Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood paints a bleak view of the future. The main character, who goes by the name Snowman, believes he might be the only human left alive after a biological disaster. He is barely getting by, living on the remnants of the now non-existent society: cans of sausages, broken sunglasses, and warm bottles of beer when he can find them. He tends to a small group of genetically-modified humanoids while living in a tree to avoid artificially-created hybrid animals.
As the story progresses, Snowman reveals what led to the destruction of mankind through a series of flashbacks. When he was a boy (he was “Jimmy” back then), he lived in a corporate compound with his emotionally-absent parents, where he met Crake, a brilliant boy who would become Jimmy’s best friend. Everything had become so desensitized that in addition to playing computer games together, Jimmy and Crake also watched child pornography and live tortures and executions online. One of their favorite games is called Extinctathon, a game that ranks you based on your knowledge of extinct plants and animals. While browsing the Internet, they come across Oryx, a mysterious girl who secretly intrigues both Jimmy and Crake.
I know Oryx and Crake has a lot of fans, but I thought it was just so/so. Some of the ideas were intriguing: genetic engineering, transhumanism, corporate compounds, living in a post-apocalyptic world, etc.
My main problem with the book was its odd characters who were hard to sympathize with. Jimmy is kind of a mopey, pathetic guy who plays a fairly passive role in the story (though I did like his interest in old words no one uses anymore). Oryx is mysterious and frequently described as “wisp-like”… a hard character to understand. Crake is an aloof and brilliant scientist who has his own way of seeing things.
Overall, I liked the book and wanted to find out what had happened… I just didn’t love it. :-/ *Shrugs*
I should also mention that Oryx and Crake is the first book in a trilogy. The Year of the Flood takes place at the same time as the events in Oryx and Crake, but from a different perspective. MaddAddam, which was released this summer, is a continuation of the two previous novels.