Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oryx and Crake / 0-385-72167-6
In what seems an impossible step, Atwood has shown that she can evolve as a writer to the point that she actually surpasses herself - "Oryx and Crake" is, in its own way, an even better dystopia than "Handmaid's Tale". It is also, unusually from Atwood, written entirely from the perspective of a male protagonist.
Atwood has cleverly lifted the most predominant aspects of our culture and has carried them to a logical extreme. Given a bloodthirsty culture that thrives on reality television (where we daily see real life people marrying, reproducing, and divorcing on television), Atwood spins a culture that loves suicide reality television, complete with close-up interviews, tearful goodbyes, and graphic deaths, all in high definition color. Given a scientific community with incredible genetic advancements, Atwood writes into existence the genetically altered pig, ripe for organ removal, with twelve human hearts all lined up inside in a row. Ironically, these pigs will be one of the few species best suited to survive the end of the world.
What is most compelling about this novel is that Atwood makes no judgments. A genetically engineered virus wipes out humanity, but it is left to the reader to decide whether the scientists should have been stopped long ago, or whether they should have been allowed even more leeway in order to protect us. Newly engineered humans - humans that more closely resemble plants than people - are the only ones immune to the virus, but is their existence a victory of science or a perversion of nature? They do not have freewill in the sense that we do - they do not fully understand or appreciate love, loss, or jealousy; they mate when they come into season, and they die after short, brief lives. Their existence impacts the earth far less dramatically than our own, but is this necessarily an improvement? Atwood provides us with the facts, and we alone decide whether it is an earthly rendition of heaven or hell.
~ Ana Mardoll
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