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HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 August 2008
I enjoy Science Fiction (or Speculative Fantasy, if you prefer) when it extrapolates from the current situation and develops themes to give us a 'What If?' world of the future. What If... we used pigs to grow organs for human transplant? What If... we developed guard dogs that couldn't be tamed? What If... a mad scientist tried to wipe the slate clean and return the world back to its Garden of Eden status?

Margaret Atwood has neatly and enjoyably tied all these threads together, and thrown in half a tonne more social commentary about parental relationships, child abuse, sexual trafficing, globalisation, the ethics of genetics and whether it's right to lie to your girlfriend (or boyfriend).
Her exceptional talent is that you don't feel as if you're being lectured, nor do you get bogged down in a sudden deluge of righteousness. This big novel scampers along at a good pace. You can empathise with Jimmy-the-Snowman who is our lead character, and you can hope for his eventual redemption (even if it is a touch unlikely). I suspect it panders to the audience a little, in that we can feel smug when the idiot-savant genius mad scientists inevitably destroy their own world, but that's no bad thing.

Atwood has pulled together the threads of SF to build a relevant novel which comments on our society, but which is entertaining and involving even if you don't much care for the underlying message. It's easy to read in chunks -- took me four or five days of a half hour each day -- and is the kind of book which inspires you to take an extra half hour off, just so youy can see how it turns out.
Will it date? No more than Animal Farm, 1984, Frankenstein or The Time Machine have dated, and they all use much the same format. Science Runs Wild! Humanity Perishes! Serves us Right! Etc.

I've not read any Atwood for a while -- this was probably the first of her novels I've picked up for 7 or 8 years -- but enjoyed this one so much I'll look out for her next.
9/10
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on 20 June 2014
I would describe this as literary science fiction. I enjoy good science fiction but find so much of the genre fails to engage me on any emotional level at all. It's fictional science instead - grand ideas but with characters I care little about. When reading this book, I found myself caring deeply about the lone survivor Snowman and desperate to know what had happened in the bizarre love triangle with Oryx and Crake. It is clearly linked to the apocalypse that has wiped out mankind, but how? A learning for all writers of science fiction is that these days, even near-futures are a minefield when it comes to writing about technology. How could Atwood have guessed that teenage boys emailing each other would stand out as an anachronism? This really was a minor irritation for me in an otherwise utterly absorbing book. I will be buying the other two in the trilogy immediately.
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on 23 November 2010
This book is not one in which I wanted to know what happens next, more what happened in the lead-up to the "present".

Margaret Atwood has created a future in which, evidently, global warming has heated up the world; people have been divided into the elite who work for vast corporations, living in compounds, and the "pleebs" who live in their pleeblands with a measure of freedom not allowed to the compound dwellers. The book begins after all this has fallen apart, with Snowman - formerly Jimmy - living in a tree, wearing no more than a sheet, served by the Children of Crake. As the book unfolds, we discover who Crake was, his link to Snowman and how his children came about. And we are introduced to Oryx, the woman Jimmy loved - in his own way - or at least Jimmy/Snowman's version of Oryx, since all that has gone on is shown as he has seen it. Genetically mutated animals now run wild, having been released in the events that are revealed slowly through the book.

Atwood's imagination has created a scarily plausible world where scientists rule and those such as Jimmy - not a "numbers" person - are the underdogs. We are shown Jimmy's childhood in the compound, son of one of the privileged scientists (his mother, as a former scientist, rebels against the system) and how his life unfolds, in flashbacks from his life as a solitary tree-dweller who may be the last man alive. Apart, of course, from the artificially created Children of Crake. But since I don't want to give away the secrets, I shall say no more about the plot.

Our main protagonist is depicted as a flawed human being, but infinitely more human than some of the other characters. The vision of a future ruled by companies developing animals for the "benefit" of mankind, and tablets to give people whatever they want (or what the advertisements tell them they want) is seriously scary. The fact that the scientists have such power over human and non-human life, that they can control employees and their families so totally, comes across as completely plausible. I wondered just how far in the future these events were supposed to be happening. It can't be that far.

There are only a few things that don't come across as realistic. Perhaps because the book was written a few years ago, but although Atwood has developed science in her genetic mutations etc., and the planet has warmed up so far as to make clothes unnecessary in what is obviously North America, and there has been enough time for all these companies to take over so many lives, I wondered why there has been no advance from email, DVDs, mobile (cell) phones and the like. In a world where MP3s, Facebook and Twitter have an ever-expanding presence, it feels odd to read about current technology that is in danger of being superseded dominating this world of the future. With such a vivid imagination, it is a shame that the author was unable to be a little more inventive about these aspects.

For the above reason, I feel unable to award a fifth star, but overall I enjoyed this book, and wanting to know what happened before kept me wanting to read on. Perhaps I would rate The Handmaid's Tale as a better book, but I would recommend this one whether or not you have read Margaret Atwood before.
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on 2 October 2009
It's a long time since I read any Atwood, and I couldn't remember an awful lot about those of her novels that I had read, beyond "A Handmaid's Tale". This book proved to be a very welcome return to one of the world's most radical contemporary novelists - her mind clearly no less sharp for her advancing years.

I'm not terribly fond of apocalyptic novels - I'm still trying to get over McCarthy's "The Road" and Bank's "Song of Stone". But Atwood's tale of the end of the world - or the very near end - is so full of intelligence and wit and contemporary resonance that I was entranced from the beginning. Whereas McCarthy and Banks resort to a dismal and somehow pointless nihilism, Atwood's analysis of the human race's self-contrived demise is utterly convincing, and yet not utterly depressing. There is hope here.

Along the way she creates some of the most vibrant characters to inhabit your mental landscape, including the wonderful inventions of the rakunk and pigoon. In summary, the book is just awe-inspiring - but let's hope it lacks in prophecy what it so admirably achieves in imagination.
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VINE VOICEon 9 July 2003
Snowman may be the only human left on earth. He is not entirely alone, as there is a group of beings, "Crakers" who have been genetically modified to remove all potentially negative or problematic human characteristics. But that makes Snowman feel isolated because he has thoughts and feelings and awareness they don't, and so he has no one to share those with.
Much of the novel consists of Snowman looking back on his childhood and earlier adulthood as Jimmy, and how he got to be here as he is. There's also a story about two boys as childhood friends, then their growing up and education - Jimmy and scientific genius Crake.
I thought this was an interesting but challenging novel - not difficult in style but because the nature of the story means it doesn't include many of the things most of us enjoy having in a novel. There are no other real characters in the present day, they only appear in Snowman's memories and as he perceives them. The action is also remembered in the past tense.
I thought this was well conceived and written, and that Margaret Atwood puts experience and knowledge of science to good use. The story of what has taken place is frighteningly plausible. However, the scale of the catastrophe means the story's unlikely to end happily, the book is quite depressing, and sensing how bored and lonely Snowman must be doesn't make for comfortable reading. There is some rather dry humour but every time I stopped laughing I was even more disturbed.
A novel to be impressed by and thoughtful about rather than necessarily to enjoy, I think.
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on 13 May 2009
This view of a dystopian future got better and better. The story starts with a young man called Jimmy who is living in a tree on the beach with some people who seem to be his followers. They think he's like a God and they don't question him or disagree with what he tells them. They call him Snowman.

As days go by Jimmy looks back on how he came to be there and we find out why he's the only one left in the world - or is he?

I thought this was a fascinating look at how the not too distant future could turn out and really felt sorry for Jimmy as he tried to make the best of his new life. One of my favourite parts is when he pretended to talk to the tribes creator, Crake, through his wristwatch, then relayed to the tribe people what Crake had replied. They believed him implicitly when he said he was the only one who could talk to Crake.

The chapter where Jimmy travels away from the beach to look round some empty houses scavenging for food, clothes, weapons etc. reminded me very much of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
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on 2 September 2013
As with The Year of the Flood - I just didn't get on with this book. Again, maybe not in the right place personally to appreciate it, as I have enjoyed 7 or 8 of her other books - although these were all earlier and written in the 70s-90s.
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on 27 February 2010
This is a very thought provoking tale and at times disturbing. It starts in an unusual way in the present tense but set in the future. Snowman is the last surviving truly human left and is seen as almost a god by the hybrid humans, the Crakers. We slowly piece together what happen as Snowman remembers his life and with it the fall of mankind.
This is a book that you get more from if you think over what you are reading, for there are many very strong issues held within this book. Issues such as genetic engineering, the power of multi-national conglomerates and most disturbing the trade of children throughout the world. Though set in the future and the book is a number of years old now, this does not make them less relevant today.
I was unhappy with the end, at least until I thought it over and then found that in fact it was a very clever conclusion with room for you to make your own decision as to what happened next. If you enjoy a book that will challenge you to think then this is the one for you.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 November 2008
This was really very good but I wanted the author to spend less time on the background of Snowman and Crake and, without giving anything away, more on what happened to result in Snowman living in a tree. I could have read another 100 pages just to be able to know more detail.

The ending was unsatisfactory is a lot of ways but the ending also resulted in the book lasting longer than just the time spent reading it. I often pick my next book up straight after finishing the previous book, but with Oryx and Crake I closed the book and just pondered it for some time.

There are many unanswered questions that result from reading the book but I think that may be a trait of Margaret Atwood. This is the second Atwood book I've read. The other book left me feeling in a similar way.

Well worth the read, I just wish it was longer!
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on 18 May 2003
Atwood has created another futuristic masterpiece. Where the Handmaid's Tale dwelt on a fundamentalist and extreme religious government, Oryx and Crake looks at where science is taking us in the future.
Oryx and Crake opens with Snowman, the sole survivor left of an unimaginable event that has wiped out all of the human population. It is through Snowman and his story, we learn of the events preceding the disaster.
Snowman's memory takes us back into a world that is not inconceivably impossible. A world of genetic engineering, where the ordinary people live in the Pleeblands, while the intellecuals live in compounds protected from raging bioforms. We meet the pigoons, pigs that are bred to have extra organs for transplanting and extraordinary animals that have been spliced together, such as rakunks (skunks without the smell) and snats (a rat with a forked tongue and long sinuous body).
Unlike the Handmaid's Tale, this leaves little hope for the future.
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