Book Review: “Oryx and Crake”

by Emily

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Take a moment and think of our planet in the near future. You’re probably thinking of a large human population, mass consumption, and maybe fewer natural resources. As a whole we accept that these characteristics of our modern society will inevitably evolve.  It is simply human nature to inherently develop ideas, explore, and advance in all fields. Unfortunately, humanity can now see the consequences of such rapid development through environmental issues like global warming, limited resources, and disease.

These consequences are seemingly nothing compared to the dystopia that Margaret Atwood depicts in her novel Oryx and Crake. Arguably best known for her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. Atwood credits many of her ideas from current events, making her pieces shockingly realistic. Living in a family of biologists but thoroughly studying literature, Atwood draws inspiration from her scientific and literary background. It is clear that both science and literature intertwine in the majority of her work. The novel Oryx and Crake illustrates a terrifying future which includes eugenics, population sterilization, and large corporations holding political power.

When I was first handed Oryx and Crake, I was skeptical. It was assigned in AP Language and Composition and was due in a month. Since it was a requirement, I immediately was disinterested and doubted that the book held any exciement. When I had spare time a few days before the due date, I flipped through a few pages. In the days following, I could not put it down.
The plot revolves around a man named Snowman (also known as Jimmy) and a series of flashbacks in his life. The reader sees Snowman’s childhood in a corporate compound that is trying to recreate human organs in animals called pigoons. In this future setting, genetic manipulation and the desire to maintain youth are the hot topics of conversation. Jimmy befriends a man named Crake and the rest of the story is their journey through life in the compound, college, and real world.

Despite their strong friendship, Crake and Jimmy are polar opposites. Crake is an intelligent man with a dark side. He is constantly criticizing human emotions and the flaws in our species. On the other hand, Jimmy believes in the will of humanity and is constantly on a rollercoaster of emotion. I liked the contrast between the two characters and it definitely amplified the suspense within the plot.

The plot constantly switches from Jimmy’s past to his present identity as Snowman in a world that was once a civilization. Suspense and mystery lingers over the reader, especially as they approach the end of the book. Throughout Oryx and Crake the reader is left to question what happened to destroy humanity in such a age of technological advancements.

Atwood’s commentary on the “uncontrolled genetic engineering ride” is extremely compelling. All events in Oryx and Crake are shockingly realistic and are brutally honest when depicting a dystopia that could be our future. Whether you like to read or not, the book will keep you interested through the direct parallels to our modern society today.

The night before Oryx and Crake was due, I stayed up the latest I have on a school night. It’s not because I was cramming for the test in the morning, but because I genuinely wanted to read the book and find out what happened. For me, I was fascinated by the dystopia that Atwood illustrates and intrigued by the frightening similarities to society today. For those who are fans or plan to read Oryx and Crake, the second book in the series, The Year of the Flood, is already available, and a third book will be released in May.

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