I have been reading Margaret Atwood since I got a hold of Lady Oracle when I was 15 years old and was totally smitten; that was *gulp* 36 years ago, which is really hard to have to acknowledge, so let’s move swiftly on. I have always wanted to see her in person so was thrilled to get an opportunity to hear her speak about her newest novel, MaddAddam (more of that in another post). Then I realised that I hadn’t read the previous two volumes in what has become known as the MaddAddam trilogy, so I decided to put that right.
Oryx and Crake is set in the not terribly distant future and is seen through the perspective of Snowman who believes himself to be the only survivor of humankind after a man-made plague has wiped out all but the Crakers, a genetically engineered species of humanoid. The book alternates between the difficult present where Snowman struggles to survive, and his memories of the past where he was Jimmy, the best friend of the man who would become Crake and in love with the beautiful Oryx. Before the great catastrophe, the world (or at least the world that Jimmy knew) was split into the Pleeblands, where the majority of the ordinary population lived, and the various Compounds in which the elite lived and worked for corporations and were involved in experimentation in genetic engineering, producing strange hybrid animals which are now roaming free. Snowman is a sort of guardian to the Crakers, for whom the world was swept clean. Sort of.
I thought this was a wonderful piece of speculative fiction (Atwood doesn’t like this novel to be referred to as science fiction, which I’ll pick up on in a future post). Typically I found the build up to the dreadful events more interesting than Snowman’s current struggles and if I’m honest I found the Crakers a bit irritating at first, but it as it becomes clear that their designer had not been able to remove those human traits that he considered destructive (he was not a fan of speculative fiction) they grew on me, as did Jimmy/Snowman himself.
The ending of the book is inconclusive but I quite liked that, the uncertainty of what was going to happen next seemed to me to fit well with the tone of the novel, although I don’t believe at the time that Atwood had a trilogy planned, though se has said that she realised that readers would have questions which she aimed to respond to in the later books.
This had sufficient impact for me to start the sequel immediately, something that I hardly ever do (in fact I can’t think of the last time that happened). More of that anon.