“Pigs might not fly but they are strangely altered. So, for that matter, are waves and racoons, A man, once named Jimmy, now calls himself Snowman and lives in a tree, wrapped in old bed sheets. The voice of Oryx, the woman he loved, teasingly haunts him. And the green-eyed Children of Crake are, for some reason, his responsibility.”
I keep trying to read Margaret Atwood, she is so important, don’t you think? I studied The Handmaid’s Tale at school, probably not long after it was released. I had a young and progressive English teacher who insisted on talking about sex to us wide eyed 16 year-old girls. I wasn’t all that impressed with it to be honest. The talk or the book. I still watched the recent tv adaptation of the novel starring Elisabeth Moss which I thought was incredibly well done. I haven’t progressed to season two of the tv show yet because what could it cover once the words of Atwood have been wrung dry? Whilst watching the show I quickly revisited the actual book and found it much easier to engage with once enforced chapter reading was removed and years of reading had shown me that dystopian literature was entirely my bag. But other pieces of Atwood’s work have yet to inhabit my head.
I’ve started collecting Atwood’s novels and travel with a list of her bibliography so that I can pick up second hand copies in my favourite bookshops. I’ve quite a shelf going so far. But that’s about it. The trilogy of Oryx and Crake is hard to find though and I had to resort to buying this book new. I’d read enough reviews to realise that I wanted to read it but I had also read that the best book in the trilogy was the second book. I still started Oryx and Crake though.
The reviews were right.
This is a dystopian world where animals have been bred together by clever, visionary scientists all living in compounds filled with houses, offices and big malls but fenced off from the rest of the world. The book follows Jimmy, or the Snowman as he is now known, living in his present day but recalling growing up, stories of his parents and his friends filling his days and moving us towards explaining where he is and why he is there. Jimmy sleeps up in a tree to avoid being eaten. He wears only a bed sheet. Children, if that’s what they are, laugh at him and seek his counsel all in the same sitting. The Children of Crake are responsible for bringing him one fish a week to eat though he wishes he had made that a more regular request because he is hungry. So much so that he has to return to the compound to see if he can find more food. Or whisky.
Over time we learn what became of the world and how it was destroyed.
It is most certainly a pretty hopeless book which I found a tough and miserable read. Another Atwood mirror held to the world that we live in walking us towards a horrific future. A world where science is not conducted for good, for the progression of human kind, but just to get one over on another compound.
There was one vague mention in the book that indicated that probably all the bad, unemotional and task orientated scientists were autistic. Unlike Jimmy. I probably would have missed it if I weren’t who I am to be honest, but I didn’t. And it made me mad and sadder.
I thought it was interesting but really hard work and I was so glad when it was over. Reading it definitely forced me into a reading slump as it wasn’t an enjoyable read, it was more of a task. I know I still want to read book 2 because that was the one that was supposed to be good, I’m not sure when I’ll get round to it though. I’ll need some more accessible fiction to lighten me up a bit before I can focus like that again.
So what do you think? Is Atwood the Queen of dystopian fiction or over-hyped? Do you love her or loathe her? What is your favourite Atwood book? Should I persevere with the Oryx and Crake trilogy?