Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake
Title: Oryx and Crake
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication Date: 05/03
Pages: 374
How I Found It: I've been wanting to read more Atwood
Date Completed: 8/26/15

Summary: In a futuristic landscape far different than our own, Jimmy, who goes by "Snowman" these days, wonders if he's the last real human left on Earth. He wanders mentally and physically into his past as he searches for the answer to that question.

What I Thought: In my mind, I have this great desire to be a Margaret Atwood fan. In my mind, I am one of those fans who picks up everything she publishes and devours it. In my mind, I have read every Atwood work.

I'm not sure why I feel this way. In fact, this book, Oryx and Crake, is only the second Atwood novel I have ever read. I think The Handmaid's Tale made such an impact on me, though, I find myself believing I am a more ardent fan than I actually am. 

Coming from Atwood's most popular work and with some weird sort of faux-fan complex, I picked up Oryx and Crake. I am not really sure why I chose this one with which to venture further into Atwood's world. In retrospect, I think there would have been a lot of other, better choices. 

I did not necessarily find this work unenjoyable, but I cannot say I loved it either. Dystopias based on intense genetic modification have never greatly appealed to me. More than that, however, I found both the protagonist, Jimmy, and his compatriot and destroyer of worlds, Crake, to be intensely unappealing. I already struggle connecting to young male characters, but when they are so completely wrapped up in a world of self-indulgence and objectification of women (and others in general), I find it near impossible. Even their mutual "love" for Oryx seemed selfish all around. I simply cannot find common ground with teenage boys who play violent video games and watch pornography in their free time.

The emotional unavailability of Crake seems to seep throughout the novel. I think the book itself is beautifully written and Atwood utilizes her characters and their personalities well as she sets the tone of the book. Still, when that tone is harsh, pessimistic, and even hateful, it certainly makes for a less welcoming environment for the reader. I completely understand Atwood's motivation and skill in doing this; I just felt so isolated by the characters, I couldn't get past that. 

Atwood trots out some of the same lessons and warnings here as she does in The Handmaid's Tale, but I found them much less compelling here. Perhaps a male reader would better accept the messages coming in this format, but, for me, I preferred the more structured, female perspective of the earlier novel.

All that to say, I'm not giving up on Atwood. I still consider myself a fan, although perhaps one with a more realistic  outlook now. I still want to read much more of her work; I still enjoy her writing. I just plan to be more intentional about which work I select to read next. It won't be the next in this series.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Unlikely
If You Liked This Try: Ender's Game / The Passage / Lighthouse Island
Other Books By Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale

A Reduced Review: The abundant, weird genetic modification along with the emotionally unavailable tone reflecting the harsh characters left me disappointed in this novel. 


  1. You mention Jimmy and Crake, but to me the most interesting question is the third leg of the friendship: Oryx. What does she know and to the extent that she does know, why does she go along with Crake's plans. I sort of get a sense that she is as much a manipulator as Crake.

    1. I'll be honest - I really struggled with what to make of Oryx. I wish Atwood had spent more time on her. I think she left a lot unexamined in that regard. I didn't see her as a manipulator so much as a survivalist. She did whatever she had to in order to survive, a skill obviously necessarily for her from a young age. I think she held herself at bay from any real relationships as a self-preservation technique.

  2. I read this series because I remember enjoying The Handmaid's Tale when I read it in high school, so I read it again earlier this year and wanted more Atwood! I liked the series, but not because I connected with James or Crake, that's for sure. Futuristic worlds are just so interesting to me - what humans have the capacity for and what they will do to each other fascinates me.

    1. Atwood's ability to create convincing dystopian worlds is fantastic. Handmaind's Tale is a big part of the reason I picked this one up, too. I guess I wanted more of that feminist perspective/bent that was seen in HT...not so much from the perspective of the men taking advantage of the women and world around them.