Oryx and Crake

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Overview

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. 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 ...

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Overview

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. 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. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

Shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Towering and intrepid. . . . Atwood does Orwell one better.” —The New Yorker

“Atwood has long since established herself as one of the best writers in English today, but Oryx and Crake may well be her best work yet. . . . Brilliant, provocative, sumptuous and downright terrifying.” —The Baltimore Sun

“Her shuddering post-apocalyptic vision of the world . . . summons up echoes of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess and Aldous Huxley. . . . Oryx and Crake [is] in the forefront of visionary fiction.” —The Seattle Times

“A book too marvelous to miss.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Majestic. . . . Keeps us on the edges of our seats.” —The Washington Post

“A compelling futuristic vision. . . . Oryx and Crake carries itself with a refreshing lightness. . . . Its shrewd pacing neatly balances action and exposition. . . . What gives the book a deeper resonance is its humanity.” –Newsday

“[A] stunning new novel–possibly her best since The Handmaid’s Tale.” –Time Out New York

“A delightful amalgam for the sophisticated reader: her perfectly placed prose, poetic language and tongue-in-cheek tone are ubiquitous throughout, as if an enchanted nanny is telling one a dark bedtime story of alienation and ruin while lovingly stroking one’s head.” –Ms.

“Truly remarkable. . . . As fun as it is dark. . . . A feast of realism, science fiction, satire, elegy and then some. . . . Atwood has concocted here an all-too-possible vision. . . . [She is] a master.” –The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)

“A roll of dry, black, parodic laughter. . . . One of the year’s most surprising novels.” –The Economist

“Sublime. . . . Good, solid, Swiftian science fiction from a . . . literary artist par excellence.” –The Denver Post

“Dances with energy and sophisticated gallows humor. . . . [Atwood’s] wry wit makes dystopia fun.” –People

“A crackling read. . . . Atwood is one of the most impressively ambitious writers of our time.” –The Guardian

“Gorgeously written, full of eyeball-smacking images and riveting social and scientific commentary. . . . A cunning and engrossing book by one of the great masters of the form.” –The Buffalo News

“A powerful vision. . . . Very readable.” –The New York Times Book Review

“Brilliant, impossible to put down. . . . Atwood . . . is at once commanding and enchanting. Piercingly intelligent and piquantly witty, highly imaginative and unfailingly compassionate, she is a spoonful-of-sugar storyteller, concealing the strong and necessary medicine of her stinging social commentary within the balm of dazzlingly complicated and compelling characters and intricate and involving predicaments.” –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Original and chilling. . . . Powerful, inventive, playful and difficult to resist.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Brilliantly constructed. . . . Jimmy and Crake grip like characters out of Greek tragedy. . . . Atwood herself is one of our finest linguistic engineers. Her carefully calibrated sentences are formulated to hook and paralyse the reader.” –The Daily Telegraph

“Atwood does not disappoint.” –The Dallas Morning News

“Gripping. . . . Bursts with invention and mordant wit, none of which slows down its headlong pace. . . . Atwood is in sleek form. . . . [Her] prescience is unsettling.” –St. Petersburg Times

“Biting, black humor and absorbing storytelling. . . . Atwood entices.” –USA Today

“Compelling. . . . Packed with fascinating ideas. . . . Her most accessible book in years, a gripping, unadorned story.” –The Onion

“This superlatively gripping and remarkably imagined book joins The Handmaid’s Tale in the distinguished company of novels (The Time Machine, Brave New World and 1984) that look ahead to warn us about the results of human shortsightedness.” –The Times (London)

“Absorbing. . . . Atwood ahs not lost her touch for following the darker paths of speculative fiction–she easily creates a believable, contained future world.” –Seattle Weekly

“Engrossing. . . . A novel of ideas, narrated with an almost scientific dispassion and a caustic, distanced humor. The prose is fast and clean.” –Rocky Mountain News

“Riveting and thought-provoking. . . . Keen and cutting. . . . [Atwood] has grown into one of the most consistently imaginative and masterful fiction writers writing in English today.” –Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Washington Post
Set in a future some two generations hence, Oryx and Crake can hold its own against any of the 20th century's most potent dystopias -- Brave New World, 1984, The Space Merchants -- with regard to both dramatic impact and fertility of invention, while it leaves such lesser recent contenders as Paul Theroux and Doris Lessing in the dust. — Thomas M. Disch
USA Today
A less talented writer might have preached. But Atwood entices with deadpan humor and wry asides from Snowman's sunbaked subconscious, commenting on the fall of civilization. — Jakie Pray
The New York Times
This is the intention of the novel: to goad us to thought by making us screen in the mind a powerful vision of competence run amok. What Atwood could not have intended, and what is no less alarming and exponentially more urgent, is the resonance between her rampaging plague scenario and the recent global outbreak of SARS. Moving from book to newspaper, or newspaper to book, the reader realizes, with a jolt, how the threshold of difference has been lowered in recent months. The force of Atwood's imagining grows in direct proportion to our rising anxiety level. And so does the importance of her implicit caution. — Sven Birkerts
Publishers Weekly
Atwood has visited the future before, in her dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale. In her latest, the future is even bleaker. The triple whammy of runaway social inequality, genetic technology and catastrophic climate change, has finally culminated in some apocalyptic event. As Jimmy, apparently the last human being on earth, makes his way back to the RejoovenEsencecompound for supplies, the reader is transported backwards toward that cataclysmic event, its full dimensions gradually revealed. Jimmy grew up in a world split between corporate compounds (gated communities metastasized into city-states) and pleeblands (unsafe, populous and polluted urban centers). His best friend was "Crake," the name originally his handle in an interactive Net game, Extinctathon. Even Jimmy's mother-who ran off and joined an ecology guerrilla group when Jimmy was an adolescent-respected Crake, already a budding genius. The two friends first encountered Oryx on the Net; she was the eight-year-old star of a pedophilic film on a site called HottTotts. Oryx's story is a counterpoint to Jimmy and Crake's affluent adolescence. She was sold by her Southeast Asian parents, taken to the city and eventually made into a sex "pixie" in some distant country. Jimmy meets Oryx much later-after college, after Crake gets Jimmy a job with ReJoovenEsence. Crake is designing the Crakers-a new, multicolored placid race of human beings, smelling vaguely of citron. He's procured Oryx to be his personal assistant. She teaches the Crakers how to cope in the world and goes out on secret missions. The mystery on which this riveting, disturbing tale hinges is how Crake and Oryx and civilization vanished, and how Jimmy-who also calls himself "the Snowman," after that other rare, hunted specimen, the Abominable Snowman-survived. Chesterton once wrote of the "thousand romances that lie secreted in The Origin of Species." Atwood has extracted one of the most hair-raising of them, and one of the most brilliant. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The doyenne of Canadian literature (she's won both a Booker and a Giller Prize), the versatile Atwood has an uncanny ability to write in a number of literary genres. Like The Handmaid's Tale, her latest work is set in a near future that is all too realistic and almost too terrifying to contemplate. Having once led a life of comfort and self-indulgence, Jimmy, now known as Snowman, has survived an ecological disaster that has destroyed the world as we know it. As he struggles to function without everything he once knew, including time, Snowman reflects on the past, on his relationships with two characters named Oryx and Crake, and on the role of each individual in the destruction of the natural world. From its opening scene, in which the children of Crake scavenge through debris, to its horrifying conclusion, this novel challenges the reader, cleverly pairing familiar aspects of the world with parts that have been irrevocably changed. A powerful and perturbing glimpse into a dark future, this is Atwood's impassioned plea for responsible management of our human, scientific, and natural resources and a novel that will cast long and lingering shadows in the reader's mind, well after the book is closed. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Caroline Hallsworth, City of Greater Sudbury, Ont. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Environmental unconcern, genetic engineering, and bioterrorism have created the hollowed-out, haunted future world of Atwood's ingenious and disturbing 11th novel, bearing several resemblances to The Handmaid's Tale (1985). Protagonist Jimmy, a.k.a. "Snowman," is perhaps the only living "remnant" (i.e., human unaltered by science) in a devastated lunar landscape where he lives by his remaining wits, scavenges for flotsam surviving from past civilizations, dodges man-eating mutant predators, and remembers. In an equally dark parallel narrative, Atwood traces Jimmy's personal history, beginning with a bonfire in which diseased livestock are incinerated, observed by five-year-old Jimmy and his father, a "genographer" employed by, first, OrganInc Farms, then, the sinister Helthwyzer Corporation. One staggering invention follows another, as Jimmy mourns the departure of his mother (a former microbiologist who clearly foresaw the Armageddon her colleagues were building), goes through intensive schooling with his brilliant best friend Glenn (who renames himself Crake), and enjoys such lurid titillations as computer games that simulate catastrophe and global conflict (e.g., "Extinctathon," "Kwiktime Osama") and Web sites featuring popular atrocities (e.g., "hedsoff.com"). Surfing a kiddie-porn site, Jimmy encounters the poignant figure of Oryx, a Southeast Asian girl apprenticed (i.e., sold) to a con-man, then a sex-seller (in sequences as scary and revolting as anything in contemporary fiction). Oryx will inhabit Jimmy's imagination forever, as will the perverse genius Crake, who rises from the prestigious Watson-Crick Institute to a position of literally awesome power at the RejoovenEsenseCompound, where he works on a formula for immortality, creates artificial humans (the "Children of Crake"), and helps produce the virus that's pirated and used to start a plague that effectively decimates the world's population. And Atwood (The Blind Assassin, 2000, etc.) brings it all together in a stunning surprise climax. A landmark work of speculative fiction, comparable to A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, and Russian revolutionary Zamyatin's We. Atwood has surpassed herself.
From the Publisher
“Ingenious and disturbing.… A landmark work of speculative fiction, comparable to A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World.… Atwood has surpassed herself.” — Kirkus Reviews starred review

“Rigorous in its chilling insights and riveting in its fast-paced ‘what if’ dramatization, Atwood’s superb novel is as brilliantly provocative as it is profoundly engaging.” — Booklist starred review

Oryx and Crake is Atwood at her playful, allegorical best.” — Globe and Mail

“[Oryx and Crake is written] with a style and grace that demonstrate again just how masterful a storyteller she is. If one measure of art’s power is its ability to force you to face what you would very much rather not, Oryx and Crake — the evocative tale of a nightmarish near-future — is an extraordinary work of art, one that reaffirms Atwood’s place at the apex of Canadian literature.” — Maclean’s

“Atwood’s new masterpiece.…Extraordinary.… [Atwood pulls] back the curtain on her terrible vision with such tantalizing precision, its fearsome implications don’t fully reveal themselves until the final pages.… A darkly comic work of speculative fiction.” — W Magazine U.S.

“For all its artistic achievement, this novel poses serious questions.… Margaret Atwood is a consummate artist, yes, but her work also pricks our social and ethical consciousness. That is a rare combination, an important achievement.…” — Globe and Mail

“Atwood’s great talent for narrative has never been displayed to better effect.” — Toronto Star

“Riveting.…Chesterton once wrote of the ‘thousand romances that lie secreted in The Origin of Species.’ Atwood has extracted one of the most hair-raising of them, and one of the most brilliant.” — Publishers Weekly

Oryx and Crake is Atwood at her best — dark, dry, scabrously witty, yet moving and studded with flashes of pure poetry. Her gloriously inventive brave new world is all the more chilling because of the mirror it holds up to our own. Citizens, be warned.” — The Independent U.K.

Oryx and Crake can hold its own against any of the 20th century’s most potent dystopias — Brave New World, 1984, The Space Merchants — with regard to both dramatic impact and fertility of invention.…Oryx and Crake showcases a nightmare version of the present era of globalization on a globe coming apart at its ecological seams.… It is a scathing because bang-on portrait of the way we live now.…Majestic.…” — Washington Post

“Is there a more accomplished or versatile writer, in Canada, than Margaret Atwood?… Atwood is on top of the times — intuits them, really.… The moral questions of Oryx and Crake are already in play.” — National Post profile

Oryx and Crake is a broad canvas that allows Atwood to show off her brilliant talent for satire and wordplay, as well as her considerable love and knowledge of the natural world.” — Quill & Quire

“Wonderfully vivid, and the sardonic unveiling of future history makes for a strong narrative drive.” — National Post

“Perfectly constructed, funny, and satiric. It is inventive yet prophetic, in fact, apocalyptic and weirdly feasible.… It is brilliant.” — Winnipeg Free Press

Oryx and Crake is set just the other side of the evening news, in a future so close we can smell its stench.…Atwood has outdone herself here.” — Georgia Straight

“Contemporary novelists rarely write about science or technology. Margaret Atwood tackles both — and more — in one of the year’s most surprising novels.” — The Economist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385721677
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/30/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 24,720
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.93 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret  Atwood

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty-five works of fiction, poetry, and essays, published in more than forty countries. Her most recent works include the Booker Prize—winning novel The Blind Assassin and Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. Ms. Atwood lives in Toronto.

Biography

When Margaret Atwood announced to her friends that she wanted to be a writer, she was only 16 years old. It was Canada. It was the 1950s. No one knew what to think. Nonetheless, Atwood began her writing career as a poet. Published In 1964 while she was still a student at Harvard, her second poetry anthology, The Circle Game, was awarded the Governor General's Award, one of Canada's most esteemed literary prizes. Since then, Atwood has gone on to publish many more volumes of poetry (as well as literary criticism, essays, and short stories), but it is her novels for which she is best known.

Atwood's first foray into fiction was 1966's The Edible Woman, an arresting story about a woman who stops eating because she feels her life is consuming her. Grabbing the attention of critics, who applauded its startlingly original premise, the novel explored feminist themes Atwood has revisited time and time again during her long, prolific literary career. She is famous for strong, compelling female protagonists -- from the breast cancer survivor in Bodily Harm to the rueful artist in Cat's Eye to the fatefully intertwined sisters in her Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Asassin.

Perhaps Atwood's most legendary character is Offred, the tragic "breeder" in what is arguably her most famous book, 1985's The Handmaid's Tale. Part fable, part science fiction, and part dystopian nightmare, this novel presented a harrowing vision of women's lives in an oppressive futuristic society. The Washington Post compared it (favorably) to George Orwell's iconic 1984.

As if her status as a multi-award-winning, triple-threat writer (fiction, poetry, and essays) were not enough, Atwood has also produced several children's books, including Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) and Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) -- delicious alliterative delights that introduce a wealth of new vocabulary to young readers.

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    1. Hometown:
      Toronto, Ontario
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 18, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ottawa, Ontario
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

1

Mango

Snowman wakes before dawn. He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is still asleep.

On the eastern horizon there's a greyish haze, lit now with a rosy, deadly glow. Strange how that colour still seems tender. The offshore towers stand out in dark silhouette against it, rising improbably out of the pink and pale blue of the lagoon. The shrieks of the birds that nest out there and the distant ocean grinding against the ersatz reefs of rusted car parts and jumbled bricks and assorted rubble sound almost like holiday traffic.

Out of habit he looks at his watch - stainless-steel case, burnished aluminum band, still shiny although it no longer works. He wears it now as his only talisman. A blank face is what it shows him: zero hour. It causes a jolt of terror to run through him, this absence of official time. Nobody nowhere knows what time it is.

"Calm down," he tells himself. He takes a few deep breaths, then scratches his bug bites, around but not on the itchiest places, taking care not to knock off any scabs: blood poisoning is the last thing he needs. Then he scans the ground below for wildlife: all quiet, no scales and tails. Left hand, right foot, right hand, left foot, he makes his way down from the tree. After brushing off the twigs and bark, he winds his dirty bedsheet around himself like a toga. He's hung his authentic-replica Red Sox baseball cap on a branch overnight for safekeeping; he checks inside it, flicks out a spider, puts it on.

He walks a couple of yards to the left, pisses into the bushes. "Heads up," he says to the grasshoppers that whir away at the impact. Then he goes to the other side of the tree, well away from his customary urinal, and rummages around in the cache he's improvised from a few slabs of concrete, lining it with wire mesh to keep out the rats and mice. He's stashed some mangoes there, knotted in a plastic bag, and a can of Sveltana No-Meat Cocktail Sausages, and a precious half-bottle of Scotch - no, more like a third - and a chocolate-flavoured energy bar scrounged from a trailer park, limp and sticky inside its foil. He can't bring himself to eat it yet: it might be the last one he'll ever find. He keeps a can opener there too, and for no particular reason an ice pick; and six empty beer bottles, for sentimental reasons and for storing fresh water. Also his sunglasses; he puts them on. One lens is missing but they're better than nothing.

He undoes the plastic bag: there's only a single mango left. Funny, he remembered more. The ants have got in, even though he tied the bag as tightly as he could. Already they're running up his arms, the black kind and the vicious little yellow kind. Surprising what a sharp sting they can give, especially the yellow ones. He rubs them away.

"It is the strict adherence to daily routine that tends towards the maintenance of good morale and the preservation of sanity," he says out loud. He has the feeling he's quoting from a book, some obsolete, ponderous directive written in aid of European colonials running plantations of one kind or another. He can't recall ever having read such a thing, but that means nothing. There are a lot of blank spaces in his stub of a brain, where memory used to be. Rubber plantations, coffee plantations, jute plantations. (What was jute?) They would have been told to wear solar topis, dress for dinner, refrain from raping the natives. It wouldn't have said raping. Refrain from fraternizing with the female inhabitants. Or, put some other way . . .

He bets they didn't refrain, though. Nine times out of ten.

"In view of the mitigating," he says. He finds himself standing with his mouth open, trying to remember the rest of the sentence. He sits down on the ground and begins to eat the mango.

Flotsam

On the white beach, ground-up coral and broken bones, a group of the children are walking. They must have been swimming, they're still wet and glistening. They should be more careful: who knows what may infest the lagoon? But they're unwary; unlike Snowman, who won't dip a toe in there even at night, when the sun can't get at him. Revision: especially at night.

He watches them with envy, or is it nostalgia? It can't be that: he never swam in the sea as a child, never ran around on a beach without any clothes on. The children scan the terrain, stoop, pick up flotsam; then they deliberate among themselves, keeping some items, discarding others; their treasures go into a torn sack. Sooner or later - he can count on it - they'll seek him out where he sits wrapped in his decaying sheet, hugging his shins and sucking on his mango, in under the shade of the trees because of the punishing sun. For the children - thick-skinned, resistant to ultraviolet - he's a creature of dimness, of the dusk.

Here they come now. "Snowman, oh Snowman," they chant in their singsong way. They never stand too close to him. Is that from respect, as he'd like to think, or because he stinks?

(He does stink, he knows that well enough. He's rank, he's gamy, he reeks like a walrus - oily, salty, fishy - not that he's ever smelled such a beast. But he's seen pictures.)

Opening up their sack, the children chorus, "Oh Snowman, what have we found?" They lift out the objects, hold them up as if offering them for sale: a hubcap, a piano key, a chunk of pale-green pop bottle smoothed by the ocean. A plastic BlyssPluss container, empty; a ChickieNobs Bucket O'Nubbins, ditto. A computer mouse, or the busted remains of one, with a long wiry tail.

Snowman feels like weeping. What can he tell them? There's no way of explaining to them what these curious items are, or were. But surely they've guessed what he'll say, because it's always the same.

"These are things from before." He keeps his voice kindly but remote. A cross between pedagogue, soothsayer, and benevolent uncle - that should be his tone.

"Will they hurt us?" Sometimes they find tins of motor oil, caustic solvents, plastic bottles of bleach. Booby traps from the past. He's considered to be an expert on potential accidents: scalding liquids, sickening fumes, poison dust. Pain of odd kinds.

"These, no," he says. "These are safe." At this they lose interest, let the sack dangle. But they don't go away: they stand, they stare. Their beachcombing is an excuse. Mostly they want to look at him, because he's so unlike them. Every so often they ask him to take off his sunglasses and put them on again: they want to see whether he has two eyes really, or three.

"Snowman, oh Snowman," they're singing, less to him than to one another. To them his name is just two syllables. They don't know what a snowman is, they've never seen snow.

It was one of Crake's rules that no name could be chosen for which a physical equivalent - even stuffed, even skeletal - could not be demonstrated. No unicorns, no griffins, no manticores or basilisks. But those rules no longer apply, and it's given Snowman a bitter pleasure to adopt this dubious label. The Abominable Snowman - existing and not existing, flickering at the edges of blizzards, apelike man or manlike ape, stealthy, elusive, known only through rumours and through its backward-pointing footprints. Mountain tribes were said to have chased it down and killed it when they had the chance. They were said to have boiled it, roasted it, held special feasts; all the more exciting, he supposes, for bordering on cannibalism.

For present purposes he's shortened the name. He's only Snowman. He's kept the abominable to himself, his own secret hair shirt.

After a few moments of hesitation the children squat down in a half-circle, boys and girls together. A couple of the younger ones are still munching on their breakfasts, the green juice running down their chins. It's discouraging how grubby everyone gets without mirrors. Still, they're amazingly attractive, these children - each one naked, each one perfect, each one a different skin colour - chocolate, rose, tea, butter, cream, honey - but each with green eyes. Crake's aesthetic.

They're gazing at Snowman expectantly. They must be hoping he'll talk to them, but he isn't in the mood for it today. At the very most he might let them see his sunglasses, up close, or his shiny, dysfunctional watch, or his baseball cap. They like the cap, but don't understand his need for such a thing - removable hair that isn't hair - and he hasn't yet invented a fiction for it.

They're quiet for a bit, staring, ruminating, but then the oldest one starts up. "Oh Snowman, please tell us - what is that moss growing out of your face?" The others chime in. "Please tell us, please tell us!" No nudging, no giggling: the question is serious.

"Feathers," he says.

They ask this question at least once a week. He gives the same answer. Even over such a short time - two months, three? He's lost count - they've accumulated a stock of lore, of conjecture about him: Snowman was once a bird but he's forgotten how to fly and the rest of his feathers fell out, and so he is cold and he needs a second skin, and he has to wrap himself up. No: he's cold because he eats fish, and fish are cold. No: he wraps himself up because he's missing his man thing, and he doesn't want us to see. That's why he won't go swimming. Snowman has wrinkles because he once lived underwater and it wrinkled up his skin. Snowman is sad because the others like him flew away over the sea, and now he is all alone.

"I want feathers too," says the youngest. A vain hope: no beards on the men, among the Children of Crake. Crake himself had found beards irrational; also he'd been irritated by the task of shaving, so he'd abolished the need for it. Though not of course for Snowman: too late for him.

Now they all begin at once. "Oh Snowman, oh Snowman, can we have feathers too, please?"

"No," he says.

"Why not, why not?" sing the two smallest ones.

"Just a minute, I'll ask Crake." He holds his watch up to the sky, turns it around on his wrist, then puts it to his ear as if listening to it. They follow each motion, enthralled. "No," he says.

"Crake says you can't. No feathers for you. Now piss off."

"Piss off? Piss off?" They look at one another, then at him. He's made a mistake, he's said a new thing, one that's impossible to explain. Piss isn't something they'd find insulting. "What is piss off?"

"Go away!" He flaps his sheet at them and they scatter, running along the beach. They're still not sure whether to be afraid of him, or how afraid. He hasn't been known to harm a child, but his nature is not fully understood. There's no telling what he might do.

Voice

"Now I'm alone," he says out loud. "All, all alone. Alone on a wide, wide sea." One more scrap from the burning scrapbook in his head.

Revision: seashore.

He feels the need to hear a human voice - a fully human voice, like his own. Sometimes he laughs like a hyena or roars like a lion - his idea of a hyena, his idea of a lion. He used to watch old DVDs of such creatures when he was a child: those animal-behaviour programs featuring copulation and growling and innards, and mothers licking their young. Why had he found them so reassuring?

Or he grunts and squeals like a pigoon, or howls like a wolvog: Aroo! Aroo! Sometimes in the dusk he runs up and down on the sand, flinging stones at the ocean and screaming, Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! He feels better afterwards.

He stands up and raises his arms to stretch, and his sheet falls off. He looks down at his body with dismay: the grimy, bug-bitten skin, the salt-and-pepper tufts of hair, the thickening yellow toenails. Naked as the day he was born, not that he can remember a thing about that. So many crucial events take place behind people's backs, when they aren't in a position to watch: birth and death, for instance. And the temporary oblivion of sex.

"Don't even think about it," he tells himself. Sex is like drink, it's bad to start brooding about it too early in the day.

He used to take good care of himself; he used to run, work out at the gym. Now he can see his own ribs: he's wasting away. Not enough animal protein. A woman's voice says caressingly in his ear, Nice buns! It isn't Oryx, it's some other woman. Oryx is no longer very talkative.

"Say anything," he implores her. She can hear him, he needs to believe that, but she's giving him the silent treatment. "What can I do?" he asks her. "You know I . . ."

Oh, nice abs! comes the whisper, interrupting him. Honey, just lie back. Who is it? Some tart he once bought. Revision, professional sex-skills expert. A trapeze artist, rubber spine, spangles glued onto her like the scales of a fish. He hates these echoes. Saints used to hear them, crazed lice-infested hermits in their caves and deserts. Pretty soon he'll be seeing beautiful demons, beckoning to him, licking their lips, with red-hot nipples and flickering pink tongues. Mermaids will rise from the waves, out there beyond the crumbling towers, and he'll hear their lovely singing and swim out to them and be eaten by sharks. Creatures with the heads and breasts of women and the talons of eagles will swoop down on him, and he'll open his arms to them, and that will be the end. Brainfrizz.

Or worse, some girl he knows, or knew, will come walking towards him through the trees, and she'll be happy to see him but she'll be made of air. He'd welcome even that, for the company.

He scans the horizon, using his one sunglassed eye: nothing. The sea is hot metal, the sky a bleached blue, except for the hole burnt in it by the sun. Everything is so empty. Water, sand, sky, trees, fragments of past time. Nobody to hear him.

"Crake!" he yells. "Asshole! Shit-for-brains!"

He listens. The salt water is running down his face again. He never knows when that will happen and he can never stop it. His breath is coming in gasps, as if a giant hand is clenching around his chest - clench, release, clench. Senseless panic.

"You did this!" he screams at the ocean.

No answer, which isn't surprising. Only the waves, wish-wash, wish-wash. He wipes his fist across his face, across the grime and tears and snot and the derelict's whiskers and sticky mango juice. "Snowman, Snowman," he says. "Get a life."

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First Chapter

1

Mango
Snowman wakes before dawn. He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is still asleep.

On the eastern horizon there's a greyish haze, lit now with a rosy, deadly glow. Strange how that colour still seems tender. The offshore towers stand out in dark silhouette against it, rising improbably out of the pink and pale blue of the lagoon. The shrieks of the birds that nest out there and the distant ocean grinding against the ersatz reefs of rusted car parts and jumbled bricks and assorted rubble sound almost like holiday traffic.

Out of habit he looks at his watch - stainless-steel case, burnished aluminum band, still shiny although it no longer works. He wears it now as his only talisman. A blank face is what it shows him: zero hour. It causes a jolt of terror to run through him, this absence of official time. Nobody nowhere knows what time it is.

"Calm down," he tells himself. He takes a few deep breaths, then scratches his bug bites, around but not on the itchiest places, taking care not to knock off any scabs: blood poisoning is the last thing he needs. Then he scans the ground below for wildlife: all quiet, no scales and tails. Left hand, right foot, right hand, left foot, he makes his way down from the tree. After brushing off the twigs and bark, he winds his dirty bedsheet around himself like a toga. He's hung his authentic-replica Red Sox baseball cap on a branch overnight for safekeeping; he checks inside it, flicks out a spider, puts it on.

He walks a couple of yards tothe left, pisses into the bushes. "Heads up," he says to the grasshoppers that whir away at the impact. Then he goes to the other side of the tree, well away from his customary urinal, and rummages around in the cache he's improvised from a few slabs of concrete, lining it with wire mesh to keep out the rats and mice. He's stashed some mangoes there, knotted in a plastic bag, and a can of Sveltana No-Meat Cocktail Sausages, and a precious half-bottle of Scotch - no, more like a third - and a chocolate-flavoured energy bar scrounged from a trailer park, limp and sticky inside its foil. He can't bring himself to eat it yet: it might be the last one he'll ever find. He keeps a can opener there too, and for no particular reason an ice pick; and six empty beer bottles, for sentimental reasons and for storing fresh water. Also his sunglasses; he puts them on. One lens is missing but they're better than nothing.

He undoes the plastic bag: there's only a single mango left. Funny, he remembered more. The ants have got in, even though he tied the bag as tightly as he could. Already they're running up his arms, the black kind and the vicious little yellow kind. Surprising what a sharp sting they can give, especially the yellow ones. He rubs them away.

"It is the strict adherence to daily routine that tends towards the maintenance of good morale and the preservation of sanity," he says out loud. He has the feeling he's quoting from a book, some obsolete, ponderous directive written in aid of European colonials running plantations of one kind or another. He can't recall ever having read such a thing, but that means nothing. There are a lot of blank spaces in his stub of a brain, where memory used to be. Rubber plantations, coffee plantations, jute plantations. (What was jute?) They would have been told to wear solar topis, dress for dinner, refrain from raping the natives. It wouldn't have said raping. Refrain from fraternizing with the female inhabitants. Or, put some other way . . .

He bets they didn't refrain, though. Nine times out of ten.

"In view of the mitigating," he says. He finds himself standing with his mouth open, trying to remember the rest of the sentence. He sits down on the ground and begins to eat the mango.


Flotsam
On the white beach, ground-up coral and broken bones, a group of the children are walking. They must have been swimming, they're still wet and glistening. They should be more careful: who knows what may infest the lagoon? But they're unwary; unlike Snowman, who won't dip a toe in there even at night, when the sun can't get at him. Revision: especially at night.

He watches them with envy, or is it nostalgia? It can't be that: he never swam in the sea as a child, never ran around on a beach without any clothes on. The children scan the terrain, stoop, pick up flotsam; then they deliberate among themselves, keeping some items, discarding others; their treasures go into a torn sack. Sooner or later - he can count on it - they'll seek him out where he sits wrapped in his decaying sheet, hugging his shins and sucking on his mango, in under the shade of the trees because of the punishing sun. For the children - thick-skinned, resistant to ultraviolet - he's a creature of dimness, of the dusk.

Here they come now. "Snowman, oh Snowman," they chant in their singsong way. They never stand too close to him. Is that from respect, as he'd like to think, or because he stinks?

(He does stink, he knows that well enough. He's rank, he's gamy, he reeks like a walrus - oily, salty, fishy - not that he's ever smelled such a beast. But he's seen pictures.)

Opening up their sack, the children chorus, "Oh Snowman, what have we found?" They lift out the objects, hold them up as if offering them for sale: a hubcap, a piano key, a chunk of pale-green pop bottle smoothed by the ocean. A plastic BlyssPluss container, empty; a ChickieNobs Bucket O'Nubbins, ditto. A computer mouse, or the busted remains of one, with a long wiry tail.

Snowman feels like weeping. What can he tell them? There's no way of explaining to them what these curious items are, or were. But surely they've guessed what he'll say, because it's always the same.

"These are things from before." He keeps his voice kindly but remote. A cross between pedagogue, soothsayer, and benevolent uncle - that should be his tone.

"Will they hurt us?" Sometimes they find tins of motor oil, caustic solvents, plastic bottles of bleach. Booby traps from the past. He's considered to be an expert on potential accidents: scalding liquids, sickening fumes, poison dust. Pain of odd kinds.

"These, no," he says. "These are safe." At this they lose interest, let the sack dangle. But they don't go away: they stand, they stare. Their beachcombing is an excuse. Mostly they want to look at him, because he's so unlike them. Every so often they ask him to take off his sunglasses and put them on again: they want to see whether he has two eyes really, or three.

"Snowman, oh Snowman," they're singing, less to him than to one another. To them his name is just two syllables. They don't know what a snowman is, they've never seen snow.

It was one of Crake's rules that no name could be chosen for which a physical equivalent - even stuffed, even skeletal - could not be demonstrated. No unicorns, no griffins, no manticores or basilisks. But those rules no longer apply, and it's given Snowman a bitter pleasure to adopt this dubious label. The Abominable Snowman - existing and not existing, flickering at the edges of blizzards, apelike man or manlike ape, stealthy, elusive, known only through rumours and through its backward-pointing footprints. Mountain tribes were said to have chased it down and killed it when they had the chance. They were said to have boiled it, roasted it, held special feasts; all the more exciting, he supposes, for bordering on cannibalism.

For present purposes he's shortened the name. He's only Snowman. He's kept the abominable to himself, his own secret hair shirt.

After a few moments of hesitation the children squat down in a half-circle, boys and girls together. A couple of the younger ones are still munching on their breakfasts, the green juice running down their chins. It's discouraging how grubby everyone gets without mirrors. Still, they're amazingly attractive, these children - each one naked, each one perfect, each one a different skin colour - chocolate, rose, tea, butter, cream, honey - but each with green eyes. Crake's aesthetic.

They're gazing at Snowman expectantly. They must be hoping he'll talk to them, but he isn't in the mood for it today. At the very most he might let them see his sunglasses, up close, or his shiny, dysfunctional watch, or his baseball cap. They like the cap, but don't understand his need for such a thing - removable hair that isn't hair - and he hasn't yet invented a fiction for it.

They're quiet for a bit, staring, ruminating, but then the oldest one starts up. "Oh Snowman, please tell us - what is that moss growing out of your face?" The others chime in. "Please tell us, please tell us!" No nudging, no giggling: the question is serious.

"Feathers," he says.

They ask this question at least once a week. He gives the same answer. Even over such a short time - two months, three? He's lost count - they've accumulated a stock of lore, of conjecture about him: Snowman was once a bird but he's forgotten how to fly and the rest of his feathers fell out, and so he is cold and he needs a second skin, and he has to wrap himself up. No: he's cold because he eats fish, and fish are cold. No: he wraps himself up because he's missing his man thing, and he doesn't want us to see. That's why he won't go swimming. Snowman has wrinkles because he once lived underwater and it wrinkled up his skin. Snowman is sad because the others like him flew away over the sea, and now he is all alone.

"I want feathers too," says the youngest. A vain hope: no beards on the men, among the Children of Crake. Crake himself had found beards irrational; also he'd been irritated by the task of shaving, so he'd abolished the need for it. Though not of course for Snowman: too late for him.

Now they all begin at once. "Oh Snowman, oh Snowman, can we have feathers too, please?"

"No," he says.

"Why not, why not?" sing the two smallest ones.

"Just a minute, I'll ask Crake." He holds his watch up to the sky, turns it around on his wrist, then puts it to his ear as if listening to it. They follow each motion, enthralled. "No," he says.

"Crake says you can't. No feathers for you. Now piss off."

"Piss off? Piss off?" They look at one another, then at him. He's made a mistake, he's said a new thing, one that's impossible to explain. Piss isn't something they'd find insulting. "What is piss off?"

"Go away!" He flaps his sheet at them and they scatter, running along the beach. They're still not sure whether to be afraid of him, or how afraid. He hasn't been known to harm a child, but his nature is not fully understood. There's no telling what he might do.


Voice
"Now I'm alone," he says out loud. "All, all alone. Alone on a wide, wide sea." One more scrap from the burning scrapbook in his head.

Revision: seashore.

He feels the need to hear a human voice - a fully human voice, like his own. Sometimes he laughs like a hyena or roars like a lion - his idea of a hyena, his idea of a lion. He used to watch old DVDs of such creatures when he was a child: those animal-behaviour programs featuring copulation and growling and innards, and mothers licking their young. Why had he found them so reassuring?

Or he grunts and squeals like a pigoon, or howls like a wolvog: Aroo! Aroo! Sometimes in the dusk he runs up and down on the sand, flinging stones at the ocean and screaming, Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! He feels better afterwards.

He stands up and raises his arms to stretch, and his sheet falls off. He looks down at his body with dismay: the grimy, bug-bitten skin, the salt-and-pepper tufts of hair, the thickening yellow toenails. Naked as the day he was born, not that he can remember a thing about that. So many crucial events take place behind people's backs, when they aren't in a position to watch: birth and death, for instance. And the temporary oblivion of sex.

"Don't even think about it," he tells himself. Sex is like drink, it's bad to start brooding about it too early in the day.

He used to take good care of himself; he used to run, work out at the gym. Now he can see his own ribs: he's wasting away. Not enough animal protein. A woman's voice says caressingly in his ear, Nice buns! It isn't Oryx, it's some other woman. Oryx is no longer very talkative.

"Say anything," he implores her. She can hear him, he needs to believe that, but she's giving him the silent treatment. "What can I do?" he asks her. "You know I . . ."

Oh, nice abs! comes the whisper, interrupting him. Honey, just lie back. Who is it? Some tart he once bought. Revision, professional sex-skills expert. A trapeze artist, rubber spine, spangles glued onto her like the scales of a fish. He hates these echoes. Saints used to hear them, crazed lice-infested hermits in their caves and deserts. Pretty soon he'll be seeing beautiful demons, beckoning to him, licking their lips, with red-hot nipples and flickering pink tongues. Mermaids will rise from the waves, out there beyond the crumbling towers, and he'll hear their lovely singing and swim out to them and be eaten by sharks. Creatures with the heads and breasts of women and the talons of eagles will swoop down on him, and he'll open his arms to them, and that will be the end. Brainfrizz.

Or worse, some girl he knows, or knew, will come walking towards him through the trees, and she'll be happy to see him but she'll be made of air. He'd welcome even that, for the company.

He scans the horizon, using his one sunglassed eye: nothing. The sea is hot metal, the sky a bleached blue, except for the hole burnt in it by the sun. Everything is so empty. Water, sand, sky, trees, fragments of past time. Nobody to hear him.

"Crake!" he yells. "Asshole! Shit-for-brains!"

He listens. The salt water is running down his face again. He never knows when that will happen and he can never stop it. His breath is coming in gasps, as if a giant hand is clenching around his chest - clench, release, clench. Senseless panic.

"You did this!" he screams at the ocean.

No answer, which isn't surprising. Only the waves, wish-wash, wish-wash. He wipes his fist across his face, across the grime and tears and snot and the derelict's whiskers and sticky mango juice. "Snowman, Snowman," he says. "Get a life."
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Interviews & Essays

Q: Most of your previous novels have female protagonists. Was it a conscious decision to have a male protagonist for Oryx and Crake, or did Snowman simply present himself to you?

A: Snowman did present himself to me, yes, dirty bedsheet and all.

For this novel, a woman would have been less possible. Or let's say that the story would have been quite different.

If we are writers, we all have multiple selves. Also, I've known a lot of male people in my life, so I had a lot to draw on.

Q: When The Handmaid's Tale was published, Contemporary Authors listed your religion as "Pessimistic Pantheist," which you defined as the belief that "God is everywhere, but losing." Is this still an accurate description of your spiritual philosophy?

A: I expect you don't have the foggiest what I meant in the first place. On bad days, neither do I. But let's argue it through.

In the Biblical version - Genesis-God created the heaven and the earth- out of nothing, we presume. Or else out of God, since there was nothing else around that God could use as substance.

Big Bang theory says much the same, without using the word "God." That is: once there was nothing, or else "a singularity." Then poof. Big Bang. Result: the universe.

So since the universe can't be made of anything else, it must be made of singularity-stuff, or God-stuff - whatever term you wish to employ. Whether this God-stuff was a thought form such as a series of mathematical formulae, an energy form, or some sort of extremely condensed cosmic plasma, is open to discussion.

Therefore everythinghas "God" in it.

The forms of "God," both inorganic and organic, have since multiplied exceedingly. You might say that each new combination of atoms, molecules, amino acids, and DNA is a different expression of "God." Therefore each time we terminate a species, "God" becomes more limited.

The human race is terminating species at an alarming rate. It is thereby diminishing "God," or the expressions of "God."

If I were the Biblical God, I would be very annoyed. He made the thing and saw that it was good. And now people are scribbling all over the artwork.

It is noteworthy that the covenant made by God after the flood was not just with Noah, but with every living thing. I assume that the "God's Gardeners" organization in Oryx and Crake used this kind of insight as a cornerstone of their theology.

Is that any clearer?

Q: You grew up among biologists; the "boys at the lab" mentioned in the novel's acknowledgments are the grad students and post-docs who worked with your father at his forest-insect research station in northern Quebec. Does being a novelist make you an anomaly in your family?

A: My brother and I were both good at science, and we were both good at English literature. Either one of us could have gone either way. My father was a great reader, of fiction, poetry, history - many biologists are. So I wouldn't say I was an anomaly in the family. We all did both. We were omnivores. (I read then - and still read - everything, including cereal packages. No factoid too trivial!)

Science and fiction both begin with similar questions: What if? Why? How does it all work? But they focus on different areas of life on earth. The experiments of science should be replicable, and those of literature should not be (why write the same book twice?).

Please don't make the mistake of thinking that Oryx and Crake is anti-science. Science is a way of knowing, and a tool. Like all ways of knowing and tools, it can be turned to bad uses. And it can be bought and sold, and it often is. But it is not in itself bad. Like electricity, it's neutral.

The driving force in the world today is the human heart - that is, human emotions. (Yeats, Blake - every poet, come to think of it - has always told us that.) Our tools have become very powerful. Hate, not bombs, destroys cities. Desire, not bricks, rebuilds them. Do we as a species have the emotional maturity and the wisdom to use our powerful tools well? Hands up, all who think the answer is Yes.

Q: You've mentioned the fact that while you were writing about fictional catastrophes in Oryx and Crake, a real one occurred on September 11. Did that experience cause you to change the storyline in any way?

A: No, I didn't change the plot. I was too far along for that. But I almost abandoned the book. Real life was getting creepily too close to my inventions - not so much the Twin Towers as the anthrax scare. That turned out to be limited in extent, but only because of the limitations of the agent used.

It's an old plot, of course - poisoning the wells. As for blowing things up, the Anarchists were at it for fifty years in the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. Joseph Conrad has a novel about it (The Secret Agent). So does Michael Ondaatje (In the Skin of a Lion). And the Resistance in World War Two devoted itself to such things. The main object of these kinds of actions is to sow panic and dismay.

Q: Though the book's premise is serious, you included many wordplays and moments of deadpan humour. Was this difficult to achieve, or did it arrive naturally during the storytelling process?

A: My relatives are all from Nova Scotia. That's sort of like being from Maine. The deadpan humour and the skepticism about human motives are similar.

The French have an expression, "Anglo-Saxon humour." It isn't the same as wit. It's dark; it's when something is funny and awful at the same time. "Gallows humour" is called that partly because highwaymen about to be hanged were much admired if they could crack a joke in the face of death.

When things are really dismal, you can laugh or you can cave in completely. Jimmy tries to laugh, though some of the time he's out of control, as most of us would be in his position. But if you can laugh, you're still alive. You haven't given up yet.

Q: What advice do you have for readers who would like to prevent your cautionary tale from coming true?

A: I've included a small list of books at the end of this Companion. There's lots of advice in there. If you're going to read just one book, and just one chapter of that one, try the last chapter of The Future of Life, by Edmund Osborne Wilson. It's kind of encouraging. I didn't read this book in its entirety until after I'd finished Oryx and Crake, but it's a very good summation of our current position on Earth as a species.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Oryx and Crake includes many details that seem futuristic, but are in fact already apparent in our world. What parallels were you able to draw between the events and surroundings in the world of the novel and those in your own?

2. Margaret Atwood coined many words and brand names while writing the novel. In what way has technology changed your vocabulary over the past five years?

3. The game “Extinctathon” emerges as a key component in the novel. Jimmy and Crake also play “Barbarian Stomp” and “Blood and Roses.” What comparable video games exist today? What is your opinion of arcades that feature virtual violence? Discuss the advantages and dangers of virtual reality. Is the novel form itself a sort of virtual reality?

4. If you were creating the game “Blood and Roses,” what other “Blood” items would you add? What other “Rose” items?

5. If you had the chance to fabricate an improved (and biologically viable) human being, would you do it? If so, what features would you incorporate, and why?

6. The pre-catastrophic society in Oryx and Crake is fixated on physical perfection and longevity, much as our own society is. Discuss the irony of these quests, both within the novel and in our society.

7. One aspect of the novel’s society is the elimination of the middle class. Economic and intellectual disparities, as well as the disappearance of safe public space, allow for few alternatives: People live either in the tightly controlled Compounds of the elites, or in the more open but seedier and more dangerous Pleeblands. Where would your community find itself in the world of Oryx and Crake?

8. Snowman soon discovers that despite himself he’s invented a new creation myth, simply by trying to think up comforting answers to the “why” questions of the Children of Crake. In Part Seven in the chapter entitled “Purring,” Crake claims that “God is a cluster of neurons,” though he’s had trouble eradicating religious experiences without producing zombies. Do you agree with Crake? Do Snowman’s origin stories negate or enhance your views on spirituality and how it evolves in various cultures?

9. How might the novel change if narrated by Oryx? Do any similarities exist between her early life and Snowman’s? Do you always believe what she says?

10. Why does Snowman feel compelled to protect the benign Crakers, who can’t understand him and can never be his close friends? Do you believe the Crakers could survive in our society?

11. In the world of Oryx and Crake, almost everything is for sale, and a great deal of power is in the hands of large corporations and their private security forces. There are more private police forces in North America than there are public ones. What are the advantages of such a system? What are the dangers?

12. The book has two epigraphs, one from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and one from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Why do you think these were chosen?

13. The ending of the novel is open, allowing for tantalizing speculation. How do you envision Snowman’s future? What about the future of humanity—both within the novel, and outside its pages?

14. What is the difference between speculative fiction—which Atwood claims to write—and science fiction proper? In what ways does the dystopia of Oryx and Crake compare to those depicted in novels such as Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and in Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale?

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 316 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2009

    Oryx and Crake

    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood is a tale of human existence on the brink and speculative fiction at its best with strong dystopian overtones. Atwood introduces the protagonist Jimmy, a.k.a. Snowman, in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed and taken over by biological contamination. Jimmy lived in a wealthy scientific community isolated from the poor and contaminated population of the Pleeblands. He grows up being the latter end of a generation of geniuses and holds a rather uncaring and sardonic view of life. Jimmy's best friend Crake is a genius and becomes a successful bioengineer and innovator of complex organisms. Upon Crake's location of Oryx, an adolescent object of Jimmy's thoughts, a complex love triangle suddenly precipitates between Jimmy, Oryx, and Crake just as the world falls into disaster. After the catastrophe Snowman struggles to survive in the vicious world after human habitation and tries to reconnect with the past. The climax of the novel is a convergence of Jimmy's two timelines in an epic déjà vu revelation and suspenseful conclusion.
    In her novel Atwood presents a possible future of the human race according to a modern view of human nature. Her transcendence of science fiction into speculation and contemplation evokes shock and disgust at the path society is on. One branch of that path and hidden theme in the story is the sick and ironic nature of perfection: one can strive for perfection, but the flaws will always be more explosive. Like the engineer of a time bomb, Atwood locks up secrets and understanding to the complex and at times, confusing story; only when the time is right are they revealed to give the reader an overwhelming sense of epiphany. This technique stimulates the reader intellectually by drawing out predictions and hypothesis as to the origins of some of the developments. Atwood's characters are particularly inventive; their personalities are very normal, but seem out of context in a futuristic world. Her utilization of characters as conveyors of theme does not lessen the attachment and fondness for the characters that grows in the reader. Perhaps the most intriguing and amazing aspect of the novel is the possibility of some of the same events playing out in the human world in the near future. Atwood's startling realism in her fiction gives her work life, uniqueness, and awe.

    14 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 21, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Read this before it's illegal.

    Somehow both stunning and frightening. The story, the characters, and the message are beautiful--not that anything else should ever be expected from Atwood. In my opinion, this is the best she's ever written--and that's saying something.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Read this before you read "The Year of the Flood"

    If you read "Flood" first, you'll have trouble liking the main character, Jimmy, in this one. And there are good things about Jimmy. I empathize with him, because, like me, the things he's good at are not particularly marketable. In a world where saleability is the only thing anyone cares about, an actual genius could be considered inferior if they weren't good at the things someone is willing to buy. We're on our way to this world, but I don't think we're there yet. A depressing glimpse at a possible future.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant and fascinating

    One of my favorite Science Fiction books. It was a little difficult waiting for the climax of the story, which came more towards the end, but it was worth waiting for. I dreamed about this book for weeks. Loved it.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2006

    What a waste, no stars would be best!!

    If I could give NO stars I would!!!This book was so bad that I couldn't find anyone else to hand it off to. As a avid reader I was very disappointed, I never even finished, it was that BORING!!! Was there even a plot to this story?? IF so I could not find it. MY sister who reads even more than me couldn't finish it either!! And we rarely ever do that. Save your money for a GOOD book.

    3 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2012

    Highly recommended

    Oryx and Crake was the first book by Margaret Atwood that I've read, and I really enjoyed it! I found the writing so accessible and readable, and loved the plot, I thought the two stories, and how they relate to each other, very engrossing; I cannot wait to read The Year Of The Flood!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    A More Realistic Version of 2012

    This book is intriguing, disturbing, yet entertaining all at the same time. My main interest in the book was actually the past story told within the present. Many times during the present I felt as if the book had slowed down to a halt in the midst of entertaining action and ideas. The disasters discussed in the book are completely plausible with current technology which raises insightful thought about our current state of the world. I gave the book 4 stars rather than five because despite being entertaining for the most part, Atwood seems to castigate the majority of the human population and provides a constant sense of pessimism to any new science, technology, math, business, or "non-word" type of people. Eventually I came to feel that Atwood would be happy if everyone was an English or art fanatic from the way she glorified "Jimmy" yet continually dished technology oriented personas such as Crake. I feel scared to do a simple math equation after this book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic book, clearly from the soul of Margaret Atwood

    Wonderful imagery and gripping storyline, from one of the best authors of our time. Similar to Handmaid's Tale in a doomed-future kind of way, but original and independent, nonetheless. I just want to know what happened at the end!?

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    Yuck

    What a horrible, sad book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2012

    Disturbing and engrossing read...

    I don't want to give too much away, but yet again (as with "The Handmaid's Tale") Margaret Atwood extrapolates and constructs a chilling future from our decaying, collapsing post-industrial world. The book hits every cultural note with perfect pitch, and leaves the reader chilled. Excellent.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Futuristic & a fun read.

    I enjoyed this book, as I do all of Margaret Atwoods work. So many twists & turns, but no real explanation at the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2012

    Do Not Buy It

    This book was recommended highly. I don't see why.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    Very Thought Provoking

    Read it, it's worth your time if you ever think about the grim possibilities of our future if mankind lets it's quest for perfection get out of hand. A thought provoking story filled with dark humor and frighteningly realistic scientific possibilities. You will care for the protagonist and understand him more and more as you read his story unfold in a series of flashbacks. 5 stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Another futuristic masterpiece

    Ms. Atwood does it again with this wonderful story that looks at a future when clones are all that is left of the human race.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2005

    A good read!

    The book made you want to keep reading to find out what happend to this civilization that seemed very '1984'-ish. Everything was great until the end. I think Atwood ended the book too sharply, leaving me wanting just a little more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2004

    Utter Drivel!

    DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! If I can spare just one person from the dissapointment of this book, then I've done my Job. Briefly, here's why Oryx & Crake is banal tripe: 1. The main character is completely unsympathetic and has no arc. 2. The MC's relationships are shoddy, incomplete and uninteresting. 3. There¿s no conflict (or very little) throughout the story and the MC is never put in any real and lasting jeopardy. 4. The actions (and writing) seem forced and deliberate - there are no surprises in this story. 5. The concepts Ms. Atwood puts forth regarding 'our' future are ludicrous to the point of being laughable (except the story's so bad that you want to cry). She never substantiates any of her conclusions about the future, she just throws them out there as if she just thought them up and thought that they'd be 'really neat'. They're not. 6. Even at the end of the story, no conclusions have been made. Our MC has learned nothing, has not grown in any way, and leaves us just the same as when we started, with nothing. I could go into greater detail, but I already feel that I've done this book (and Margaret Atwood) more credit than it deserves. If I could give this book NO STARS a surely would. As for the author, I will never read anything written by her again.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2003

    Disappointing

    I was really looking forward to this book. I recently finished Handmaid's Tale and was enthralled by it. Unfortunately this book is so boring, I decided to stop after a hundred or so pages. The main (only)character has some nice psychological depth. But the story is so bad, I stopped caring. Don't bother.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2014

    a good read

    I liked this book a lot - once I was able to keep the characters straight. Not all the characters are easy to like and I still cared about them. This novel makes me even more aware of how careful we need to be with our environment, our science and how much we need to question our government and what it is up to!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2013

    Unusual setting but otherwise predictable

    A variation on the typical distopian novel. The author users flashbacks to tell the story of the destruction of mankind. Decent prose but easy to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2013

    its almost as if atwood was never a child herself... her depicti

    its almost as if atwood was never a child herself... her depiction of the main characters childhood was a jumble of bad cliches from bad tv shows. this is unreadable to anyone who is used to good writing . oh, and the book stars off with someone waking up... hahaha thats the biggest writers cliche in the book. next to looking at oneself in the mirror and describing how they look. -- i am so dissapointed because i was told it was good. i guess when you write 50 books there is not going to be much originality in any of them



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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