In short the book is an easy read. It chugs along with a fast paced story, using flashbacks to contextualise the situations that Snowman (Jimmy) is living. This is probably my main niggle with the book as the plot seems to get in the way of the writing which I would describe as shallow. There were never, for me, any passages where the writing held my attention enough for me to sit back and pause on the book overall. I note that the novel was however nominated for both the Booker & Orange prizes so maybe it shows that this speculative fiction is just not for me. Having criticised the author I would add that I am a fan of Atwood’s poetry having seen her read and prizing a signed copy of Eating Fire (1995), her early selected poems.
It’s an apocalyptic novel but overall I didn’t feel any sense of foreboding in its message, partly due I think to the fairly ‘light’ touch of the author. It’s well written, leaning at times toward pulp-fiction in the speed of the plot, even allowing for competent use of many flashbacks throughout.
I didn’t feel any emotion or empathy with the characters or even the plight of the planet as speculated in the novel. I was also annoyed by the obvious misspelling in the organisation or product names used, something akin to a bad sales project on the TV programme The Apprentice – ‘OrganInc Farms’, ‘Paradice’ and ‘Rejooven Essence.’
It ends on a cliff hanger, after some other survivors stumble into the plot. This left me wondering whether Jimmy joined or murdered the other survivors. This creates a non conclusive ending (but I understand there have been two sequels, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, so maybe it was actually concluded with a sequel in mind). Having noted this however, I wouldn’t rush to pick up and read these, but perhaps I should just sneak a look at the first chapters of The Year of the Flood to see; ‘did he or didn’t he....’
Les the Unbeliever reads Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
In what may turn out to be a rather naive and fool-hardy venture, we at Holdfast have decided to attempt to spread the love of Speculative fiction by trying to convert some self-proclaimed 'Unbelievers.' We have a brand new Unbeliever this issue – Lucy's father-in-law! Grumpy and pretentious Les Robinson. We are starting him out on a book that is dear to Laurel's heart, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
Unbeliever 1, Holdfast editors 0
The relevance of the gated communities in which the rich corporate few live in suburban normality protected from the masses of poor people fighting for survival in the outside world which has effectively become one enormous ghetto, is quite striking when you compare it to the current refugee crisis. In a world in which so very few use so much of the world’s resources, what could be the outcome of that in the future? In Oryx and Crake the few vampirically use the many to live in luxury whilst people on the outside starve and die of curable diseases; sound familiar?
Another thing I love about this book is that it focuses on the successful evil mastermind. How many stories use the ‘mad scientist’ with a world destroying goal to have us on the edges of our seats until the hero manages to scupper their plans in the final second? There was no one to stop Crake, and actually, I think this is relevant too. Perhaps, in a more self-serving blinkered way, corporations and governments are doing this under our very noses. Where is our hero to save us now? I won't bore you with my own anxieties about global warming and nuclear power, but it is interesting how Atwood manages to tap into my own very real fears and show me where it could all be leading.
Our Unbeliever Les seems to be rather less enamoured with our offering, so, whilst team holdfast’s faith in Atwood remains unshaken, we’ll have to admit defeat in this instance.
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Buy Oryx and Crake
I picked up Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake as a gentle challenge from holdfast. Their aim: to give me a speculative fiction novel that I would enjoy. Preferring poetry, I am not normally a reader of this genre of literature, nor do I regularly watch any sci-fi movies. My last recollection of a sci-fi novel was reading Arthur C Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was some decades back.
Margaret Atwood describes the book as an adventure romance and speculative fiction. It uses genetic engineering coupled with corporate greed and corruption as its main structure, mixed with two leading characters Snowman (Jimmy), and Crake, who were at college together and eventually work for the Helth Wyzer organisation. They eventually share the third character, Oryx, as the love (or maybe just the sex) interest..
In keeping with the poetry challenge our last Unbeliever poet Alex McDonald presented, this time we chose an ex-poetry publisher, Les Robinson, to attempt to convert to the wonders of speculative fiction. We selected Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, a novel that I praised in issue#2’s Letter to... Here Atwood exhibits her unnerving talent to look at how we live now, and follow the ‘what ifs’ presented by social trends and technology to their possible terrifying conclusion.
The story unfolds from Jimmy’s point of view, looking into the emptiness of the apocalypse through a mind driven mad by being the last survivor of a plague. In deft flashbacks we find out the role he had to play in the downfall of mankind, and what drove Crake to orchestrate murder on such an unprecedented scale.