Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood

I said when I reviewed
The
Year of the Flood
that reading it made me want to
reread Oryx
and Crake
. I have now done that. I enjoyed it more
this time. I suspect it might make sense to read The
Year of the Flood
first if you haven’t read either of them
yet. They take place in the same time frame — two or three of the major
characters in Flood are minor characters in
Crake. But you really are more interested in Jimmy,
the narrator and main character in Crake, after
you’ve seen him (and Crake) throught the eyes of Ren, one of the
point of view characters in Flood.

The argument for reading Crake first is that
Flood takes the narrative one scene later, so if you
read Flood first, you know one piece more about how
Jimmy’s story resolves itself. I can really imagine a third (at least) book
in this world — I hope it happens.

Here’s an example of the same story told from two different
points of view in the two books. The characters are college roommates.

As Jimmy sees it in Oryx and Crake:

Bernice let him know how much she disapproved of his carnivorous ways by kidnapping his leather sandals and incinerating them on the lawn. When he protested that they hadn’t been real leather, she said they’d been posing as it, and as such deserved their fate. After he’d had a few girls up to his room — none of Bernice’s business, and they’d been quiet enough, apart from some pharmaceutically induced giggling and a lot of understandable moans — she’d manifested her views on consensual sex by making a bonfire of all Jimmy’s jockey shorts.

As Bernice tells the story in The Year of the Flood:

She’d had a roommate like that at first, plus he’d been an
animal-murderer because he’d worn leather sandals. Though
they’d been fleather. But they’d looked like leather. So she’d
burnt them. And thank God she didn’t have to share a bathroom
with him any more, because she could hear him doing sexual
things with girls practically every night, like some
degenerate bonobo/rabbit splice.

‘Jimmy,’ she said. ‘What a meat-breath!’

This is real science fiction written by a real novelist, who is
also a fine poet. I didn’t think Oryx and Crake
was among her best work when I read it 6 years ago, but I think
the two novels together are at least equal to The
Handmaid’s Tale
, and certainly better in terms of
richness of the imagined future.

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