CLJ Reviews Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
What We Read
Every decade or so Margaret Atwood produces a novel hyperperbolizing some aspect of contemporary society which ultimately will end in a dystopic future. Oryx and Crake is this decade’s version. Set in a post-apocalyptic near future in which seemingly the only survivors are Snowman and his flock of genetically engineered humanoids, the novel unfolds through the slow exploration of Snowman’s memories from the before-times. These memories are centred around a curious love triangle between his childhood friend/mad scientist code-named Crake, Snowman and the mutual object of their affection: former child porn star Oryx. The before times were a hyper-corporatized world where genetic modification has become the norm, ultra-drugs and sexuality are common, and there are deep social divisions between the exclusive ‘Compounds’ and the surrounding pleeblands.
Atwood reveals a world that is at once seductive and terrifying through her exploration of ‘Jimmy’ (Snowman) and Crake’s adolescence and the development of their friendship. Crake is a genetic genius; Snowman is more of the semi-talented ‘everyman’. As they grow up their paths diverge, but ultimately converge when Crake invites Snowman to join him in his very special project: Paradice. In the pursuit of utopia, Crake proposes that the world needs a tabula rasa, a fresh start, and consequently creates a new race of beings that he believes will be genetically unable to cause the immense problems that their (and our) world faces. He believes Snowman is the only one he can trust to guide his new race, the ‘Crokers’ into the future.
How does it all end? We tell no secrets here at the CLJ.
What We Did (and How We Did It)
Much respect was gained as the majority of the CLJ biked from Vancouver to Victoria, where we met for a lovely afternoon and evening of good times. In the spirit of the book, teams created genetically modified creatures, then fought it out using words, drawings and hand-to-hand combat. We also reenacted Snowman’s guidance of the crokers with a version of ‘Snowman Says’ based on parts of the book. The discussion was mediated by delicious, unmodified picnic food.
What We Thought
Heated topics of debate ranged from the present-day sources of Atwood’s dytopic future to the relative moral strength of Snowman. The final word was, and will be granted to a certain social-media maven and redhead extraordinaire Theo Lamb. She described the book as: “the best book so far..” Read it!
As told by Stewart Burgess …