By: Margaret Atwood
Jimmy is an ordinary man with an average IQ and mild demeanor. In no way is he remarkable enough to be the last human left on Earth, nor is he equipped for the important task left for him. Known to the Crakers as Snowman, Jimmy is responsible for guiding and teaching the genetically engineered people about where they come from and how best to live in the outside world. Most of the information he gives them is fabricated, but who doesn’t love a good story? No one told him that he couldn’t lie. No one gave him any instructions at all.
Along the way, Jimmy reminisces about his life and what brought him to his present situation. He’s no hero. If anything, he’s part of the problem, but he’s all that’s left. Humanity’s legacy rests with him.
Oryx and Crake represents the Homo sapiens sapiens’ desire to advance, market, and consume at the cost of our security and survival. It asks the tough questions like, is it worth giving up our humanity if it means bettering the world? Can we even put aside our pride to do so? What would it take, and who makes those choices?
Just like in The Handmaid’s Tale, nothing contained in Oryx and Crake is a new concept. The story is fictional and original, but the ideas that inspired the novel have all happened in real life at some place at some time. Such topics include genetic mutation, designing a super-race, engineered bioweapons, the dark web of child pornography and murder, and growing organs in the bodies of animals to replace failed ones in humans. All have happened and all play a part in this narrative. Not to mention our race’s obsession with immortality and a desire to play God.
This story displays a terrifying though objective view of humanity as a whole. Oryx and Crake shows the atrocities we allow while showcasing technological gains that benefit the people who use them. Everything in the story feels like it could be happening now and then you realize, in some capacity, it already is. Atwood blends Jimmy’s past and present so seamlessly that sometimes I had to reread a section to understand that the story and transitioned. This novel is like a fever dream of disgust where the hits just keep on coming and Jimmy’s nightmare never ends.
The ending will leave you restless and unsatisfied, so if you need stories with a happy, conclusive ending, this is not for you. If you want a book that will leave an impression, pick up a copy of Oryx and Crake. Atwood always finds a way to leave a footprint, not in the sand, but in cement because her words and messages are not easily eroded away. You will find yourself asking questions like, what would I have done in Jimmy’s shoes? It’s a painful reminder that sometimes the answers to the biggest questions are not only difficult but impossible.
In the immortal words of Jimmy, “Toast is me. I am toast.”
Overall rating: 5