Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Frightening Future

Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood
Published by Nan A. Talese
4 Out of 5 Stars

I've read a few of Margaret Atwood's poems and short stories, but this is my first official Atwood novel (I now imagine a collective gasp from all the hardcore The Handmaid's Tale fans . . . not to worry, that's on my reading list as I've already procured a copy). I've always heard people rave about how wonderful Atwood is and I can now say that I finally know what all the fuss is about. 

A dystopian novel, Oryx and Crake is set in a not-so-distant apocalyptic future in which mankind has been eradicated by the jealousy of one man, Crake. We soon learn that Crake was the childhood best friend of the narrator, Jimmy (aka Snowman). While I don't want to give too much away regarding the how and why of this catastrophic event, it is Jimmy's fate to live on so that he can care for the "Crakers," a race of genetically altered human beings that have been modified by Crake to be docile herbivores, existing like animals in a natural habitat and never plagued by petty human concerns. 

For all the inventiveness of Atwood's imagined future (video games, the increasing power of the Internet, genetic splicing, biotechnology, etc.), this is not so much a story about the end of humanity as it is a story about Jimmy, his life and the destructive love that brought about his castaway status in a future he couldn't have imagined. Atwood doesn't offer answers and is never didactic--she simply tells a story and that story speaks volumes about what may be the future of humanity.

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