Sunday, June 10, 2007

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is an elegantly crafted vision of a bleak, near future in which humanity has all but succumbed to an engineered mutagenic virus.

Here humanity is survived by Snowman, who scavenges and sleeps in trees, and watches over a group of bioengineered humans (the Crakers), who were created to succeed humanity and thrive in the new world of modified species and radical climate change.

Through flashbacks, we eventually learn that Snowman was once a man named Jimmy, and that the world before the cataclysmic event was characterized by social inequity, genetic technology, and climate change. We also learn about the two people who figured most prominently in Jimmy's life: Crake, Jimmy's oldest friend, who is brilliant and egotistic and has plans for a better world; and Oryx, who Snowman loves and who serves as agent and muse to Crake.

I liked Oryx and Crake a lot and thought Atwood did a good job of melding a standard apocalyptic SF setup with a literary story about flawed characters.

It's kind of interesting that Oryx and Crake is yet another recent apocalyptic novel by a literary (or at least non-SF) author. Atwood's novel joins Kevin Brockmeier's A Brief History of the Dead and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. For my part, I find this noteworthy because I've always related apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction with science fiction.

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