“After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful?
Because it is.”
Margaret Atwood has quickly risen to become one of my favourite authors, and I’d hate to think of how long it would have taken me to pick up one of her novels if I hadn’t have started my Year of Reading Women. I read The Handmaid’s Tale as one of the first books of my challenge, and I loved it. Now, after having seen (from a distance) all the hype surrounding the release of Atwood’s MaddAddam, the final book in the MaddAddam trilogy, I knew that I’d have to read it. I mean, everyone was going apeshit. People who’s opinions about books that I trust, people who allegedly don’t like science fiction (they spit the words, science fiction novels are children’s stories.) But you can’t just dive into the last book of a series. So I went to Riverbend Books and bought myself a little somethin’ somethin’.
Oryx & Crake is the story of Jimmy, the last human alive. Jimmy survives the plagues, and, haunted by the memories of Onyx, the only woman he loved (and all the women he didn’t), and of his best friend Crake, Jimmy struggles to survive the erratic climate (brought on through extreme climate change) and the genetically modified creatures that have escaped the laboratories and are overrunning the planet. His biggest concern, other than the constant worry of running out of alcohol, are the Crakers, the final legacy of Crake, a brilliant scientist who, unbeknownst to Jimmy …[TOOK OUT A SPOILER]… The Crakers are modified humans, without any concept of lust or privacy or gods. They were, in Crake’s view, the perfect future for humanity.
But things aren’t going as Crake planned.
“Watch out for art, Crake used to say. As soon as they start doing art, we’re in trouble. Symbolic thinking of any kind would signal downfall, in Crake’s view. Next they’d be inventing idols, and funerals, and grave goods, and the afterlife, and sin, and Linear B, and kings, and then slavery and war.”
The story is told between Jimmy’s past, a past of sealed, gated communities, and Jimmy’s terrifying present. Oryx & Crake is a fantastic novel, exploring themes that range from the exploitation of children in South East Asia to climate change and the omnipresence of technology and the increasing stratification of society, the growth of the gap between rich and poor. If you want to know just how much I loved Oryx & Crake, I’ll tell you: I read it in three days and I’m going to buy The Year of the Flood (its sequel) this weekend.
As Atwood herself asks, “What if we continue down the road we’re already on? How slippery is the slope? What are our saving graces? Who’s got the will to stop us?” No-one, if this vision of the world comes true.
“These things sneak up on him for no reason, these flashes of irrational happiness.
It’s probably a vitamin deficiency.”