I’m a huge fan of Margaret Atwood, despite the fact that I’ve only read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin. It’s rare to come across a writer who can build worlds and characters equally well, and her lyrical writing style is absolutely gorgeous. Every time I read one of Atwood’s novels, I am deeply affected, and Oryx and Crake is no exception.
Set in the post-apocalyptic near future, narrator Snowman eases the reader into the new normal—salvaging for food, water, and shelter in the absence of other humans, with only the strange, alien Children of Crake for company. In flashbacks, Snowman recalls how the world came to be in its present state, going back to his childhood as “Jimmy,” his close friendship with scientific wunderkind Crake, and their mutual obsession with a young girl they once spotted on a pornographic website. Atwood does a really admirable job of extrapolating the online entertainment and technology of the early aughts (when the book was written) into a nasty, amoral web of consumer exploitation that consumes the entirety of North America (and, we are to understand, the world at large).
I ripped through this book in about four hours total. It’s a really compelling read, and Atwood manages to keep the tension in both the past and present storylines ratcheted up high throughout, and Snowman’s overall arc is very well done. He changes gradually and without self-awareness, which is very refreshing. I also really liked Atwood’s handling of a male protagonist, since I’ve only read her female protagonists. Her voice is believable as a man’s, but is also a unique take on the male perspective. I’m really looking forward to reading Atwood’s 2009 followup, The Year of the Flood, as soon as I can get my hands on it.