Most helpful positive review
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2006
Few novels pack the same emotional punch as Oryx and Crake. I finished the book feeling empathising with the pain of he main character Snowman AKA Jimmy. Snowman lives in a tree, starving, lonely and grieving. He might be the last normal left in the world. He acts as as sort of father figure to a group of genetically engineered almost-humans called Crakers after Crake their creator. The Crakers psychology and knowledge of their environment are sufficiently different from homo sapiens that Snowman can never truly be himself with them. This and his revered status means that even with the Crakers nearby he is as alone as anyone can be.
The Crakers can survive on greens and roots but Snowman is slowly starving as his food supply dwindles. He has lost all hope but struggles on anyway partly from a blind desire to survive in spite of everything and partly to fulfill a promise to Oryx, the one woman he feels he truly loved, to protect the Crakers.
The story is told as two narratives one set in Snowman's present, the other a series of flashbacks. In this way we learn both what Snowman is doing now and how the world came to be in its present post-apocalyptic state. Atwood handles this brilliantly and I found myself turning pages wanting to find out what happened in both time lines. The use of a dual narrative is not gratuitous - the novel would not have worked without it. If the events had simply been described in chronological order the second half of the story would have seemed a let down.
The Crakers are described and used to as a contrast to the behaviour of normal humans in a world gone awry but as characters they don't really exist. The story is really about Jimmy (who became Snowman), Crake and Oryx. Jimmy grew up in a corporate Compound isolated from the decaying and dangerous outside world. He is funny, smart and good with words but has difficultly forming meaningful relationships. As an adult he has lover after lover but never manages to let any of them get close.
Crake is a genius somewhat aloof from the world. His father died some time before he meets Jimmy and it's clear he believes it was murder although it seems a case of accidental death. At the age of fourteen Crake and Jimmy become friends and spend their time browsing the man channels available via the net from scenes of public executions to child porn. Through their viewing Atwood paints a picture of a world in which society is disintergrating rapidly and the corporations control everything.
Oryx is an enigmatic woman who may be the same person as the eight year-old child Jimmy and Crake once saw on a child porn channel after having been sold by her mother. Of the main characters Oryx is probably the most interesting although we only ever see her through Jimmy's eyes. We never really get into the head of Crake to find out why he acted as he did (I won't give details hear it would give away too much of the plot) but nevertheless all the characters are masterfully described and Atwood does an excellent job of making the reader think of them as real people. The novel is a "what if" story of what might happen if science, in particular genetic engineering gets out of control.