Margaret Atwood is a genius. I have found some of her longer works inaccessible, but ‘Oryz and Crake’ is absorbing and thought-provoking. It is the first of a trilogy, followed by ‘The Year of the Flood’ and ‘MaddAddam’.
Snowman (aka Jimmy and Thickney) is surviving in a post-Apocalyptic landscape. He lives on the coast, taking care of the Crakers, a gentle and peaceful race. Survival depends on being able to forage water, food, weapons from the remains of civilisation. He also needs to find shades and protection from the blazing sun. Snowman is lonely and his mind keeps drawing him back to the past – to his childhood, university days, his friendship with the brilliant Crake and his relationship with Oryx. Through these flashbacks, the reader discovers his connection to the downfall of the human race as we know it – and it’s not pleasant.
The tantalising aspect of the book is that the scenario seems so plausible. Huge scientific multi-nationals have come up with technological solutions to the problems of world over-population, disease and conflict. ‘Pigoons’ are animals which have been created as hosts for growing multiple kidneys; more cost-effective and less distressing than ‘cloning a harvest child’. Having cured all the known illnesses, the pharmaceutical giants are running out of ways to make money, so, they manufacture some new strains and distribute them via innocuous vitamin pills. The wherewithal to do these things probably exists in 2014, which made me feel more than slightly uneasy whilst reading.
‘Oryx and Crake’ is a flight of fancy But it left me feeling that our plane may already be taxi-ing along the runway.