Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (28/107)

Margaret Atwood is one of those writers whose ideas and turns of phrase will periodically make stop me in my tracks while I’m reading and go, Damn, but I wish I could write like that.

(Keep reading good things, I suppose, and keep growing up, and I might get there eventually.)

That said, I did not really enjoy Oryx and Crake. Her ideas are unparalleled, both in the post-apocalyptic world that her viewpoint character lives in now, and the pre-apocalyptic but circling-the-drain world that we see in his flashbacks. She has a gift for bringing her worlds alive, with a wealth of detail that makes them feel vibrant, plausible, and lived-in. The problem in this is her characters, because her viewpoint character — called Snowman after the apocalypse, Jimmy before — is an unbelievable loser, alternating between pathetic and distasteful, and the titular Oryx and Crake, when they’re introduced later, are more interesting but equally difficult to connect to. I found that I was reading for the world and not the people in it — I was interested in the big picture and curious to find out how everything had gone to hell, but the less of Jimmy/Snowman’s point of view I had to put up with, the better.

Verdict: read A Handmaid’s Tale instead.

ETA: I wrote all that when I was about 30% of the way through the book, and after finishing it anyway there’s nothing I would add except that the last chapter is totally unnecessary and Oryx turns out to be even more of a letdown than I thought she would be. Jesus H. Christ, Atwood is one of the really good feminist writers out there, and this feels like it could have been written by a straight white guy with a “feminist madlibs” card.

Verdict: watch Dredd instead! Because it’s also post-apocalyptic but it has far better female characters, and I’m writing fanfic for it, and I will be so sad if no one reads it.

2 thoughts on “Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (28/107)

  1. Everything about this review is correct. I was trying to think of something to add to it, but 1) it has been about 5 years since I read the book, and 2) your review is just startling accurate. Especially the feminist madlibs part (very amusing). ‘O&C’ was very mediocre; didn’t even graduate from ‘a book I must borrow from the library’ to ‘a book I must now buy’, and afterwards I had to dust off my battered old copy of Cat’s Eye again – ah, there’s a book – to remind myself of how much I love Atwood. And also I love her for this:

    You fit into me
    like a hook into an eye

    a fish hook
    an open eye

  2. Some writers need to stop when they’re ahead, because all they accomplish by churning out crap is to make you second-guess why you ever thought they were a good writer in the first place. -_-

    Seriously though, WHAT THE FUCK was up with Oryx? She was a mindless mash-up between “wisdom of the Orient” and “southeast asia and prostitues, amirite?” Her entire purpose in that whole damn book was to be enigmatic and then DIE.

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