Snowman (as in Abominable), who was once known as Jimmy, appears to be the last human being on earth. His existence doesn’t seem much worth living–the environment is in ruins and he cannot survive the blazing sun, but must always be covered. Genetically engineered animals–pigoons and wolvogs –roam freely, and Snowman is always in danger of being ripped to shreds and eaten.
Yet Snowman has a purpose. He must guard the safety of the simple and guileless ‘Crakers,’ a new species of human-like creatures of many colors (but all of whom have green eyes).
As Snowman takes a journey back to the RejoovenEsence compound from which he and the Crakers fled (he is now starving and needs supplies), the story takes the reader to Jimmy’s pre-apocalyptic life, showing how the present came to pass. In a world of social inequality and injustice, the smart and the lucky lived in company-owned compounds while everyone else lived in the pleeblands. Work in the compounds often centered on genetic engineering, which promoted medical miracles (human brains grown in pig bodies, for example) as well as new sources of food.
Jimmy had two great friends that he depended on. The genius Crake and Jimmy went way back to pre-adolescence when they used to play the video game Extinctathon together (from which Crake got his name) and look at HottTotts, a porn website which took advantage of small children. It’s on this website that Crake first saw Oryx, who was only about eight years old at the time. He wondered about the horrors of her life and secretly loved her. When he met her in person much later, his love became all the greater as she is kind and empathetic. Oryx is a surprisingly forgiving person, considering that she was sold into sexual slavery as a child and lived as an object for all of her young life. As a young adult, she was hired by Crake to be his assistant in cultivating the Crakers.
What happened to Crake’s brainchild, the Paradise Project, as well as Crake and Oryx along with the rest of the world’s population is at the shocking heart of this tale.
A chilling can’t-put-it-down page turner, Oryx and Crake is a must read for all fans of science fiction and dystopian future–and for most of the rest of us as well.
High school housekeeping: Students on the lookout for great dystopian fiction must read Oryx and Crake. The world building is excellent and feels like a quite possible future. The writing is great, the characters are well developed and the end is a stunning heartbreaker. Atwood is writing for adults, so this is a more meaty fiction than you’ll find in many YA future dystopias. But if you’re a good reader, it will also be more rewarding. Oryx and Crake is the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy. Check it out–you’ll have to keep going.