What happens when humans genetically modify everything they can get their hands on? Does nature remain nature when it has been altered at its fundamental core? Humanity has split into several castes and the scientists all live in compounds separated from the rest of humanity. Science runs rampant as they alter everything from foodstuffs, to trees and rocks, and finally themselves.
Oryx and Crake is a science fiction novel written by Margaret Atwood, published by McClelland and Stewart in 2003.
Snowman is perhaps the last unmodified human in the world, living in a tree on the beach and barely surviving. A group of seemingly feral children also live on the beach – the Crakers. Snowman feels protective of these children but explores his past in a series of flashbacks that buildup to the horrible world he occupies. The story jumps around quite a bit but in an effective and provocative way.
Praise and critiques:
This is one of those books where you won’t find science fiction mentioned anywhere on the book cover or spine, as we sometimes find when literary fiction writers write SF. But it is definitely a science fiction book as it deals with genetic engineering, post-apocalyptic word-building, and science gone wrong. Atwood breaks the number one rule of writing, show don’t tell, but she does this masterfully and somehow makes it a page turner while ignoring this convention. The book is mostly told in a series of flashbacks that lead up to why the world has become as it is, and slowly the reader learns of the main character’s inadvertent role in the destruction of the world and the alteration of lifeforms. Trigger warning: there is a section of this book that deals with the extremely uncomfortable subject of child pornography and the exploitation and trafficking of children. I found this section of the book difficult to get through, but it not the main feature of the story. Overall the book is sad and the human connections of the characters tainted by the world Atwood has created, serving as a great cautionary tale about the consequences of messing with nature.
Fans of dreary post-apocalyptic stories will love this book.
4 of 5, a fine book. Looking forward to reading more Atwood.