Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood
Audiobook from Public Library
Print copy purchased from used book store
[#12 in my 75 Book Challenge]
Well, I finally finished it after three years of wanting to read it.
This is a hard book to give a summary for. First and foremost, it’s all over the place. The story is told in flashback, with Snowman living in a post-apocalyptic world. The reader then experiences the events that have led up to this apocalypse, including his friendship with Crake and his romantic obsession with Oryx. It’s a futuristic book about biological and genetic engineering taken to extremes, and mankind’s desire to be flawless and immortal. I know my summary sucks, so you can check out what the folk on Goodreads have to say about it — their descriptions are far superior to my own.
Beyond my description, I can’t tell you much because I was lost half the time. This is because the story is written in Atwood’s trademark style, shifting between past and present and future, but also because I just wasn’t getting into the story. My mind was elsewhere. I think I actually got more than I thought out of it, because the story is intentionally designed to confuse.
I think I would need a second read to enjoy the novel, now that I knew where it was going. It also needs to be read in print. The audio version was just too much for my inferior aural senses. The themes and questions posed by the novel are intense enough to warrant a re-read (a few years from now) and some discussion with other folks who have read it. Atwood’s imagination is endless and her writing is spectacular. I just wasn’t feeling it.
The Handmaid’s Tale was/is one of my favorite books, so I was sorely disappointed to find myself trudging to get through Oryx and Crake after so many people had recommended it to me. The Handmaid’s Tale is a better book, and I think many people would agree with me on that. Atwood certainly paints an ugly picture of the future and human nature in Oryx and Crake, one that bummed me out quite a bit. I also felt the characters were not as dynamic as I would have liked, and all felt unnatural or unrealistic to me (too cynical, too fixated, too disconnected).
Final Grade: C I would have given this a D for my particular reading experience (it was miserable), but I recognize that this has nothing to do with Atwood’s writing and story. This is very literary fiction, that is obvious, so I don’t want to disgrace it with a low grade just because I failed to concentrate on it. I might try reading In The Year of the Flood, since that’s the book I really wanted to read and I hear it’s much better. Time will tell.
Also, this is not a YA book. So I won’t be purchasing it for the kiddos. A high school library might have a place for it, since many schools read The Handmaid’s Tale. But there’s no place for it in my middle school collection (those of you that know the book say, “duh,” but I wanted to make it clear — this was a personal read, not a professional one).