Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 stars...it's a first of series and, while beautifully written (because Atwood just does that) I found that I could put the book down a little too easily. So I started it a couple months ago and just now finished.
The Main Idea
Snowman (known in the life-before-the-plague-hit as Jimmy) is trying to survive in a post-human world with a bunch of genetically mutated 'humans' known as the Children of Crake. Food is short, Snowman's resources even shorter, and he is carrying the burden of guilt for his part/non-part in the plague that damned the human race.
The bulk of the novel is dedicated to Snowman's background and how the world has become the shithole that it is: genetically spliced "pigoons" and "rakunks" trying to eat him, threats of infection from bug bites or cuts are very, very real, there's a distinct shortage of alcohol, and for all intents and purposes, he's alone.
The Neat-o Stuff
Atwood has a superb gift for creating a futuristic world that sounds witty and real and disturbing. I didn't think twice about a website called Hottots - a site dedicated to child pornography. Or a cosmetic/self-help corporation compound called RejoovenEsense. Or a coffee company called Happicuppa. These things felt silly enough to be exactly what a marketer would come up with to sell an idea to the public.
Then there are the animals that get spliced together. Rakunks are racoons spliced with skunks and apparently they make interesting pets....
Her ultimate creations, of course, are the Children of Crake. I'm very curious to see how these guys evolve...because they have been designed by Crake: a genius who tried to eliminate certain things like emotion, and disease, and hierarchies in the Children's genetic code. His experiments seem to have worked so far. But now this group is out in this post-plague world with only Snowman to guide them (assuming they need guiding). This is only the first book in the series, but I'm betting they have more human flaws than Crake would've wanted...after all, they were created by a flawed human being.
The Less Neat-o Stuff
Why I give this book only 3.5 stars in real life:
Like I said, it was a little too easy to put down.
Snowman is interesting and flawed. He's a shitty situation. I definitely had sympathy for him. However, the background information that builds the world is done in flashbacks that stretch on for quite a while. There's a situation with his mother, he's got a couple daddy issues, his best friend (Crake) is a budding science whiz who will eventually destroy the world, and his the love-of-his-life, Oryx, is a former child porn victim. Yes, this information is important - but the parent sections felt more navel-gazing because Snowman wasn't really in control at that point.
The story gets waaaay more interesting later (and definitely less put-down-able) in the last third, where Snowman/Jimmy is all grown up, participating in the marketing scheme that'll destroy the world. Plus, the flashbacks coincide with his present life - and he has to escape some devious pigoons, figure out how to fix his damaged foot, and sort out what the hell he's gonna do for the rest of his life (however long or short that may be).
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