Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake

Oh my goodness! I’m so excited to write this review for Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. It was really difficult opening the book to make note of my highlights and deciding which to use. I have to make a strong attempt not to use everything and not to give away the entire plot. For the COVID-19 pandemic burned-out population of 2021, this book might not be a good fit because it is a dystopian tale of apocalyptic proportions. In fact, I think the entire dystopian fiction genre might suffer a blow in readership because of the current global crisis; the genre might be too close to becoming realism for comfort. I decided to review it anyway since there’s a unique spin and flavor to the narrative. 

“Extinctathon. Monitored by MaddAddam. Adam named the living animals, Maddaddam names the dead ones” (80). 

We meet Snowman, real name Jimmy, at the beginning of the novel. With it’s third person and choppy opening, the reader can’t help but immediately feel the disconnect between our world and Snowman’s world. The word dissociated comes to mind, a word and world of trauma. Smart move Atwood. I couldn’t help it; I kept reading. What the fuck happened to you Snowman, real name Jimmy? Crake, real name Glenn, happened to him. 

Scientists today are already working on gene splicing and gene manipulation, so Snowman and Crake’s scientifically advanced world that can do or create almost anything is not as improbable as it was when Steven Spielberg first released Jurassic Park. In many ways, the story that Snowman weaves about his friendship with Crake and how his world fell apart is the creation of the myth of God. Crake becomes a scientist that develops miracle-working pills and creates new humanoid beings called the Crakers. Jimmy, on the other hand, struggles with developing a career in the Humanities. Their world glorifies the hard sciences and under appreciates the Humanities; sound familiar? Until, Crake hires Jimmy to work for his company’s ad campaign. Jimmy should have known it was too good to be true. 

“God of Bullshit, fail me not” (102).

Someone in college once said to me, “Sometimes I feel like I’m not majoring in English; I’m majoring in the art of bullshit.” Ouch. I winced, but I also sympathized with the sentiment. Snowman was so relatable because he’s that person. He reminds me of the girl that I was in high school trying to finish an essay on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway at four in the morning after pulling an all-nighter. Interestingly enough, Margaret Atwood uses a quote by Woolf’s To the Lighthouse as an epigraph. There’s just nothing like a good narrative; even Crake admits that we’re hardwired for dreams and singing and art.

“Nature is to zoos as God is to churches” (206). 

Without a doubt, this book is triggering. We know from the onset that something extremely traumatic happens everywhere, but we don’t know what until the end. So, the reader is really just waiting for the hammer to fall. Who or what will be the culprit? The love triangle between Snowman and Oryx and Crake pulls at our basest emotions in the meantime: love, hate, jealousy, pity, rage, despair. I’m not sure if I love the ending or hate the ending; so many science-fiction and dystopian novels resort to the now mildly-rote trope of the Christ-like savor and religious-moral undertones. 

“The proper study of Mankind is Everything” (207).

Snowman saves the Crakers. By the end of the book, my heart feels funny. Too many emotions warring against each other trying to take top spot. I’m trying to decide why I’m so moved. Why is Snowman saving the Crakers so meaningful? Where do we go from here? Then, it hits me! It’s meaningful because of how far Margaret Atwood took us from the disjointed, dissociated beginning. Dissociation is human nature’s response to feeling too much, often too much pain. Well, damn! Now I have to read the next two and complete the trilogy because I want to know what happens to Snowman and the Crakers and the mess Crake left behind. 

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake: a novel. New York: Nan A. Talese, 2003. Print.

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