book club, review

Book Club #8 – Oryx and Crake

The latest book of the Book Club I’ve read is Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood.

We chose this book because it was the favourite of one of the Book Club members (we’ve been a steady three since the beginning, so we get to choose whatever we want to read) and I had been looking forward to reading it.

It took me ages to finish it, and I’m afraid I’ve dragged the calendar behind a bit for the other two. It’s not that I hated it or anything like that, it’s just that I didn’t seem to get through it at all. I felt like I was reading for hours (as in starting straight from work and stopping in bed) and the pages weren’t moving at all.

The story follows this guy, Snowman, who lives in a post-apocalyptic place and time. We don’t know what has happened, but we know he’s the only one like himself (like us). He lives near a tribe of creatures, people-like, called the Crakers. These creatures are beautiful, they don’t know shame or lies and therefore, they have no need of covering themselves. They ask questions and want to learn, and consider Snowman a bit of a sage who has all the answers.

The book is a mixture between the now and the then, with Snowman telling us his story by means of memories.

Through these memories, we learn that his name used to be Jimmy. The world was different from the one we know now, and cities were confined into compounds where relatively affluent and clever people used to live, the good society if you like, a bit like the suburbs. Everyone had a job and worked in some sort of lab or some other. A thing that was very interesting, but I had some trouble with was the names, such as pigoons, which are some sort of pigs or boars in which they perform genetic experiments.

Jimmy becomes friends with Crake (Glenn) and they normally play videogames, watch TV and smoke joints, as your regular rebel teenage boy will do, only the TV they watch is online programmes about torture, porn and live-cams… So yeah, probably as your regular teenage boy then, I guess.

Anyway, Crake is super clever, and he beats Jimmy at every game, and they have these profound conversations and all that. Jimmy is your average guy, really, a bit on the dreamer side and inclined towards art, while Crake has a more scientific approach to life (and thinks the human race is the worst). They play this game called Extinctathon which is some sort of trivia game about extinct species (if I recall correctly).

Snowman decides to go back to the compounds when running out of supplies. We don’t know what happened to Crake, or who Oryx is yet, which is very confusing. The Crakers refer to animals and nature as the children of Oryx (if I recall correctly again), so obviously they are creating some mythology about them.

Through the flashbacks/memories, we learn that Jimmy’s mother ran away, and we are told his life from studying to working in the compounds, from losing contact with Crake to becoming friends again.

On one of the Internet channels they watch when young, they see a very young girl who is a sex slave and Jimmy becomes obsessed with her. He carries a screenshot of her face around and keeps coming back to her over and over again through the story. We learn she’s Oryx. Later on, Crake hires her to teach things to the Crakers. It seems he’s working on a project so that parents can design their own children and in theory, the Crakers would be the basic model for it. He is also working on a birth control project.

Crake and Oryx are together, but Jimmy is in love with Oryx since he saw her in the video, and they end up together too. He keeps asking her about it, and she keeps denying anything sexual happened to her.

I think my biggest problem with the book is that I didn’t really get into it. I liked it, but I didn’t get it. Sure, there was an apocalypse, which we only find out at the end was brought on by Crake, although we still don’t know exactly why. It could have been because he wanted to create a better human race or, as Jimmy suspected, because of jealousy after learning Oryx was cheating on him with his friend. Crake created a bioweapon and inoculated Jimmy with the antibodies. Only the three of them are immune to the virus.

Crake kills Oryx and Jimmy kills Crake. He locks himself in a room and waits until the virus has killed everyone before releasing the Crakers (oh, gosh, that totally sounded like release the kraken, and now I’ve lost my train of thought) and taking them to the beach, where they can live a peaceful life.

I don’t know. I can’t explain the book any better, because I’m still not sure I understand it. We haven’t had the Book Club meeting yet, so maybe after our discussion I’m able to see something else and add to this post, but that’s as much as I got.

I really liked the book because it was different and Margaret Atwood has an interesting way of writing. The story confused me a bit at times with so much back and forth, and I really wanted to separate the bits from the present and the past and read them as separate stories.

The books ends with Snowman going back to the beach, to the Crakers, after his expedition into the compounds and learning that three humans like him had been to visit them while he was away. He decides to look for them in case they’re dangerous, because he had promised Crake he would take care of his creatures. The Crakers have started asking questions that could lead them to create myths and legends, and even built a rudimentary statue of Snowman to bring him back. It seems that’s a bad thing because it would mean the beginning of the end, they would start changing the way they think and creating more complex thoughts that would eventually develop into the society Crake had wanted to destroy.

Have you read Oryx and Crake? What did you think? Have you read any other of the MaddAddam books? Did you understand them? I would love to read what you thought about this book, because I’m still a bit confused…

The next book we’re reading is Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson. We’re supposed to read it in October, but I haven’t started yet, so who knows!