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.