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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Margaret Atwood

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12,201383207 (3.96)2 / 1018
Title:Oryx and Crake
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Anchor (2004), Edition: first, Paperback, 376 pages
Collections:Your library

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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003)

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To Read (15)

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English (373)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (382)
Showing 1-5 of 373 (next | show all)
I found it a bit slow going at first, but things sped up once I had a chance to sit down for a long enough period to really get into it. The reveal of how the main character and the world got to where they were is very slow, but enough hints are dropped that you can figure a lot of it out. The scariest thing about it is that most of the circumstances leading to the apocalyptic event are very believable extensions of current scientific and social trends. This was my favourite one of the trilogy, because it has the least violence, and that lone survivor grasping at the tatters of his sanity vibe.
  SylviaC | Oct 24, 2016 |
Attwood serves up a disturbing dystopia with an emphasis on genetic engineering and a slow erosion of morality. The imagination involved in the creation of the 'Crakers' and other genetic creations in the book are as stunning as they are horrific. The out-of-sequence narrative structure of the novel generates a great deal of suspense as the reader is exposed first hand to the bizarre devastation and reads on to discover in the flashbacks what happened to bring it about. Jimmy/Snowman is quite the tragic character, seemingly the keeper of the last vestiges of humanity in a destroyed world. I found it ironic that Jimmy's mother looked so fondly upon Crake instead of her son, but its Crake who ends up becoming the epitome of what she hates, while her son still loves and feels. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, no doubt resolved in The Year of the Flood, but taken on its own offers its own unique pleasures in debating what one thinks Snowman will do. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |

This is a combined review of the trilogy. Well, not so much a review as just a few thoughts.

"But hatred and viciousness are addictive. You can get high on them. Once you've had a little, you start shaking if you don't get more."

When Oryx & Crake was first published, I could not put it down. It was my first Atwood, none of my friends knew about her (I was still at uni at the time) and people thought I was on the crazy train when it didn't win the Booker.

Strangely, my impressions of Oryx & Crake kept me from reading the other two books in the trilogy as soon as they were published, and I only managed to remedy this over the past couple of months.
I kinda wish I hadn't. Not that Year of the Flood and MaddAddam were bad books - the writing was exquisite - but they did not hold the same punch as O&C which is basically "Snowman, the Jimmy"s story.
Being Snowman, the story is slightly mad and told by a madman. I never really knew whether to believe him or not, and that made reading quite fantastic.

Year of the Flood is basically the companion piece told from the view of Toby, a tough but sane, survivor of the Flood. While Toby's story and the of her fellow survivors is interesting, it merely adds to the existing world that Atwood created in O&C.

MaddAddam stretched this even further. Unfortunately, by this time, I had learned about all I wanted to know about the Flood and the aftermath and the Crakers.

By the end, I was only wondering why we needed book 3 at all? I wish she had rolled books 2 and 3 ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
Absolutely brilliant. Imaginative, original and completely plausible. I can't believe it has taken me this long to read this author. Loved it. ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
Idiocracy meets Twelve Monkeys meets The Elementary Particles. That would be my elevator pitch for Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood's bleakly lovely double-dystopia.

Double dystopia? Why, yes, for Atwood is nothing if not economical as she spins out a dual narrative of the life and times of one Jimmy, later known as Snowman, the last known surviving member of the species Homo sapiens sapiens. From the reader's perspective, Jimmy merely exchanges one dystopia for another; the world he remembers and regrets is a corporatist nightmare in which each suburb is a wholly-owned corporate "Compound" -- a gated community with fierce, even lethal security, private education, private everything -- and the rest of the world, the cities and the rural areas, are simply "pleebland", where the ignorant customers live as best they can. One can easily picture those pleeblanders lining up in the morning for their gentleman's latte, but of course we never get to actually see them until the very end of Oryx and Crake. They are merely faceless victims of the Crakepocalypse.

Crake (just a code-name, after an extinct-in-the-novel/rare-in-real-life Australian bird*) is Jimmy's best friend, a misanthropic scientific genius who rises to be king of the lab even as Jimmy, not so numerate, not so scientific, sinks to a job in the PR industry, the last refuge of the liberal arts being the writing of copy to advertise the products of the Compounds' geniuses. The story of their friendship is a little bland, but that's part of the point; Jimmy's and Crake's world does not value human connection, and so the pair grow up barely knowing what that is, until Oryx comes along relatively late in the pre-apocalyptic narrative. Oryx is a beautiful, possibly Asian, girl, a survivor of various sex trade horrors, whom Crake more or less rescues from his life and puts to work as a teacher for his very special creation: nothing more and nothing less than a replacement for human beings.

The post-apocalyptic narrative zeroes in on these replacements as observed by Jimmy (the Compound life is told in flashbacks), the only ordinary human left alive that anyone knows of, who has let himself be manipulated into serving as guardian and caretaker of the "Crakers", a new species of human that eats like rabbits, lives for exactly 30 years like Edenic noble savages straight out of Rousseau, mates like baboons, and has been taught, mostly by Jimmy, whom they call Snowman though none of them has ever seen snow, to revere Crake as their creator and Oryx as the goddess of all animal and plant life.

As a relatively simple but still-tense (the Crakers aren't the only genetically engineered new species amuck in the world, after all. There be monsters in their paradise) supply-run plot unfolds and sends Jimmy traipsing through the world of the Talking Heads' "Nothing But Flowers" back to the remains of the Compound from which the Crakers came, Jimmy/Snowman's flashbacks tell us how the Crakers came to be the new dominant species -- and it ain't pretty. For Crake was all but a supervillain, so angry at/disgusted with humanity for what it had done to the world that he hatched and implemented a truly sinister plot against it. Yes, this apocalypse is all the deliberate work of one man, whose girlfriend and best friend were too busy getting it on behind his back to notice what he was up to until it was too late.

Romantic sort of subplot aside, if you're a reader who needs strong characters to get you through a story, this might be tough going for you. Jimmy is a stock hero-victim of a kind Atwood uses a lot -- her point of view characters tend to the passive, the disbelieving, the innocent only because deliberately ignorant. Crake is similarly one-dimensional, and as for Oryx, she is barely there, and when she is, she is elusive to the point of annoyance. But what is lacked in character is made up for in other ways; Atwood manages (in, as ever, delicately glorious prose) to keep the faceless billions who stand to suffer if/when Crake succeeds ever in the reader's thoughts, and her main trio's bland opacity gives the story the feeling of archetype and mythology, as if we, too, are getting the filtered and sanitized and misremembered version of events the Crakers might have, if Jimmy had been more honest and deliberate with them. There is, perhaps, a wry commentary on the importance of the liberal arts buried here, as Jimmy gets the last laugh, to a degree. It's a pity that by novel's end, one wants to slap him.

This looks to be at least a trilogy before Atwood is done. I have The Year of the Flood on deck for a future read, and a third MaddAddam book is due out this fall. I'm in.

*This novel is very big on extinction, here treated via a videogame released by an entity calling itself "MaddAddam" that is pretty much an early rehearsal of what Crake is going to do to the world. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 373 (next | show all)
Oryx and Crake is a piece of dystopian fiction written from the point of Snowman (known as Jimmy in his former life) – the last human left on Earth. At least, he believes he’s the last human left on Earth until the end of the book.

I found the parts of the book describing Snowman’s journey to Paradice (the dome in the compound where Crake did his work) to be a lot less interesting than his recollections of his previous life as Jimmy. I loved reading about how Jimmy and Crake met, the little signs that Crake gave off as to what he might be planning and the direction his thoughts might take in the future (though Jimmy didn’t recognize these until it was too late), etc.

Crake is really the star of the show in this book in my mind – Jimmy simply acts as a vessel for us to learn about a character who is dead and who therefore cannot teach us about himself.

Snowman’s adventures in real time seem almost pointless to me. Why not dedicate the whole book to Jimmy’s friendship with Crake, with just a bit of general explanation as to what’s going on now? I think the present would have been much more interesting if the Crakers were explored more than Jimmy’s struggle to survive and come to grips with what Crake had done.

On the whole, however, I thought it was a great book.
Set sometime in the future, this post-apocalyptic novel takes scientific research in the hands of madmen to its logical and frightening conclusion. Inspiring readers to pay more attention to the world around them, Atwood offers cautionary notes about the environment, bioengineering, the sacrifice of civil liberties, and the possible loss of those human values which make life more than just a physical experience. As the novel opens, some catastrophe has occurred, effectively wiping out human life. Only one lonely survivor and a handful of genetically altered humanoids remain, and they are slowly starving as they try to adjust to their changed circumstances.
added by stephmo | editMostly Fiction, Mary Whipple (May 28, 2004)
In Margaret Atwood's first attempt at writing a novel, the main character was an ant swept downriver on a raft. She abandoned that book after the opening scene and became caught up in other activities, which she has described as ''sissy stuff like knitting and dresses and stuffed bunnies.'' That certainly does not sound like Ms. Atwood, who is known for the boldness of her fiction. Of course she was only 7 at the time.
added by stephmo | editNew York Times, Mel Gussow (Jun 24, 2003)
Margaret Atwood has always taken a jaundiced view of human nature. Back when her mordant observations about marriage and other relations between the sexes had her marked down as a feminist, she took pains to fire off several novels in a row featuring weak, manipulative, dishonest and outright bad women, partly to prove that her skepticism was distributed fairly. She has always been of the opinion that people are a mixed bag of the occasionally decent and the frequently mendacious and that there's not much anyone can do to change that fact.
added by stephmo | editSalon.com, Laura Miller (May 27, 2003)
Genetic tinkering. Rampant profiteering. A deadly virus that sweeps the globe. Are these last Tuesday's headlines or our future?

In Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake, the answer is both. For Atwood, our future is the catastrophic sum of our oversights. It's a depressing view, saved only by Atwood's biting, black humor and absorbing storytelling.
added by stephmo | editUSA Today, Jackie Pray (May 26, 2003)

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margaret Atwoodprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chancer, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott, CampbellNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I could perhaps like others have astonished you
with strange improbable tales; but I rather chose to relate plain matters of fact in the simplest manner and style; because my principal design was to inform you, and not to amuse you.
- Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels
Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle and leaping from the pinnacle of a tower in the air?
- Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
For my family
First words
Snowman wakes before dawn.
If he wants to be an asshole, it's a free country. Millions before him have made the same life choice.
Crake had worked for years on the purring. Once he'd discovered that the cat family purred at the same frequency as the ultrasound used on bone fractures and skin lesions and were thus equipped with their own self-healing mechanism, he'd turned himself inside out in the attempt to install the feature.
So Crake never remembered his dreams. It's Snowman that remembers them instead. Worse than remembers: he's immersed in them, he's wading through them, he's stuck in them. Every moment he's lived in the past few months was dreamed first by Crake. No wonder Crake screamed so much.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385721676, Paperback)

In Oryx and Crake, a science fiction novel that is more Swift than Heinlein, more cautionary tale than "fictional science" (no flying cars here), Margaret Atwood depicts a near-future world that turns from the merely horrible to the horrific, from a fool's paradise to a bio-wasteland. Snowman (a man once known as Jimmy) sleeps in a tree and just might be the only human left on our devastated planet. He is not entirely alone, however, as he considers himself the shepherd of a group of experimental, human-like creatures called the Children of Crake. As he scavenges and tends to his insect bites, Snowman recalls in flashbacks how the world fell apart.

While the story begins with a rather ponderous set-up of what has become a clichéd landscape of the human endgame, littered with smashed computers and abandoned buildings, it takes on life when Snowman recalls his boyhood meeting with his best friend Crake: "Crake had a thing about him even then.... He generated awe ... in his dark laconic clothing." A dangerous genius, Crake is the book's most intriguing character. Crake and Jimmy live with all the other smart, rich people in the Compounds--gated company towns owned by biotech corporations. (Ordinary folks are kept outside the gates in the chaotic "pleeblands.") Meanwhile, beautiful Oryx, raised as a child prostitute in Southeast Asia, finds her way to the West and meets Crake and Jimmy, setting up an inevitable love triangle. Eventually Crake's experiments in bioengineering cause humanity's shockingly quick demise (with uncanny echoes of SARS, ebola, and mad cow disease), leaving Snowman to try to pick up the pieces. There are a few speed bumps along the way, including some clunky dialogue and heavy-handed symbols such as Snowman's broken watch, but once the bleak narrative gets moving, as Snowman sets out in search of the laboratory that seeded the world's destruction, it clips along at a good pace, with a healthy dose of wry humor. --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:58 -0400)

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With the same stunning blend of prophecy and social satire she brought to her classic The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood gives us a keenly prescient novel about the future of humanity-and its present. Humanity here equals Snowman, and in Snowman's recollections Atwood re-creates a time much like our own, when a boy named Jimmy loved an elusive, damaged girl called Oryx and a sardonic genius called Crake. But now Snowman is alone, and as we learn why we also learn about a world that could become ours one day. "Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey--with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake--through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining."--Back cover.… (more)

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