The last time I reviewed this book on my blog in 2010, I reviewed it together with it’s companion, The Year of the Flood. I don’t want to do that this time, because although Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood take place in the same dystopian future, deal with the same situations, and even contain some of the same characters, they are very different books. When I re-read The Year of the Flood, I may do a comparative study on the two, but for now, let’s stick with just Oryx & Crake.
First, let me outline the setting::
We are somewhere in the distant/yet not so distant/future…society is broken into two major ‘lifestyles’: Compounds and Pleeblands. The Compounds are basically super corporations – ‘products’ have gotten so advanced that the companies literally build city/fortresses for their employees and families to live in to keep them, and their technologies, safe. The Pleeblands are the every-day-man’s slums…basically in Atwood’s projection of the future, the high class went classier and whip-smart and the middle class turned into lower class and lower class became trash…or hamburger. This is a world where biology has advanced so far that newly invented diseases and intelligence theft are what the Compounds are defending themselves against.
The story follows a character named Snowman throughout his lifetime, and through him, we see how the world came to fall. Snowman is quite an odd name – but it wasn’t his only name; in his younger years he was known as Jimmy – the underachieving humorous and womanizing compound kid.
When he was still relatively young, he met his first and only lifelong friend – Crake (not his real name, but his real name is used once only, Glenn). The pair shared some odd interests, which is really a product of their time. These kids are expert hackers in middle school, which makes it possible for them to use Crake’s step-father’s credit card for kiddie porn sites, and online programs like the ‘Nudie News’. We see early on that Crake is obsessive about mastering the things he attempts. One game he obsesses over quite the most has to do with extinct animals, where they each had to pick an extinct animal as a username, which is how Crake got his name (Oryx too, but we don’t meet her for quite some time). These three, Jimmy, Crake, and Oryx, are caught right in the middle of the events that lead to the destruction of the human race, and leave Jimmy to become a miserable, almost zombie-like Snowman.
I don’t want to give away the entire plot, but I hope I’ve shared enough to peak your interest. Atwood always creates such memorable and logical worlds for her novels, and Oryx & Crake is no exception. It is the fist installment of a trilogy – the MaddAddam trilogy, the last edition of which will be published later this year (August 27th in Canada, September 3rd in the US).
Personally I prefer The Year of the Flood, the second installment. Perhaps because I read it first…I actually think the effect of reading the currently published books in reverse order is more interesting. It was pleasing to be able to piece together the story of what had happened without being told out-right. Then reading Oryx & Crake and getting to see exactly what did happen to create the circumstances in the world.
Honestly, I recommend reading these books. There are cliff-hanger endings (as there are in every Atwood I’ve ever read), but they compel you to analyze what happened to the world to get it to the level of degradation it’s in in the novels, and I am always for critical thinking and learning through literature.
If any of you have read either novel, please let me know what you thought of it – will you read the final installment later this year? I definitely am!
Until next time,