If you love Margaret Atwood and her writing, each time she finishes a book, you wonder how she will ever top it. The Handmaid's Tale, which Oryx and Crake is most frequently compared to, is one of her finest work. I am an ardent Atwood scholar and have read all her works. Having seen mixed reviews in the media about Oryx and Crake, I was somewhat afraid to start reading it, particularly because it is somewhat in the same genre as The Handmaid's Tale (a brilliant book and one of my favorite books of all time.) An author's streak of genius can't last forever, and I was waiting for the sun to set on Margaret Atwood.
This novel isn't as bad as the worst reviews promise, but not as good as the best claim. It's set on an intruiging premise, and although it took a little longer to get engrossed in Oryx and Crake than in some of her other work, it moves along at a nice and quite horrifying trot, pulling you in with the almost-recognizable familiarity of bio-engineered events. You like Snowman/Jimmy, it's just that....well, who exactly is the bad guy here? And maybe that's the point. In today's world, with PR spin and ducking politicians, there is no great antagonist we're struggling against--which would make life much clearer.
I noticed that Atwood's writing seemed a little less compelling, acute and participatory than in previous novels. Perhaps the writing reflects the detachment and bemusement of Snowman himself. Although what happens is shocking, it is relayed in a very methodical, non-emotional way.
The best thing about the book was the last few chapters--they surprised me, causing me to think for a lengthy period of time after I'd closed the book. In fact, that night I had very troubled dreams about the subject matter of destruction and a single person's capability for such in today's advanced world. It's been a long time since a book's premise made it into my dreams, so although it may not have gripped me with iron claws in the beginning, I suppose Oryx and Crake got me in the end.