Oh Margaret Atwood, you are so hit-and-miss.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have picked up another book by an author so soon after being as disappointed as I was with Atwood’s Penelopiad, but two separate people said that this one was quite good and then I was in the library, and there it was in glorious, holdable paperback. So what the hell.
It was awesome.
The book opens with Snowman, the lone human survivor on a bleary, sun-baked earth. But he’s not alone, oh no. There’s this crazy race of manufactured, humanesque creatures sharing his space – the Children of Crake.
Impervious to the sun, able to live off of grass and roots, the lithe, naked Children of Crake stand in stark contrast to Snowman, with his shabby bedsheet-toga and his scraggly beard and his one-lensed sunglasses. Who are these Children, and why are they so shiny and pure when Snowman is so mangy and bitter? Bit by bit, Atwood reveals Snowman’s past, dragging him through the years when his name was Jimmy, past the times when he met the brilliant Crake and the delicate, surprisingly steely Oryx, up to the disaster that brought about mankind’s destruction. Simultaneously, she advances Snowman’s current plight (How is he to get food? medicine? What is he do to about the Children’s growing reverence towards the departed Crake despite the fact that religion has been hardwired out of them?) towards a final decision.
This is Atwood at her finest. She has a light and humorous hand with what can often become a wrist-slittingly bleak topic. Maybe she should stick to writing dystopias, because the last book of hers I remember loving was The Handmaid’s Tale. Unfortunately, as with The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake ends ambiguously. Sorry if that ruined it for you, but I thought I’d let you know now. Don’t be expecting all (or even any) of your loose ends tied up by the last page. That being said, the resolution is completely believable and – in its own way – satisfying.