This is the fourth book of Atwood's I've read - the previous three being Alias Grace, Cat's Eye and The Blind Assassin. I've yet to read The Handmaid's Tale which seems to be her most famous and applauded book.
What impresses me most about Margaret Atwood is the vast scope of her imagination. It seems as though she could turn her hand to writing about almost anything and it would be convincing. No two books are anything like the same.
On paper, Oryx and Crake just had to be a sure-fire winner for me. And on the whole, it is. It tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world where Snowman wanders a desolate landscape recounting how he came to be in his sorry state of wandering tramp, a survivor of an horrific event.
The bulk of the story is told by way of flashbacks to the time before the disaster struck. A near-future world, similar in many ways to our own, but also vastly different. Atwood combines imagination and scientific knowledge to paint a (mostly) convincing picture of a world of technological advance and rapid progress. If I have a caveat, it is that perhaps her inventiveness falls short on occasion. Don't get me wrong, for the most part, Atwood's imagination soars. However, there are times when it seems she might have clipped her wings so as not to hold up the progress of the story. I wish that weren't so.
This is a world where bio-engineering and genetic advancement are the norm. All technology and progress seem to be focused on genetic engineering. I remember reading somewhere that history would see the 18th century as the Agricultural Revolution, the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution, the 20th century as Technological Revolution and the 21st century as the Biological Revolution. If this proves to be the case, then Atwood's book is a timely and important one and should not be ignored.
Certainly, when the shock revelation of just what went awry in this near-future world is revealed, the pay-off is good enough to reward those who have lasted the course. I must say though, that I wasn't very surprised at the revelation, as it is a well-worn apocalyptic scenario in science fiction already.(To give too much away here would spoil the surprise.)
The ending is somewhat ambiguous, and, as with ambiguous endings in movies, I don't doubt that a minority of readers will come away feeling somewhat short-changed. I just drew my own conclusions, although I imagine each reader's would be different depending on their viewpoint.
If you were a fan of Alias Grace because of it's themes of womanhood, saga, thriller and historical novel then you should be warned that Oryx and Crake is the antithesis of Alias Grace; they are diametrically opposed. I'm willing to bet that if you covered the jackets of both books and gave them to a reader to read blind, they would be absolutely stunned to conceive of the two books having been written by the same author.
I (mostly) loved Oryx and Crake, although it wasn't the 'killer' sci-fi future shock novel I was hoping for. It runs a close second to that. Now a veteran of Atwood's writing, I would have to say that Alias Grace is still my favourite novel of hers, even though Oryx and Crake is much more my thing in terms of ideas and themes.
I give Oryx and Crake;