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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STARK AND FRESH
Simply put, I loved ORYX AND CRAKE! Despite Atwood's grim futuristic plot of 'science gone mad' I found it difficult to put this book down. The first person narration of Snowman (Jimmy) jumps between the present (a bleak world existing primarily of him and the Crakers) and the past (events leading up to the destruction of humanity) as the details of the plot are...
Published on June 16 2003 by S. Calhoun

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So What?
I had reasonably high hopes for this novel, not because of Atwood's repute, not because of the accolades and nominations it received, but because I find it interesting how others interpret the fall of humanity. While Oryx and Crake proved to be a semi-interesting read, there are many areas in which this novel is lacking.
Other reviewers have touched upon the poor...
Published on May 31 2004 by Jennifer


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STARK AND FRESH, June 16 2003
By 
S. Calhoun "rhymeswithorange" (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Oryx and Crake (Hardcover)
Simply put, I loved ORYX AND CRAKE! Despite Atwood's grim futuristic plot of 'science gone mad' I found it difficult to put this book down. The first person narration of Snowman (Jimmy) jumps between the present (a bleak world existing primarily of him and the Crakers) and the past (events leading up to the destruction of humanity) as the details of the plot are uncovered. I most enjoyed Atwood's fresh writing and awe-inspiring imagination. Although I am not a fan of the science fiction genre I loved reading about Snowman's interpretation of the end of society. Of course ORYX AND CRAKE contains many cautionary tales against gene splicing, corporations, and the power of the Internet (why aren't there any 'happy' books of the future?). Despite Atwood's bleak and dark vision of the future there is much to extract, as science can't eliminate human love and desire. The relationships between Crake, Jimmy, and Oryx are mysterious and convoluted and I wanted to learn more. I appreciated Atwood's ability to tell this tale without filling in all the details for the reader. Much is left to the reader's imagination and I wasn't annoyed by this at all. Without risking giving away anymore of the plot I will end this review by stating that I was left greatly satisfied by ORYX AND CRAKE. I remains a gem on my bookshelf.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Handmaid's Tale, But Not Bad, June 24 2003
This review is from: Oryx and Crake (Hardcover)
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not my favourite Atwood, but still memorable, June 13 2003
This review is from: Oryx and Crake (Hardcover)
Well, I couldn't put this one down, but at the same time I can't really say that I was entertained by it. What a bleak, miserable and pessimistic future Atwood envisions. Scientifically complex and literally complex, Atwood is raising the all important question of "what if the scientific tools that we have today are misused, and how far down the road do we have to go before things start to go terribly wrong?" I'm a big fan of Atwood's work, but I have to say that this novel is not one of my favourites, although I DID read The Handmaid's Tale years ago and absolutely loved it. Those who say that Oryx and Crake is a science fiction novel are missing the mark; it's actually speculative fiction - taking a world that is familiar to us now and hypothesizing on an incredible outcome. Atwood raised lots of issues in this book - genetics, and gene splicing, sexuality, popular culture, environmental destruction, the existence of god, STD's, diseases, globalization and the fate of human societies. This is not a "heavy" read but certainly a provocative one. I found the preamble with Snowman's encounter with the Crakers a little tedious, but the story really gets going when we start flashing back to Jimmy and Crake. I really liked the way Atwood keeps giving you hints throughout and keeps you wondering what catastrophe actually struck society, and how Snowman ends up in this situation. The scenes when Jimmy goes to work in the Compound are chilling in their realistic detail and it's the sort of story that gives you bad dreams at night!
This is a good read, and also a very depressing vision of our future!
Michael
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So What?, May 31 2004
I had reasonably high hopes for this novel, not because of Atwood's repute, not because of the accolades and nominations it received, but because I find it interesting how others interpret the fall of humanity. While Oryx and Crake proved to be a semi-interesting read, there are many areas in which this novel is lacking.
Other reviewers have touched upon the poor character development, and I have to agree. I didn't care about Jimmy/Snowman, Crake, Oryx, or any of the sub-characters. It is evident that considerably less time was used creating them than the plot and intricacies of her wasteland. This becomes a problem near the end as we're asked to understand and sympathise with these people but lack that closeness resulting from proper development.
Some parts of Oryx and Crake wear thin, quickly. Most prevalent are the names she uses for futuristic compounds and man-made lifeforms: names like RejoovenEssence, Pigoon, Wolvogs and ChickieNobs grow more ridiculous as you read them again, and again, and again. Take the Wolvogs for instance: with the appearance of domesticated dog breeds, they actually have the feral instincts of a wolf. Fine, but why not just call them wolves? Feral Dogs? Or why not come up with something new entirely?
Ultimately, the book can be interesting, but for something so subtly based on character, one should expect that the characters be more than the two-dimensional yawns that they are. The ending is a collosal let-down and rather predicatble, given the progression of the story. Overall, I'm left thinking "so what?" about virtually everything.
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4.0 out of 5 stars New concerns, old ideas, Dec 10 2004
By 
John Mutford "John Mutford" (Iqaluit, Nunavut Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
An interesting comment came from panellist Zsuzsi Gartner during the Canada Reads 2004 debate on CBC Radio. I won't apply quotation marks as I'm sure my memory has paraphrased it instead of verbatim, but she said that good novels shouldn't be hermetically sealed. With the exception of fantasy novels, I agree with this comment (after looking up what she meant in the dictionary).
Canada Reads 2005 contender, Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake is not fantasy and depending on how paranoid (revision: conspiracy-minded) you are, may not even be science fiction. And in accord with Ms. Gartner's adage, it isn't hermetically sealed. Great futuristic novels, like 1984 and Brave New World , speak as much about the time in which they were written- the fears and concerns of the society's psyche- as they do of a vision of the future. Oryx and Crake is a great futuristic novel. While it does not concern itself with censorship and overt governmental control (like the aforementioned classics), it does speak of underlying fears of our present society. Voyeurism via the internet, company-created gated communities, global warming, and especially genetic engineering are all themes addressed in this book.
While different in themes perhaps than the works of Orwell and Huxley, Atwood isn't always full of original ideas in this book. The naming of Crake's children after famous historical leaders is straight out of Clone High. Maybe Atwood was paying homage to the cartoon, maybe she had never heard of it, or maybe it was buried not-so-deep in her subconscious a la George Harrison and the Chiffon's He's So Fine. Who knows? The joke was old from the get-go for me because of the cartoon, and that's unfortunate. It doesn't stop at Clone High. Atwood also recycles some of her own ideas. Snowman's obsession with old words is a little too reminiscent of the character in The Robber Bride who had an annoying habit of reading words backwards. As an author, I'm sure Ms. Atwood must love words, but reading lists of them on their own got very tedious for me.
However, the original ideas in Oryx and Crake outnumbered the unoriginal and that salvaged the book in my opinion. The moral issues arising out of Atwood's futuristic novel caused me to stop and ponder quite often. For instance, the whole idea of Chickie Nobs. What would they mean to the animal rights activists and vegetarians? Very intriguing.
The character of Snowman was also very interesting. Here is a very clichéd male, with mother issues, attempts at communication through sex, and a protective instinct towards females. If there was such a thing as a masculinist, he'd be protesting loudly about this one. However, every intelligent person knows that sometimes people do fit stereotypes and it's refreshing that Atwood doesn't steer away from it out of political correctness. In previous books I've found some of her characters a little too eccentric to be believable, but that is not the case with the main character here.
One thing I didn't quite get in this novel was the ubiquitous cat imagery. My theory about why she puts in so many feline references, comes from a documentary I once saw. Unlike most domesticated creatures, it said, cats have retained almost all of their natural instincts and behaviours. Even more than dogs. Maybe this relates somehow. I'm not sure, nor do I feel Atwood adequately spells it out. I'd suggest that maybe she felt doing so would be too blatant, but a page near the end spells out everything else (unnecessarily and frustratingly so), so why avoid the explanation for the cats?
Oryx and Crake is a good read. It's probably, at least out of those that I've read, one of the best out there that addresses the concerns of today. Therefore, it wouldn't be a bad pick as the winner of Canada Reads 2005. It is not however, flawless and it is not Atwood's best (nor worse) novel. It did keep me interested and it did make me question today's society and where it's headed. Thought-provoking and entertaining; it's at least part of what I look for in a book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A book that makes us reflect the state of our species., July 14 2004
By 
T. D. - teagle74@hotmail.com (Vancouver, British Columbia Canada) - See all my reviews
To start off, I like to state my bias as an avid Margaret Atwood reader. I pretty much read most of her books and poetry and find it hauntingly refreshing. I read a lot of criticism before I even started on this book and find most of it to be legitimate after just finishing the book myself. This book does leave for a very open ending, but it didn't bother me as it did for other readers. Personally, I found the open ending to mean that we have the option to make our decision about our future and not leave it to somebody else's hands.
What I love about this book was how she was able to make me question myself as a human. It's easy to feel how little we are when our actions seem to have little to no consequence as a typical human being, but here we find the protagonist to be in the opposite position. The story is solid and gripping due the fact she Ms. Atwood does her research and draws a future that can easily occur if scientific achievement and economic forecast hold true. I hope everybody who reads this auspicious book gets something timely and rousing from it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A book that makes us reflect the state of our species., July 14 2004
By 
T. D. - teagle74@hotmail.com (Vancouver, British Columbia Canada) - See all my reviews
To start off, I like to state my bias as an avid Margaret Atwood reader. I pretty much read most of her books and poetry and find it hauntingly refreshing. I read a lot of criticism before I even started on this book and find most of it be legitimate after just finishing the book myself. This book does leave for a very open ending, but it didn't bother me as it did for other readers. Personally, I found the open ending to mean that we have option to make our decision about our future and not leave it to somebody else's hands.
What I love about this book was how she was able to make me question myself as a human. It's easy to feel how little we are when our actions seem to have little to no consequence as a typical human being, but here we find the protagonist to be in the opposite position. The story is solid and gripping due the fact she Ms. Atwood does her research and draws a future that can easily occur if scientific achievement and economic forecast hold true. I hope everybody who reads this auspicious book gets something timely and rousing from it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Clever, but depressing and disappointing, May 5 2004
By 
CanadianMother (Ontario) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
I have read most of Atwood's novels and consider her to be a talented writer. Alias Grace and The Blind Assasin I especially admire.
However, I was very disappointed in Oryx and Crake. It could be that my reading tastes have changed since last I read Atwood, but I found this book to be plain depressing. There was hardly a glimmer of hope, not a moment of happiness for me as I read along with Jimmy/Snowman throughout his troubled childhood in the "compounds", his unhappy youth, and his struggle to survive and keep his sanity intact in the post-Crake world. I became more and more depressed as the story progessed and I came to realize just how screwed up Atwood's version of the future was. Everything, it seemed, was wrong with the world and humanity was doomed even before Crake came along with his "genius" mind. It doesn't bring me any enjoyment to think of humanity going to hell in a handbasket, even if it is fiction, and I don't share her apparent view that humans, if given the technology, will destroy themselves by their greed and stupidity.
Yes, Atwood provided piercing and disturbing views of what the future of humanity might be--and her imagination is supreme. Her creativity is very admirable. It's very clever all of it, but so pessimistic that I could hardly stand the book as I was reading it. I kept reading though, only because I wanted to find out how Snowman could possibly have arrived at such a state.
The ending explained everything for the most part but I found it unsatisfying and felt that the story ended rather abruptly.
As for the characters, none of them has any redeeming qualities, with the possible exception of Jimmy's mother. I didn't like a single character. Crake is a heartless megolomaniac; Jimmy is a dunce who refuses to see the truth about anything and just coaxes through life letting others decide things for him; Oryx is flake who is thinks everyone who abuses her is "a good man." And of course every corporation in the future is morally corrupt, playing god, making people sick so they can sell them medicine, etc. etc.
The Blind Assassin had some moments of joy with the forbidden love affair, but this book is just sad. I wish I would have saved my money on this one. I gave it two stars only because as I said, many of Atwood's ideas are quite clever and her writing style is good.
Read this book if you want sobre food for thought, but not if you want a good story, lovable characters, or a happy ending.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unintended Consequences, June 25 2003
By 
This review is from: Oryx and Crake (Hardcover)
This is a highly creative and fascinating novel from Atwood, and quite a departure from her previous works. In this great exercise of speculative fiction, biotech has run amuck and the worst unintended consequences have come to fruition. One man's megalomaniac drive to improve the human condition through biotech alteration has led to the downfall of civilization, with rampaging viruses and feral designer animals destroying a dysfunctional corporate-controlled society. Atwood is clearly using this far-fetched but still ominous storyline to comment on the biotech industry and the desires of a few profiteers to control the biological destinies of millions of people, plus the coming domination of human rights by corporate profiteering in general. Sometimes this commentary is a bit heavy-handed, but the story remains fascinating and chilling. Atwood's writing style is poetic and spooky, while her main characters are fully developed but remain intriguingly mysterious. This will prove to be one of the most haunting, stirring, and innovative new novels of the year.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A timely, visual, and gripping novel, June 23 2003
By 
Garrett and Yolanda (Oceanside, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Oryx and Crake (Hardcover)
I believe that novel is good when I get to the final page and let out a wistful sigh. A novel is great when I read voraciously until the last chapter and then purposefully set the book aside, prolonging the end of our relationship for just a few more hours. That is precisely what I did with Oryx and Crake.
There is something about a Margaret Atwood novel that grips me. Her imagery is superb. She writes sentences that are so musical, so perfectly picked, that I find myself reading lines over and over, savoring every word. Her pose is gripping and poetic
To date I have read five of her books, including The Handmaid's Tale, which I still consider to be her finest. I do not see Oryx and Crake as sequel to the Handmaid's Tale, but it is an equally compelling story. In a time filled with Monkey Pox, SARS and instant gratification, it easy to envision a future that looks much like Jimmy's world (before he becomes Snowman). I would argue that if some readers find some of the book's action predictable, then Ms. Atwood has done her job. A dystopia should feel like an inevitable conclusion, as it is based on the conditions of the present leading toward frighteningly pessimistic future.
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Oryx and Crake
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