Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cannonball Read #1: Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake"

SO.... let's talk about the end of the world. What a dramatic opening. I chose Margaret Atwood's book because a friend of mine recommended her other novel "the Handmaid's Tale" to me and I enjoyed it. This book however was a particularly difficult slog. It is written from the perspective of Snowman, one of the last humans on Earth (as far as he knows). All that is left are the genetically altered creations of his childhood best friend, Crake. Some of these creatures are the snat (snake and rat combination) and the wolvogs (cuddly little dogs with vicious wolf tendencies).

Now my first pet peeve with this book is that Oryx doesn't play a really crucial role in the whole plot line. She just serves as a stand in character against which Snowman can play out his fantasies. Whereas we get to know him in obsessive detail, she remains somewhat of an enigma. I would say that this book is like that insufferable Tom Hanks movie where he talks to a beat up volleyball for 75 minutes. Yea, that was awful and in some ways this book was too. I guess my problem is that this guy whines on and on about how apathetic he was, and how regular, and how un-special as compared to Oryx and Crake, and it left me wondering why do I want to listen to this self-proclaimed "normal" person talk for the entire book.

Having said all of that, there are some cool sci-fiesque, end-of-the-world ideas in the book that I enjoyed. For example, Crake talks about how civilization can never be rebuilt if it collapses. And his reasoning is that the discovery of metal and its uses was crucial to the development of the civilized world. I mean, where would we be without the axe? But in this reality, because all of the surface metals have been used already, in the next civilization cycle no one will be able to invent these handy tools. That really struck me because in all the end of time science fiction that I've read in my lifetime, no one has really come forward with such a simple deterrent to the actual end of civilization forever.

At the end of the day, I understand the point of the book, ie. the increasing emphasis on the material and general human dissatisfaction with their lot in life but I couldn't really get behind her on the way it was put across.

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