Oryx and Crake

My continuing effort to read as a writer has landed me in the world of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. It’s a wonderful dystopian novel that is poetic in its descriptions. From the first page, the tone is bleak and you already have an idea of how the book ends. Getting there is the interesting part and worth reading.

Atwood tells the story of Jimmy in the present and how he got to his certain position in life. Most of the book is told in flashback on Jimmy’s part. I haven’t read a book told in this manner, which I found refreshing. I found the jumping back and forth between the past and present helped with the tempo. Just when you’ve had enough of Jimmy’s bleak present you’re transported back to his past to explain something.

The poetic descriptions I mentioned above are the downside. I felt that Atwood went off the deep end in describing. The first few pages were a great example. After the first page, I knew Jimmy was living in a post-apocalyptic world. I felt that the description, while well-done, served as too much. I was already wanting to move forward but Atwood wouldn’t let me.

The science fiction was pretty cool. Although I’ve read that Atwood doesn’t like the term sci-fi but speculative fiction – whatever. It’s not to hard sci-fi that I feel I’m reading a college text book and not too soft that it’s a children’s book. The focus is about bio-corporations that splice animal DNA then start to try on humans to develop pills, procedures, etc that make them younger, sexier, smarter, happier, and so on. I won’ t reveal too much more but Jimmy is part of major catastrophe involving some aggressive splicing.

I plowed through this book and almost forgot to read as a writer at a few points. No question the writing is good. Certain passages are long and drawn out but this book delivers beyond just science fiction. It probably more literary driven now that I’m looking back at it. Much like I mentioned in Starship Troopers, O and C is character driven. Learning how these characters grow through the novel is fascinating. Moreover, floating back and forth with Jimmy paints a haunting picture of what could have been with love and success. All the while there is a science fiction theme in the back drop.

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2 Comments

  1. I read Oryx and Crake many years ago and was delighted in the story. I too am a writer and ALWAYS allow myself to get lost in the story when the writing is good. I want to enjoy reading for reading’s sake. The writer in me sits back and does her own thing.

    I don’t write Sci-Fi but I read EVERY genre. If you have a few days to kill, you might want to pick up ‘The Thorn Birds’ by Colleen McCullough. This book taught me a lot about REAL human interaction.

  2. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Oryx and Crake, really need to get my hands on a copy!

    Sometimes I really like stories that are written in flashback, you learn all the secrets backwards and out of order, and sure, you might know the “ending” at the very beginning, but you’ve got to get to the real ending of the book to find out what really happened.


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