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Review: ‘Oryx and Crake’ by Margaret Atwood

Review: ‘Oryx and Crake’ by Margaret Atwood post image

Title: Oryx and Crake
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Fiction
Year: 2003
Acquired: Bought
Rating: ★★★½☆

Summary (Source): Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.

Review: Oryx and Crake started out really slow for me. Whether that was my reading slump or a fault of the book, I couldn’t tell you, but the first 100 or so pages felt like they dragged. There is quite a bit of setup to the story, which on most days wouldn’t seem slow, but in the middle of a reading slump seem tedious. In order to show how Crake became the mastermind of some sort of crazy world, you have to start with Jimmy and Crake as kids, and that part of the story is really more about setting up what kind of society these characters are functioning in.

But once the book got some momentum and began to explore the central relationships of the book — Jimmy/Snowman and Oryx and Crake — it starts to play on Atwood’s biggest strength, her ability to absolutely nail writing about people and how they connect with each other. Although Oryx and Crake is a sort of sci-fi/dystopia book, the focus on people and their relationships was the part I loved most.

One of the reasons I admire Atwood so much as a writer is that she writes books that have stellar plot lines that suck you in and won’t get go and that make you feel smarter having finished them. She balances that excitement/intelligence line so well, and Oryx and Crake is no exception. I can’t wait to grab a copy of the second book in the Madd Addam trilogy, The Year of the Flood.

Other Reviews:

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) January 24, 2012, 8:43 am

    I’m glad it picked up steam for you. I don’t have this book but my son’s told me I should read it before I read The Year of the Flood.

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:10 pm

      From what I understand, the timeline of both books runs parallel (so, The Year of the Flood isn’t after this one, but set while this one is happening). But, there’s so much world building in this book, I can’t imagine you get the same thing in book two.

      • tolmsted February 5, 2012, 12:12 pm

        They do run parallel – sorta’. The Year of the Flood continues on a little past where Oryx and Crake leaves off and I think it begins slightly before.

        As for world building, I think you’re in for a pleasant surprise Kim! I actually liked The Year of the Flood more than Oryx and Crake because of how much deeper it delves into this dystopian world (wow, that was a lot of “d’s”). It really fleshes out all the elements that are hinted at in Oryx and Crake. I think I enjoyed the sequel more than the first book – and I can’t wait for the third!

        • Kim February 9, 2012, 7:58 pm

          Oooo, that’s good news! I’m glad to hear the second one is as good or better. It’s rapidly moving up the TBR list 🙂

  • Andi January 24, 2012, 9:55 am

    “One of the reasons I admire Atwood so much as a writer is that she writes books that have stellar plot lines that suck you in and won’t get go and that make you feel smarter having finished them. She balances that excitement/intelligence line so well, and Oryx and Crake is no exception.”

    You said it much better than I could’ve, Kim. I love Atwood for the same reason. But I often find I have to be in just the right mood for her writing. It’s not the subject matter, it’s just something about her style. If I’m in the mood, I take off and finish the book in no time. If I’m not, it often gets laid aside.

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:11 pm

      Yeah, she does have a very distinctive style, across all of her books. I can’t quite pin it down, but I know what you mean.

      • softdrink January 25, 2012, 10:11 pm

        The only way I can describe it is dense. While I love her writing, her books require a ton of concentration from me. So yeah…I need to be in the right mood for her, too

        • Kim January 29, 2012, 6:22 pm

          That’s a good way tot describe it. There is always a lot going on in every sentence that requires concentration.

  • Tina January 24, 2012, 10:34 am

    I love Atwood best for the dystopia stuff and that’s saying something because I love everything I’ve read of hers.

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:12 pm

      I think that’s one of the cool things about Atwood — she writes such interesting books that they can grab you in a whole host of ways. I first read The Handmaid’s Tale which is more dystopia, but also love her more relationship-focused books like The Robber Bride.

  • MJ January 24, 2012, 5:25 pm

    I think this will be the next Atwood I read. I just finished Alias Grace and loved it. I’m trying to spread her stuff out a bit, though! I know there’s a lot, but I have a feeling I could speed through it if given the chance.

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:13 pm

      Oh I know, me too. I have a ton of Atwood on my unread shelves (well, like four, I think), but I read her slowly… it will be a sad day when I have no more of her books to read.

  • Jenny January 24, 2012, 6:19 pm

    The book of Atwood that I’ve liked so far (out of only three tries, so not an impressive sample size) was The Handmaid’s Tale, so I think another dystopian Atwood would be best for me. I need to make that happen!

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:14 pm

      Yes, I think so. This is more sci-fi dystopia than the social dystopia in that one, but it’s got a similar sensibility (if I’m remembering Handmaid’s Tale correctly). Which other books have you read?

  • Buried In Print January 24, 2012, 6:45 pm

    I respected this one when I finished, but it wasn’t one that I thought I would re-read; nonetheless, immediately upon finishing TYoftheF, I desperately wanted to re-read O&C. I finally talked myself out of it, because I know I’ll only want to re-read them both once the third is published (which won’t be too long, I hope), but the itch is still hovering beneath the surface. I think this trilogy — when completed — might provoke a similar feeling as Pat Barker’s, in the sense that the works are strong individually, but take on an unusual intensity in combination. I hope the third isn’t far off…

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:15 pm

      Interesting! That makes me even more excited for THOTF, although I’m waiting a couple months on that one, I think. I love books that seem strong when read in relation to each other. That’ll be a cool phenomenon to check out.

  • Teresa January 24, 2012, 6:46 pm

    I totally agree that Atwood is at her best in writing about people and their relationships, in whatever kind of setting. The futuristic elements in this didn’t interest me nearly as much as the characters’ dynamics. And my favorite Atwood novels tend to be the ones that focus on relationships (The Robber Bride, Cat’s Eye).

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:17 pm

      She’s just so good at writing female relationships, it’s ridiculous. And male relationships too, since that’s the center of this book. The Robber Bride and The Blind Assassin are my favorites for that. Although I guess TBA has some sci-fi elements in it too, just not really the main story.

  • Jeanne January 25, 2012, 6:07 pm

    I’m glad you liked this one, and glad you’re set up to enjoy the relationships in The Year of the Flood, including some things you probably wondered about as you read this one.

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:18 pm

      Yes, there are a lot of unanswered questions! Just from reading the back cover copy of TYOTF, I think it’s going to hit a lot of the things I want to read about.

  • Kailana January 25, 2012, 7:50 pm

    I really enjoyed this when I read it, but it was way back when it first came out. One of these days I need to reread it.

    • Kim January 25, 2012, 8:18 pm

      I suspect Atwood holds up well on a re-read, but I can’t think of a book that I’ve read more than once… weird.

  • Michelle January 25, 2012, 9:04 pm

    I’ve been wanting read more Atwood. She has such a great mind.

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 6:23 pm

      She really is. I love reading her books. I feel smart when I finished each one.

  • Kath January 25, 2012, 10:08 pm

    This is one of my favourite books and the one that got me hooked on Atwood (now my fave author). I read it for an undergrad lit course ages ago, and last year I read, loved and made my book club read The Year of the Flood. It’s also brilliant. I’m glad you enjoyed it, looking forward to your thoughts of YOTF! I’m hanging out for the final installment of this trilogy.

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 6:24 pm

      Cool! I got hooked on Atwood after The Handmaid’s Tale, which I’ve been meaning to reread.

  • Trish January 26, 2012, 9:50 pm

    I’ve had this one on the shelf for years but haven’t really been in the mood. Think it’s that whole “it started out really slow for me.” LOVE Atwood but they do require a bit of concentration.

    • Kim January 29, 2012, 6:25 pm

      Yeah, that can make a book hard to get into. I think I love Atwood too much to give up on one of her books though, you know? They always seem to come together for me.