Sunday, December 27, 2009
Oryx and Crake
What if mankind as we know it was almost completely eliminated because of a virus that was created by humans? This is the theme Margaret Atwood explores in her Maddaddam Trilogy. Oryx and Crake is the first book in the series and it opens with a man named Snowman scavenging among what is obviously the leftovers of civilization. He may be the only human left alive and the world now abounds with genetically modified animals and subhumans. As Snowman explores what is left of mankind, we see his life unfold in a series of flashbacks as he recalls a time when his name was still Jimmy.
I confess that I actually picked up this book years ago when it was shortlisted for the Booker, and gave up after a few pages. I should have continued. It's a bit confusing at first and even disconcerting but the moment Crake, Jimmy's Machiavellian-like friend, was introduced in the narrative, I was hooked. Orxy then appears and then you are completely ensnared in this love triangle which is also a futuristic and ultimately catastrophic story.
I don't want to give away more of the plot as it's best not to know too much if you plan to read it, but I honestly cannot gush about this book enough. Atwood is pure genius. I'm totally in awe of her. How come this woman hasn't won the Nobel Prize yet? Oryx and Crake is brilliantly constructed and written in excellent prose. It's a thought-provoking book and in fact, Atwood prefers the term speculative fiction rather than science fiction because through this novel she is actually contemplating about where our current world is headed based on the scientific trends such as genetic engineering. Atwood describes speculative fiction as "a slight twist on the society we have now." It's a very scary yet believable prospect and I do admit this book isn't for everyone because it's shocking and disturbing. However, I did enjoy it immensely and I'm so looking forward to part two of the trilogy that was just released this year, the Year of the Flood. Apparently you don't actually have to read the books in order.
It's amazing how much range Margaret Atwood has, because all her novels are different and unique. I feel like rereading all her novels that I've read in the past. 2010 will definitely be the year I revisit and rediscover Atwood.