Saturday, 28 March 2015

Book Review - Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake

The first in Margaret Atwood's dystopian trilogy, Oryx and Crake, centres around the protagonist Snowman (real name: Jimmy, real alias: The Abominable Snowman) and his exploration into the post-apocalyptic world he's found himself inhabiting, with only a dingy bed sheet to protect his modesty. Snowman's sole contact is with the primitive human-like creatures he calls Crakers, who bring him fish once a week, marvel at his 'second skin' and point, awestruck, at his watch. 

After seeing me reading in the library one college lunch time, my English teacher approached me and we spent twenty minutes swapping favourite genres and gushing over our most beloved authors. The next morning, she presented me with the first two novels in Atwood's trilogy - her doting squeals for dystopia barely decipherable. Despite the added pressure of holding the spine of someone else's delicate book in my hands, I soon found myself engrossed. 

Although the narrative maintains in Snowman's perspective throughout the novel, it experiences several time-shifts; from young Jimmy's first acquaintances with those who will later determine his fate - the fragile Oryx and the impenetrable brilliance of Crake - to older Jimmy's contemplation of the desolate landscape surrounding him and his realisation that he is quite possibly the last human on Earth. Despite the near-constant switching in perspective, the fast pace and forward momentum of the narrative keeps you absorbed, its secrets slowly revealed. 

The only real criticism I have of the novel is Atwood's lack of explanation of, and research into, the biotechnology that the plot of the novel revolves so heavily around. Science fiction books achieve their credibility from their readers through the plausibility of its science. Despite being a science fiction novel, Oryx and Crake had a significant absence of well-developed science fiction.

Nonetheless, Atwood retained my interest throughout, until I was hungrily demanding answers. Will Snowman fight starvation and injury to prevent an onslaught from the pigoons? Will he reveal how this biological disaster was spread to a global scale? And what lies behind the gates of the Pleeblands? 

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