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.
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.
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.
“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