by Margaret Atwood
There is something about Margaret Atwood's books that both fascinates and repels me. I found The Handmaid's Tale to be chilling, in a remote way. Cat's Eye was terribly dismal and depressing to me. And Oryx and Crake gave me the creeps- but at the same time I simply could not put it down. It is a horrifying vision of the future- a future in which humankind has altered the face of the world beyond belief. The effects of global warming are only a sidenote here; popultation growth beyond control causing a huge rift between the wealthy and poor, spawning violence and crime alongside ruthless pursuit of scientific answers to all problems. Genetic engineering and other kinds of tinkering has created things like pigs that grow human organs, fake boulders that water your lawn, babies with chosen characteristics. And society's utter moral degredation. It all eventually falls into chaos, until a man who calls himself Snowman is the only real human being left, alongside a group of genetically altered people who are impervious to many ills- sunburn, disease, hunger (they eat grass). Jealousy, hate, love? humor? There's not a lot left to make them human, so many things in their brains have been rewired by the scientist Crake. Who was once Snowman's childhood friend.
The main character in this story is Snowman and his younger self, Jimmy. The plot follows him through his daily struggle to survive in the present altered and (to him) harsh new environment, full of dangerous wildlife and killing heat. He starts off on a journey back to the ruins of civilization for supplies, on the way reminiscing on his childhood and all the events that led up to the final disaster- how he watched the world change and the part he played in key events.
And now a word about what frustrated me; skip this paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers. I found some things in this book really disturbing. Namely, the blatant s-x everywhere, and how the boys would watch violence (executions, suicides, killing of animals etc) for entertainment. I suppose this was to show how far society had gone, but it was pretty sickening. And I really didn't understand why Jimmy was so drawn to Oryx. For a character with such an important role, there wasn't much told about her, and she hardly felt real to me. Perhaps she was meant to remain a mystery. Then the ending of the book drove me crazy, because I got excited just as Snowman did, and hoped in those final pages to see a confrontation or discovery of some kind, and I got- nothing. For the first time I wanted to throw a book across the room! But then I found out that her upcoming book Year of The Flood, is a sequel to this one, so maybe my questions will be answered. I'm going to wait a while before I read it, though. I can't take this kind of heavy stuff one book after another.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 376 pages, 2003
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