Oryx and Crake
We are Here: Done!
Spoilers? Yes; grumpy ones.
As a deep admirer of Atwood’s work, burgeoning fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and binge-watcher of medical sci-fi shows like Orphan Black, I thought I would enjoy this book much more than I did.
It’s too much to expect each one of an author’s books to knock your socks off. I guess I got complacent. After reading a string of Atwood’s jaw-droppers (The Blind Assassin, Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Wilderness Tips, and Stone Mattress) and coming off the high that was Station Eleven (someday I’ll be ready to do that book justice in a review) I thought the MaddAddam trilogy was the logical next step.
Alas, this disappointed my too-high expectations on all levels: Atwood’s unparalleled craft, post-apocalyptic science fiction, and compelling bedtime reading. More than once I set this aside to rejuvenate with a livelier book.
The book follows a singular survivor of the human race (Snowman) as he ekes out an existence in a lush wasteland. The setting unfolds slowly. Though descriptions abound, it took a long while for me to picture the world Snowman finds himself in. Snowman’s only sentient companions quasi-human genetic experiments who revere him as a connection to their creator. That creator was Snowman’s friend, Crake. And the Oryx of the title was Snowman’s lover and Crake’s…business partner…ish?
As we follow Snowman through his environmentally hazardous days, we flash back to his childhood, his college days, his knowledge of Oryx’s ambiguous back story, and his eventual implication in the destruction of humanity. Amid the flashbacks, we journey to the scene of the crime–a laboratory. Dun, dun DUHHNNN! But not before we break into abandoned houses where people yuckied to death (and in record time, we’re told) so Snowman can stock up on various supplies. Chief among them alcohol.
On his way back to camp, Snowman notices signs of life, and sure enough, they’re human. The book ends with Snowman deciding to approach them–but we aren’t sure if he’ll do so as friend or foe. And frankly, I don’t care enough to find out.
This isn’t to suggest the book doesn’t have compelling moments. Snowman’s and Oryx’s back stories both saved me from slipping into a daze more than once. But taken as a whole, it was underwhelming and not one of Atwood’s best (of which there are many).
I was interested in Snowman’s mother more than anyone else, and at the beginning I got the sense that Atwood was, too. But we don’t get enough of her.
Why is this book better than people?