Margaret Atwood: Oryx & Crake (The MaddAddam Trilogy #1) (review)

oryx-and-crakeThe world as we know it, is falling apart. We have almost used all the oil, the poles are melting, animals are dying, there’s not enough food to feed everyone – and yet it seems we don’t really care enough to do something about it.
For Snowman, the time where it was possible to do something, has long passed. And even though it was tried to solve the world’s problems, well, he’s the last of his kind, living on his own, sleeping in a tree and taking care of the Crakers.
But why are Snowman living alone and how can he be the last of his kind when he’s human, for gods sake?! Well, that’s not something Atwood just reveals to us. Slowly, slowly, she reveals what has been going on and why Snowman has ended up this way. And who the Crakers are.
By jumping back and forth between Snowman’s childhood and his current life, we start to discover what has been going on. As a child, Snowman was a normal boy named Jimmy. He spend a lot of time with best friend Crake, playing computer games, watching wars, executions and porn – all the things of normal boyhood. But even though they live in one of the compounds, one of the safe places, not everything is as it should be. For starters, Crake is living with his mother and her new husband after his father had an accident and fell to his death. But maybe it wasn’t an accident. And why has Jimmy’s mother quit her job and is just staying home, doing nothing? That is, until she disappears and take Jimmy’s pet animal with him?
There’s no question that Crake is the smart one of the two. But just how smart he is, well, that actually shocked me. Or, rather, it shocked me what he chose to do with all his intelligence. There are definitely a couple of twists in this one, that I didn’t see coming.
Before starting this, I knew that Margaret Atwood is an excellent author. I have read and reread Alias Grace and I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale – and I’ve enjoyed them both so much. Excellent, excellent books. And this is another one. Atwood is quickly closing in on the elusive list of my favorite authors. Only five authors on it so far but Atwood is definitely in the running.
And not just because this book was really good. Also because she tackles some big issues, she does it in an fascinating way and she’s just such a clever author. She reveals the true scope of things so very slowly in this book. You are constantly left guessing, she’s peeling away layer after layer until finally everything is revealed and you are left completely speechless and having to read that one key scene over and over to realize that yes, that’s what happened and yes, she did do that.
This is definitely one scary book. When looking over my notes, I see a lot of questions at first and then it goes quickly through bafflement and bewilderment to holy cow territory and just poor what the fuck. When she finally explains what the Crakers are and explains the Paradice Project, I was just floored. I couldn’t believe that anybody could or would take science this far – yet I totally buy into the premise of the book and that there are scientists who would do things like this if they had the skills. This following scene gave me the creeps – and it actually got worse from there: What they were looking at was a large bulblike object that seemed to be covered with stippled whitish-yellow skin. Out of it came twenty thick fleshy tubes, and at the end of each tube another bulb was growing.
“What the hell is it?” said Jimmy.
“Those are chickens,” said Crake. “Chicken arts. Just the breasts, on this one. They’ve got ones that specialize in drumsticks too, twelve to a growth unit.”
“But there aren’t any heads,” said Jimmy. He grasped the concept /…/ but this thing was going to far. At least the pigoons of his childhood hadn’t lacked heads.
“That’s the head in the middle,” said the woman. “There’s a mouth opening at the top, they dump the nutrients in there. No eyes or beak or anything, they don’t need those.”
“This is horrible,” said Jimmy. The thing was a nightmare. It was like an animal-protein tuber.
“Picture the sea-anemone body plan,” said Crake. “That helps.”
“But what’s it thinking?” said Jimmy.
The woman gave her jocular woodpecker yodel, and explained that they’d removed all the brain functions that had nothing to do with digestion, assimilation, and growth.
(p. 237-238).
Is that nasty or what? Then imagine what they are able to do with humans…
This is a good book. It’s a clever book. It’s a book that hooks you in while you are slowly learning the lengths humans are willing to go to to survive. And if any one man stands a chance of stopping it. And who exactly that man might be.

First lines: Snowman wakes before dawn. He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is still sleep.

  • Title:  Oryx & Crake
  • Author: Margaret Atwood
  • Publisher: Virago
  • Year: 2003
  • Pages: 436 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

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10 thoughts on “Margaret Atwood: Oryx & Crake (The MaddAddam Trilogy #1) (review)

  1. I’m so glad you liked this book so much, and look forward to hearing what you think about the next two! I think these books are scary smart.

    • I went right on to the next book – and the next book. And now I’m really regretting that I’m running out of pages. I so wish that there would be a fourth book…

  2. I just finished rereading this one–I had kind of forgotten how much I liked it. I was really creeped out by the genetically engineered “chickens,” too, but thought a pet rakunk might be nice to have. Heh.

    An airborn virus that kills so quickly, though…my. worst. nightmare. YUCK.

    • I want a pet rakunk too! They must be so cute!
      A airborn virus that kills quickly and so extremely messily – yuck!
      I’m really impressed with Atwood after reading this. I definitely need to read more by her and I totally get why you are doing the Project Atwood thing – even more than I did before. She is such an impressive author!

  3. This is the only book from the trilogy that I’ve read and your review reminds me how much I enjoyed it. I can’t imagine why I haven’t read the other two. I must do something about it.

    • You really really must. They are so worth reading. The Year of the Flood is a parallel book so it elaborates on what’s going on in Oryx & Crake. And then MaddAddam tells about what happens afterwards. And they are all amazing books.

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