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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Margaret Atwood

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11,546337233 (3.96)2 / 987
Title:Oryx and Crake
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Anchor (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 376 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003)

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English (328)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (337)
Showing 1-5 of 328 (next | show all)
Meh. I started this book and just couldn't get into it. When my library loan on the kindle version expired and I forgot to turn off the wireless so I could keep it longer, I was relieved to have an excuse not to finish it.
  beckyface | Nov 22, 2015 |
Meh. I started this book and just couldn't get into it. When my library loan on the kindle version expired and I forgot to turn off the wireless so I could keep it longer, I was relieved to have an excuse not to finish it.
  beckyface | Nov 22, 2015 |
Meh. I started this book and just couldn't get into it. When my library loan on the kindle version expired and I forgot to turn off the wireless so I could keep it longer, I was relieved to have an excuse not to finish it.
  beckyface | Nov 22, 2015 |
Dystopian, relevant, scary, balancing believability with cool imagination and haunting characterization, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake invites readers into a perfect, perfectly ruined world, revealing a hauntingly possible path that leads to ruination. It’s a truly scary story, very peacefully and calmly told. It’s a truly dismaying interpretation of where our genetically engineered, profit-driven, powered-by-advertising world could eventually lead us. And it’s funny, touching and sad, just like real life.

Snowman is the protagonist, living a fragile life among strangely unfamiliar people, and remembering the way things used to be. His friend Crake grows from child to man in that remembered world, sympathetic perhaps, but lacking empathy, brilliant and driven, filled with all the skills to succeed and hiding secrets underneath. Meanwhile Jimmy follows behind, clever in his own way but always on the outside looking in, sad and disappointed with a life that’s let him down. Meanwhile big business needs both of them, one to create and one to advertise. And the woman loved by both perhaps needs neither.

Can we build a world on lies? Can we build relationships without truth? Can we build a new vision for the future without destroying the past? And can we continue along this gene-splicing, instant-gratifying, well-advertised, and well-trodden path without our world falling apart?

Oryx and Crake asks deep questions in the guise of a novel filled with emotional and physical threat and ease, despair, and eventual hope. It’s a cool, deeply involving read, one that leaves the reader hauntingly wanting more, and yet feels powerfully complete – the outsider still outside, still looking in, still seeing more than his heart is willing to admit.

Disclosure: A friend told me I’d love it and she was right. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Oct 29, 2015 |
This was the first Atwood I've read, and not too bad a place to start off! The first element that caught my eye was the structure split between a present narrative and a recollection narrative. While it allows both to reach their climax at the same time, it also introduces a fascinating question from the very beginning: how did things get this way?

Atwood carefully doles out clues throughout the course of both narratives, first describing the world as it is (both past and present), then starting to build up the elements that would culminate in its destruction. This coyness, I thought, was the weakest part of the book—you have to make everything incredibly fascinating to keep that ploy from being cheap. Atwood largely avoids this problem, but doesn't mitigate it quite as well as, say, Inverted World by Christopher Priest.

Another strange part of the book: like a lot of near-future sci-fi, it ends up being more a reflection of its times. The book was published in 2003 when I was 17, so I was aware (and science-crazed) enough to figure out most of her references and coded extensions of many of the pop-culture science developments from that time. Also looming over the book is the strange mood of the era—a post-9/11 apocalypticism that's keen to view the world as ever-disintegrating, and the political trends of that time as ever lengthening.

Speaking of trends, I've decided pop culture futurism is impossible to get right. The temptation to just draw a straight line and extend current tendencies to their conclusion is too great to resist, and the very elements that are harder to predict or less obvious—the temporary fads, economic pressures that drive programming, etc.—are often omitted entirely. The result is caricature of the laziest and most obvious type, a jeremiad both too forceful and too flimsy to take seriously.

Now despite that whine, Atwood partially-mitigates a lot of the elements through her wonderful writing; this was one of the few books that was simple (and addictive) enough that it was a pleasure to read, yet contained enough idea-stuff that I had to put it down every now and then to ruminate. The characters are drawn with just the right amount of detail, and she manages to imbue what are in the end pretty simple arcs with enough zig-zags to make the whole thing readable. The latter part was absolutely necessary, as you need a few hundred pages just to let the thing breathe without turning into an info-dump.

But while the character plots are very readable and wonderful in their own way, the force of the novel is clearly on the plausible scariness of their ideas. And in that Atwood mostly succeeds in drawing out a pretty interesting scenario, especially at the time she wrote it.

However, history has not been quite as kind; as much as neoliberalism continues have grip on significant elements of both parties, the unchecked libertarianism Atwood describes still seems very unlikely to happen. While she describes an incredible inequality that many feared would come of bio-engineering, it's still unclear how a world like that would actually function. This all seems like nitpicking, but those are the very real questions that occurred to me while looking through the novel. I'm not asking for more lore—I despise the stuff—but if you're going to lightly sketch out a caricature of the future, you might as well make it funny and absurd enough to serve as satire.

I must repeat that this was a very enjoyable book to read, with me glued to the pages and churning through it in less than 36 hours. But will it stand the test of time? Probably not; it seems wedded to its era, more a testimony to a failed pathway to improve the human condition. So far, at least, nurture continues to assert its dominance over nature in controlling our fates. ( )
  lt_ammar_test_02 | Oct 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 328 (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 (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margaret Atwoodprimary authorall 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)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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