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The Classics Companion

I have a (small) obsession with books and tv shows. Proud geek.

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake  - Margaret Atwood It's weird how much you can love one author. In your mind, they're miles beyond anything you've ever read, and for me, this is how I view Margaret Atwood. Albeit, The Handmaid's Tale is still my favourite novel of hers, but Oryx and Crake is a close second.

At first, I wasn't 100% keen on it. My view of dystopian novels is very clear - they immerse you into a horrific world that has the potential to be your own. This wasn't fulfilled in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and this made it a weak novel to me. Nothing was explained. Oryx and Crake was going that way, you were in a world where you didn't understand it's origins. For a lot of the novel (until the closing chapters), there was no suggestions or hints to how the Earth came to be how it is. And this frustrated me. I persevered though. I knew it was written by Atwood, and her writing is so amazing that it kept me going.

The world that the Snowman resides in is seemingly absent of humans. It's only occupants are him, the 'Crakers' (perfect humans designed by his old best friend, Crake), and the weird genetic adaptions of animals left over from the days where humans still existed on Earth. Pigoons are genetically mutated to create organs, kidneys to be exact. Rakunks are a cross between a racoon and skunk, commonly used as pets, with no smell of a skunk. These creations were explained through a very clever writing mechanism by Atwood. Each part contained a few chapters, but it jumped from Snowman's world, to him remembering his old life, as Jimmy. Here we met Crake, and eventually Oryx, the two people Snowman built the new world around.

This building of an explanation of the world was simple. The 'Crakers' knew nothing of the world before, and therefore they do not know what simple things such as 'war' and 'watch' mean. Snowman, knowing that the true meanings would be way too complicated to be explained, he created his own mythology and tradition to explain the world, linking back to the two people he loved most: Oryx and Crake. This is where the novel really has it's meaning. The creation of meanings is completely subjective, and whole-heartedly created out of thin air. It actually links in very nicely with my sociology class. The simple meanings of time and war are defined by us - by no-one else.

I personally preferred the 'Jimmy' scenes compared to 'Snowman' scenes. Within Jimmy's chapters, you saw a world slowly beating the problems that have kept us back, through genetic mutations and cross-breeding etc. I won't give it completely away, but that's ultimately what destroyed the world. Their developments went too far, to where the advancements caused mass death, a 'virus' that was too fast to stop and ultimately, desecrated everything. Should we try and advance ourselves and the world around us, if it could potentially bring about our extinction?

Oryx and Crake is the first in the MaddAddam Trilogy. Lets just say I can't wait to get my hands on the next two.