Where is the line between scientific discovery and ethical responsibility? How far can we go towards making our world “better” before we ultimately consume it, and ourselves? Margaret Atwood plays on such questions with Oryx and Crake, an exquisite, haunting novel that delves into several genres–apocalyptic fiction, sci-fi, action, romance, futuristic, scientific, cautionary tale.
Told from the perspective of a man who refers to himself as Snowman, we discover that he is the last actual human left on a ravaged earth, holding a tenuous peace with a constructed race known as the Crakers. It is only through a series of flashbacks that we discover Snowman was actually a young man named Jimmy, a boy raised in a scientific compound, whose mother disappears about the same time he meets Crake, a brilliant scientist in the making. During their forays into internet porn, they encounter a girl’s face that captures Jimmy’s heart. Later, he meets a young woman whom he is certain is the girl–he calls her Oryx, though we cannot be sure that she is actually the same person.
How the world collapses and why the Crakers exist are a gripping mystery, one that captured me all the way through. I’ll spare the dirty details, because if you have not read this yet, you simply must. Oryx and Crake is a compelling mystery that dovetails with a breathtaking vision about what our world can look like if we are too careless or ambitious. Atwood’s vision is chilling, but there are many elements that you will find uncomfortably familiar.