A Book I Read and Loved – Oryx and Crake

As I mentioned in my first post, I love reading. It’s the reason I love to write. I can duck away from everything for hours on end, or just 15 minutes a day, with a great book. And a book I recently read and absolutely loved and really brought me into the world of dystopias (or speculative fictions, as Atwood refers to them), was Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Having binged-read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Heart Goes Last, the Maddaddam trilogy seemed the next logical step. I’m not here to review and criticise these books (that’s the aim for a Currently Reading section I’m hoping to do where I’m honest about the books I try out), I’m hear to talk about a book I adore, without boring my friends who have to listen to me ranting or raving about plots and characters a bit too often.

So I’m going to ignore the second two books of the trilogy, because they were nothing on the first novel which was such a shame. But the first book. Oh my. What a book.

To begin with, how? How how how did Atwood come up with this idea, this world, this other race created with seemingly flawless production? It’s all just genius. Her mind is genius. I myself find genetic engineering rather eerie and unnecessary; a rat with an ear on its back is nothing but creepy and unnatural. I understand there are benefits, but enough on my view and on to Atwood’s possibly accurate vision of the future of genetic engineering, which begins to rule the world. Hybrid animals are created such as pigoons, a pig bred to grow full proof human organs. Creepy. Even creepier when you realise this isn’t far from what humans are actually doing. Even creepier still when you read Atwood’s convincing description of these highly intelligent animals. I’m worried enough that robots will develop too quickly and take over, and now the thought of our lives being controlled by organ-growing pigs. Urgh.

Almost worse is ChickieNobs, which are essentially what we all imagine McDonalds are breeding for their chicken nuggets. It’s a chicken, made up of chicken parts, with no head, eyes or beak, and a hole in which nutrients are “fed” into it. They’re described as ‘bulblike’ and all I picture is a weird shaped chandelier. Gross.

And then, there’s the Children of Crake. A genetically perfect, simply-driven race lacking all the desires and impulses of humans. But I won’t spoil this, Atwood’s description of them is so outstanding that I couldn’t do them justice, and the concept is eerily-accurate of what could happen if genetic engineering moves onto humans.

It’s an easy read, but also incredibly thought-provoking and philosophical. Could we as a race end up taking genetic engineering too far? It’s quite possible, and this makes the book all the more incredible.

I don’t want to spoil it, but it really is a must read – if you can deal with either accepting the ending of the first book as the be-all and end-all or reading the next two books in the trilogy with a pinch of salt and keeping the brilliance of the first book at the back of your mind.

I love that it’s not about love, although it is, and the protagonist is not controlled by love, although he is. And I love the direct contrast between humans and the Children of Crake – a perfect race who seem rather stupid and boring to us which we realise can only be changed by human flaws.

Please, whatever you do, read this book.


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