The narrator of this riveting novel calls himself Snowman. When the story opens, he’s sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories?
Length: 12 hours 22 minutes
Published: 2005 (originally 2003)
Publisher: Bolinda Publishing
I read Oryx and Crake, which is the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy after the second book in the trilogy, The Year of the Flood, which I read for a university module. As I felt curious about the rest of the series I decided to go back and read the first book. I still intend to read the third (time is flying away).
This series isn’t my favourite of Atwood’s work. I haven’t read the third book yet, but Oryx and Crake is definitely my least book of hers. I found The Year of the Flood to be okay.
The series is set in a dystopian world where the environment has gone into freefall. Atwood is making a critique of capitalism in the way she represents business in the book. She is putting forward a future in which capitalism has gone unchecked and we have done nothing about climate change. We follow the last of humanity on a dying planet.
Whilst I appreciate the thematic concerns of the novel, and as always Atwood’s writing is good, I didn’t like the characters in Oryx and Crake at all. The Snowman is the first-person narrator, and I really didn’t like him. He comes across as a spoiled boy who really needs to grow up.
Ate food splits the timeline between past and present, as in The Year of the Flood. We learn the Snowman’s backstory, and how that intersects with and relates to the story in The Year of the Flood. It really doesn’t matter which order you read the two books in as they are set on a parallel timeline with separate (mostly) characters.
Though Atwood insists on calling her work speculative, rather than science fiction, I would argue that Oryx and Crake is definitely more science fiction than, say, The Handmaid’s Tale. There are definitely scientific advancements in this novel, which wouldn’t presently be possible. It’s not the focus, but it does form the backbone of the story.
The atmosphere of Oryx and Crake, as with The Year of the Flood, is melancholic. It’s a slow book, with a lot of introspection and thinking. Whereas I often enjoy this sort of book, my dislike of the characters in this one made for an unpleasant reading experience.
On balance, I will be reading MaddAddam, the last book in the series, as I didn’t hate either Oryx and Crake or The Year of the Flood. I enjoyed The Year of the Flood the most out of the two, so I’m hoping MadAddam will be more like that.