Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood
Seal (2004), Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages
“To stay human is to break a limitation.” (page 362)
Snowman is an hermit who lives among the Crakers, a bio-genetic modification of human-like creatures. The Crakers are also called The Children of Crake.
Snowman, a man once known as Jimmy, tells to the Crakers about Oryx and Crake: a woman and a man of the past.
Snowman invents for the Crakers a religion based on Oryx, the guardian of the animals, and Crake, the creator God.
In flashbacks, Snowman reveals his past: Jimmy and Crake were friends since their childhood. Their favourite pastimes was to play computer-games: one of these is called Extinctathon, a game which requires an immense knowledge of extinct animals and plants species.
Surfing on the web, Jimmy and Crake find an Asian child website where both friends are affected by the eyes of a young girl.
After finishing school, Jimmy becomes a writer, and Crake a bio-engineer.
Although many years had passed, Crake haunted by the girl of the Asian website, finds her, and she takes the pseudonym of Oryx.
Jimmy and Crake become Oryx’s lovers.
Crake creates a virulent genetic disease that kills most humans, except for Jimmy (he was unknowingly vaccinated by Crake).
Crake’s project was to create a world of intelligent life: the Crakers. He wants to replace all Homo Sapiens with the Crakers, a peaceful and environmentally friendly human-like creatures.
Crake also wants that Jimmy acts as a Guardian of the Crakers.
When Crake meets Jimmy they talk about the disease, already spread throughout the world. The meeting ends up with Crake killing Oryx, and Jimmy shooting Crake.
Jimmy, now Snowman, reminds his promise to Oryx and becomes the Guardian of the Crakers.
Jimmy’s job with the Crakers could be hopeless: “Hopeless, hopeless.
What is work? Work is when you build things
What is build? - or grow things
What is grow? - either because people would hit and kill you if you didn’t or else because they would give you money if you did.
What is money?
No, he can’t say any of that. Crake is watching over you, he’ll say.
Oryx loves you.” (page 436)
Margaret Atwood gathers from all around the world suggestions about genetics, diseases, and ideas about present and future of the world.
“Maybe that’s the real him, the last Homo Sapiens - a white illusion of a man, here today, gone tomorrow, so easily shoved over, left to melt in the sun, getting thinner and thinner until he liquefies and trickles away altogether. As Snowman is doing now.” (page 271)
Snowman wears a watch (not-working) suggesting that the world-time has stopped, or better the time works like a circle:
every a while returns the Genesis.
The main character of Oryx and Crake is Snowman (the Yeti, the abominable snowman: an ape-like creature), maybe Atwood is referring to Darwin’s idea about the humankind coming from the apes. This time Snowman is a witness (as Guardian) of the new race (the Crakers).
Atwood suggesting her secular version of the Genesis abandons the unanswered questions of the Bible, recovering, resuming, and telling about a new ape (Snowman) picking up broken pieces so to start again the circle of life.
Like the apes, Snowman has to abandon the stage: “Time to go.”
Although Oryx and Crake reminds other ‘bleak’ books (such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy), the second part of the book (when Snowman starts the journey searching for food), is narrated under a new light: the light of knowledge, knowing the future means knowing where the circle of the time has to start again.
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