Saturday, May 11, 2013

Off the Bookshelf - Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake"

Man, that Atwood has some imagination. A genetically-engineered super plague... Pigoons, wolvogs, and rakunks... Hushed conspiracies to kill led by a scientific elite with a lot to protect...
Or is it really all that imaginative? 

It seemed to me, as I read, that many of these events she's described could at a point become reality. "Oryx and Crake" seems almost a comment on moral responsibility, especially as our ever-expanding technology becomes more and more powerful and we push further and further in our search for absolute understanding and control. (On the other hand, maybe it's not a comment on anything, maybe it's just another of Atwood's creative outlets!) This a bleakly dystopian world, and I found I wanted nothing more than to know how these things happened, how the world had changed so drastically, so catastrophically. 

The story is told through glimpses of the "past" (still the future in our own time) and the "present," a wasteland teeming with strange hybrid species created in labs, one that provides an utterly hopeless future. This is the world through which you travel, alongside Snowman, who was once Jimmy, back when the world was still the world:

"He wouldn't mind a shower - this place probably has a gravity-flow rainwater backup tank - but there's some form of guck in the tub. He takes a bar of soap, for later, and checks the cabinet for sunblock, without success. A BlyssPlus container, half full; a bottle of aspirin, which he snags. He thinks about adding a toothbrush, but he has an aversion to sticking a dead person't toothbrush into his mouth, so he takes only the toothpaste. For a Whiter Smile, he reads. Fine with him, he needs a whiter smile, though he can't at the moment think what for." {151}

Despite the grim and ominous underpinnings, this really is a fascinating story and I definitely recommend it, even you're not particularly science-fiction friendly.

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