
Snowman may be the last man on earth, the only survivor of an unnamed apocalypse. Once he was Jimmy, a member of a scientific elite; now he lives in bitter isolation and loneliness, his only pleasure the watching of old films on DVD. His mind moves backwards and forwards through time, from an agonising trawl through memory to relive the events that led up to sudden catastrophe (most significantly the disappearance of his mother and the arrival of his mysterious childhood companions Oryx and Crake, symbols of the fractured society in which Snowman now finds himself, to the horrifying present of genetic engineering run amok.
Spoiler Note: there are some slight spoilers but nothing that I think will ruin the book.
This was the first Margaret Atwood book I read and it definitely made a good first impression. Oryx and Crake begins telling us about Snowman’s living situation: surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Snowman may be the only human left on Earth, and has no company, except for the Crakers (creatures similar to humans) as well as dangerous genetically modified animals such as “pigoons” (pigs with bodies shaped like balloons bred to grow extra organs for human transplantion) and “wolvogs” (they look like domesticated dogs but act like feral wolves). I imagined his world to be similar to the movie I Am Legend (without the zombies!) – derelict buildings, silence, no electricity, no food. Snowman has to raid houses of those long gone (even though their bodies still remain) to survive.
The book is void of the action and rebellion in the young-adult dystopian books I have read (by then it is too late) but this definitely does not hamper enjoyment of the book. It is told through Snowman’s flashbacks from when he was known as Jimmy and the events that slowly lead to his current situation. We find out more about the characters Oryx and Crake and their involvement in the destruction of humanity. Oryx and Crake focuses a lot on how technology and science can be abused, and, although some scenes and events in the book may seem to only be imaginable in a fictional setting, they are not without possibility in our own society.
I love how this novel was written. Even though we already know the result of the catastrophe (it is explained very early on in the book) you are unsure of the causes and how Snowman’s present world ended up so different when compared to Jimmy’s early flashbacks. I now am really looking forward to reading other non-YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic books!
My Rating: ★★★★★