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Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood Dear Ms. Atwood,

In the unlikely event that you are reading this I want you to know that all is forgiven.

"Whatchutalkinbout?" I hear you say, or perhaps I don't because it is fairly common knowledge that Margaret Atwood does not consider her sf books "science fiction", "speculative fiction" she allows but "science fiction" is a definite no-no because (according to her) it is full of talking squid-like aliens thingies (If this is news to you, you may want to look up her Wikipedia entry and other sources). Being a sci-fi fanatic I could not bring myself to read one of her books for the longest time because of this attitude.

My loss.

Now the way I figure it, when an author is this good, you got to forgive them their eccentricity. In all fairness it is her prerogative, and if she wants to call Oryx and Crake or [b:The Handmaid's Tale|38447|The Handmaid's Tale|Margaret Atwood|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1294702760s/38447.jpg|1119185] cookbooks or a vampire romances it doesn't make the books any less brilliant.

I quite like [b:The Handmaid's Tale|38447|The Handmaid's Tale|Margaret Atwood|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1294702760s/38447.jpg|1119185] but I did not feel like I was in her target readership and it is just another pretty good book among many good books that I read last year. Oryx and Crake on the other hand is just hits the spot! The story, the characters, the world building, the themes, and the prose combine together into an extraordinary novel, not a single misstep. I was going to complain about the frequent Present day to flashback structure but I became accustomed to and fascinated by both time lines.

Oryx and Crake is a dystopian and a post-apocalypse novel, these two subgenres of sf are often misunderstood to be interchangeable terms. The fact is in a dystopian world society still functions in horribly messed up in some "you would not want to live there" ways but it is still a society. In a post-apocalypse setting society has already fallen and there is no governing body of any kind. The "present day" framing story is set after the apocalypse has already occurred and the flashbacks gradually fill in the details of how this came about. In the near future dystopia where the flashback sections of the novel is set the world is dominated by multinationals and society is becoming increasingly depraved, food and natural resources are scarce. Scientists see genetic engineering and biotechnology as the answer to all of society's woes. Oryx and Crake is the story of what happen when genetic engineering is allowed to develop is unhindered as long as there is profit to be made. The eponymous Oryx and Crake are main characters but the actual protagonist is Jimmy who later renames himself Snowman, possibly the last human being alive, excluding a group of posthumans / subhumans whose welfare and survival Jimmy has taken responsibility for.

This review is already too long for its own good, I could go on and on about the relentlessly inventive elements of this book and how it eventually touches at the emotional core and tugs at the heartstrings. It leaves me in an unusually pensive frame of mind. Any book that can do that deserves the highest recommendation.