Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is a 376-page speculative fiction novel originally published in 2003. I listened to the audiobook, written by Margaret Atwood (who always has really interesting stuff going on), read by Campbell Scott.

18415437Jimmy (also known as Snowman) is the protagonist of this eerie story, which is about Jimmy’s past life experiences with his strange, genius friend named Crake, and the enigma of a woman named Oryx–framed by Snowman’s current existence in a post-apocalyptic world.

In this new world where humanity has been decimated by a plague, Snowman may be the only human left. That is, besides the Crakers (strange human-like beings with glowing eyes and primate-like mating behaviors) and the genetically designed murderous animals.

This story had the perfect amount of chaotic (good, evil, and neutral) genius and didn’t go overboard with the “last man on Earth” bit. Atwood handled the whole thing in such a unique way–this is now definitely my favorite book using the “last man” trope.

It’s amusing that Goodreads pegs this as “an unforgettable love story” because, although Jimmy was in love with Oryx, their tale is not even close to a love story. It’s more of an obsession story that explores Jimmy’s psyche before and after the “apocalypse”–while not really bringing Oryx to life at all. She was more of a placeholder than an actual person. Even Jimmy admits that Oryx would tell him what he wanted to hear about her past, that her story might be fiction as far as he knows. Other than Oryx, the characters are all intriguing and vaguely amoral; Jimmy and Crake’s school days are dark and fantastically disturbing.

Atwood dishes out the sophisticated storytelling that I so desperately wanted, but didn’t get, from The Windup Girl (another human-driven quasi-post-apocalyptic story that revolves around genetics, food, and animals). The ending was left unresolved, but Oryx and Crake is the first in the MaddAddam trilogy, so there’s hope Jimmy’s story will be resolved in the future (I’m absolutely reading the rest of this series).

As for the audio aspect of the story, I thought Campbell Scott did an excellent job. At first, I was thrown off a bit by his near-monotonous quietness of tone. However, as the story progressed I felt that his style suited Snowman’s situation and psychology, so I ended up enjoying the audio quite a bit (after cranking the volume).

TITLE: Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1)
AUTHOR: Margaret Atwood
PAGES: 376
ALSO WROTE: The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin (and so much more!)
FIRST LINE: Snowman wakes before dawn.
FAVORITE LINE: Nature is to zoos as God is to churches.

I Am Legend     The Windup Girl


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