Home > dystopian, Genre, scifi > Book Review: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Book Review: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Woman's body mirror imaged.Summary:
Snowman used to be Jimmy.  Jimmy was a word person in a science person world.  He couldn’t splice genes to make rakunks or even to make new types of plants.  He could sell them to the public who lived outside of the safe Compounds though.  Jimmy was with Oryx, although he had to share her with Crake.  Now, Snowman must take care of the Crakers with their rainbow of colors, naturally insect-repellant skin, and complex mating rituals.  Snowman is alone except for the Crakers.  Everyone else died in the bloody pandemic. Or did they?

This is a companion novel to Year of the Flood (review), although Oryx and Crake was published first.  Companion novel means they’re set in the same time-span in the same universe and some characters may briefly cross over, but you don’t necessarily need to read them in a particular order or even read all of them.

Atwood is one of my favorite authors, so I have no idea how to react to the fact that I didn’t like this book.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it.  It was a bit of a struggle to get through.  As usual, Atwood sets scenes beautifully, but I felt no emotion driving the story.  I believe Oryx and Crake suffers from the fact that love triangle of Oryx, Crake, and Jimmy is only hinted at throughout the book, only to be revealed in such a manner that it rings false.  Jimmy seems to surf through life on a wave of ennui, until Oryx shows up and cheers him up, but how does she do it?  We just don’t ever really find out, because our narrator is Snowman–the version of Jimmy who’s lost his mind.  Perhaps Atwood was trying to show a culture that had reached a point where people just couldn’t be truly happy.  That’s a good thing to show, but it makes for a boring narrator.

What I really wanted to know about was what made Crake do the things he did.  He’s clearly either a mad-man or a genius, but we never get to find out much about him at all.  I wish he had been the narrator.  To see inside his mind would have been amazing.  I could have even overlooked the fact that he’s not a woman.

That’s the other thing that bugged me about this book.  Atwood usually writes with female main characters, but in this instance, men were the main players.  That kind of pisses me off.  Was she unable to imagine a woman doing something so evil?  A woman being so stupid?  That’s just as sexist as women never being the hero.  I would have enjoyed the book so much more if Jimmy and Crake were women (heck, Oryx could have stayed a woman too.  That would have been an interesting change).

When you compare this to Year of the Flood, it’s evident that what Oryx and Crake lacks is the emotions driving the bigger picture.  It’s a well-imagined and creative big picture, which is what makes the book still readable.  I’m sure some people would like it, but don’t come into it expecting Atwood’s more typical emotion-driven story.  You won’t find it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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  1. May 11, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    It definitely made a difference that I read this one first, looking back on it. It added an extra dimension onto The Year of the Flood and I agree that that one was better. A lot of people criticize Atwood for her lack of emotion anyway, so it’s interesting that you did here too when you don’t normally find it to be true!

    • May 12, 2010 at 7:48 am

      Oh yes. Although I did enjoy Year of the Flood, I can see how knowing more about the pandemic before reading it would have made me enjoy it even more.

      I had no idea that people criticize Atwood for lack of emotion. Normally, I think she depicts women in a really rich manner. How odd that I agree with them this time around!

  2. May 12, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Shamefully I still haven’t read any Atwood, I know, I hang my head in shame. I’m guessing from your review…this is not the book to start with lol.

    • May 12, 2010 at 7:46 am

      Oh definitely. Other reviews also have called it one of her weaker works. I’d suggest starting with The Handmaid’s Tale, if you’re looking for a good introduction to Atwood. It’s a total classic.

  3. May 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I wouldn’t say Oryx and Crake is my least favorite Atwood (I reserve that for some of her books from the 80s), but it didn’t match up to Handmaid’s Tale, Blind Assassin, or Year of the Flood. I was also a bit surprised by the male perspective and the emotional distance in the story, but I think I enjoyed it more because I hadn’t read Year of the Flood yet and was able to enjoy the unfolding of the mystery. Unfortunately that’s one of those things you can’t go back and change!

    • May 17, 2010 at 7:54 am

      I’m glad to hear you lump in The Blind Assassin with Handmaid’s Tale and Year of the Flood. I’ve been wanting to read it, but wondering if it’s a hit or miss.

  1. December 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm
  2. December 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm

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