We love books

 
Random Article


 
Don't Miss
 

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood

 
Ratings
 
 
 
 
 


 


0
Posted October 2, 2016 by

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood – 2003

Posted by moana on 23/6/2004, 11:51:54

I really enjoyed reading this book, even though it took me quite a while to actually get into it. The first few chapters were not as interesting as the rest of the book. Some points I’d like to talk about:

oryx-crake1

The major theme of the book relates to genetic modification – is it a good thing or a bad thing? While we talk about the morality of modifying the human race, Atwood goes further and destroys all people, replacing them with the Crakers. Can we even talk about the morality of doing something like that? Is this the next step of evolution, brought about by the brightest minds of the human race?

And then, is Crake evil for distributing the virus that kills off most of humanity, or is he good for wanting to rid the earth of the destructive nature of man?

Speaking of the title characters, you don’t get to know them half so well as you get to know Snowman/Jimmy. I would have liked to see more of Crake when he was younger, as I found the Crake/Jimmy parts of the book to be the most interesting (the games they play like “Blood and Roses”). Also, the Oryx child-pornography subplot doesn’t really go anywhere or lead to any revelations (as far as I can see). Why did Atwood include this, and is this the only “feminist” slant that Atwood brought to this book?

The title of the book and the cover made me think first of Adam and Eve. Their “children” are the ones inheriting the new world, with all the destruction and purity that Crake gives it – no buildings, no technology, and NO ART. Is this paradise, are the Crakers a step above us in the tree of evolution? Or are they primitive, as Snowman seems to think?

And did you like the book? 🙂

Check out this beautiful artwork: http://maelledoliveux.com/filter/typography/Oryx-and-Crake

Posted by Lale on 24/6/2004, 10:33:26

I have mixed feelings.

On one hand, I am dissappointed. From a woman who can write masterpieces such as Alias Grace, this non-literary, childish attempt at a sci-fi social criticism. First, I couldn’t get past my prejudice that this was way too much like her “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Both stories take place in the near future where the narrator remembers the “good old days” (so to speak, or let’s say “almost good old days”) AND lives the “today”. Second, I found the futuristic descriptions goofy. The animal names: rakunk, wolvog, snat … I would have expected some originality from Atwood. She couldn’t even come up with something to replace the microwave. Sorry, it just did not deliver the goods when it came to creating an image of a life that sprang from the exaggeration of today’s direction. I appreciate the attempt but I have seen/read better. Fake vs real food was repeated too many times; spray guns (how do they work, anyway?) and buzzers, television and computers (internet) were neither here nor there. Not enough changes on some and absurdity on others (towels walking on the floor, for instance.)

On the other hand, I zipped through the book and it was fun to read. One should still commend Atwood for at least making the book a “page-turner”, that must be not easy. So, the book’s light-weightedness works both to its advantage and to its disadvantage. I liked some of the thought provoking extreme. Sometimes I just put the book down and said to myself: “it is all too possible”. It is possible to jump to the extreme in just a few years and that’s maybe the book’s only goal, to demonstrate that.

: discussion. I really enjoyed reading this book, even
: though it took me quite a while to actually get into
: it. The first few chapters were not as interesting as
: the rest of the book.

I had the opposite experience. I got into the book immediately but as I progressed I started to like it less and less.

: genetic
: modification – is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, the gut instinct says bad, bad, bad. But sometimes one wonders, maybe the nature did intend for us to figure out how to modify it (the nature). Maybe it is part of nature’s grand plan for us to change the nature. And we have been changing the nature since day one.

The question with modification is not that if we should or should not do it, the question is where to stop? We don’t mind curing diseases and making people live longer. But how much longer? Nobody minds when the average age increases from 60 to 80, but some of us mind when it increases from 80 to 100, more of us will mind if it increases from 100 to 120.

How many of the eggs, tomatoes or grapes I eat are natural in the true sense of the word?

Ladies and gents of ReadLit:

Q1. How many of you use or would consider using creams that make the skin look good (restore moisture, elasticity etc., let’s just say reduce the wrinkles)?

Q2. How many of you would consider undergoing surgery to look good?

It is all a matter of knowing where to stop, isn’t it? Somethings are quite acceptable, such as creams, and somethings are not (botox injections).

: to rid the earth of the destructive nature of man?

Nature created the destructive nature of man.

: Speaking of the title characters, you don’t get to know
: them half so well as you get to know Snowman/Jimmy. I
: would have liked to see more of Crake when he was

I agree. The title of the book was misleading. OK, Crake has an important part but Oryx didn’t deserve to be at the same level as Crake.

I found the character of Oryx (“Jimmy you worry too much”) very annoying, for some reason. Crake didn’t annoy me.

: Also, the Oryx
: child-pornography subplot doesn’t really go anywhere or
: lead to any revelations (as far as I can see).

Once again, I agree. It didn’t go anywhere. Except to show that the current world was evil. This was one of the weakest parts in the book.

: Why did
: Atwood include this, and is this the only
: “feminist” slant that Atwood brought to this
: book?

I think she just wanted a representation of all bad things that were outside of the modules (the life as we know it today) and the sterile but maybe even worse (moral-wise) life in the modules, thus have a comparison. To bring us to your question of was Crake really evil, since before Crakers we were abusing children … Weak!

: The title of the book and the cover made me think first
: of Adam and Eve. Their “children” are the
: ones inheriting the new world,

So did I. But I found animals to be “Children of Oryx” and the human-like creatures to be “Children of Crake” a little like musings you would find in high-school creative writing classes. My daughter writes better fantasy than this.

: And did you like the book? 🙂

Two stars.

Lale

~

oryx-crake2

Posted by Stephen on 24/6/2004, 10:59:37

Someone once said of palaeontologist Stephen J Gould that “he writes wonderfully, if only he could think”. The same might be said of Atwood for this book. Set in a not-too-distant future, this dubious tale is little more than a prolonged expression of unthinking panic. Jimmy the Snowman, teetering on the edge of madness, relates the history of his life. His society, riven into high-tech “Compounds” and “pleebland”, is already confronting the impact of global warming. New York has drowned, solar ultraviolet pierces a diminished atmosphere and the rich and powerful have a new Miami Beach on the shores of Hudson’s Bay. Jimmy, caught up in these conflicting elements, struggles to understand them. And to survive.

The “rich and powerful” have gained their status through “hi-tech” corporations, who run the Compounds like Company Towns of a century ago. Atwood lists their ever more bizarre products as she drags us through her litany of fears of The Biotech Monster. Artificial organs are bred in “pigoons”. “Wolvogs” and “rakunks” are “designed” for roles unreliably played by their wild forebears. Jimmy’s parents were part of this scientist-turned-businessman culture until his mother decamped. Although distant, Jimmy’s relationship with his mother forms a sub-theme in the story. Never a “numbers type”, Jimmy passes through the usual painful adolescence. During that transition, he encounters Crake, a moody, introspective boy. Crake goes on to become a powerful figure in the biotech industry while Jimmy languishes as a scribe for a nondescript promotional firm.

Throughout his life, Jimmy is haunted by the image of a child he viewed on the Internet. Atwood teases out her story like an imbedded splinter. Oryx, named because she knows no other, has led a horrific existence, but only Jimmy is angry about that. Between them, Oryx and Crake form the Yin and Yan of Jimmy’s existence. Ultimately, that duality extends to all humanity. For Crake, in his demented wisdom, has created a new species of human – the Children of Oryx and Crake. Jimmy is forced to assume the role of interlocutor between the creator and their “offspring”. He’s chosen because he may be the last living human on the planet.

Atwood would have you believe she’s heavily researched this book. Yet the result of those labours is merely a scattering of terms, some hazy ideas, and a goat farm outside Montreal. We are dazzled by the organic creations – none of which are likely, while being led along by her imaginative fears. Having no science to apply to the narrative, it’s simply fabricated. This isn’t even speculation, it’s calamity-howling to inflame the reader, but to what end is left unsaid. The book reads like a children’s ghost story.

Obviously, some research was done, but it wasn’t in science. Her attention was clearly captured by the “sci-fi” novels of the 1950s. She has used the future to take us back in [literary] time. The plot of this book is so ancient it might have been scratched on Neolithic cave walls. There are no surprises, a dearth of innovation and the story utterly transparent. The characterisation is even worse. Her protagonists are a hubris-ridden, world-destroying genius, an angelic innocent a Barbie would envy, and a bumbling adolescent who seems destined never to mature. They are cardboard portrayals of a type long abandoned even by science fiction writers.

If you desire good S-F try Robert Sawyer or Greg Bear. This book is a waste of time and funds. Unless the catalog in your dunny is growing thin.

stephen a. haines

oryx-crake3

Posted by Mark on 2/7/2004, 23:01:25

“Set in a not-too-distant future, this dubious tale is little more than a prolonged expression of unthinking panic.”

I can’t claim that Oryx and Crake is a great book, mostly because I don’t think Atwood succeeds in making the all-important character of Jimmy as compelling as he ultimately must be if the novel is to succeed. But I would like to defend a bit of the sci-fi background as well as the underlying premise that humanity may be facing some serious problems in the not-so-distant future.

Normally, I don’t concern myself with the scientific details behind sci-fi works. Even in many of the classics, it becomes all too easy to nit-pick depictions of future technologies, which must inevitably be wrong in many respects. How dated so much of Asimov already feels if you look only at the technology. My normal stance is that these stories should instead be judged according to the insights they give us into the human spirit.

Having said that, I’d like to discuss a couple of those aforesaid details just to show why I don’t think they’re necessarily an expression of “unthinking panic.” First, there’s the matter of global warming, which oppresses us throughout the entire novel like a low-pressure front in the topics. I’ve never been one of those “true believers” in regard to global warming, largely because the satellite data never agreed with the surface data. But the evidence for global warming seems to pile up a little higher every day, including in a recent study published in Nature magazine showing the effect of stratospheric cooling. According to a Nature science update, the research team in question “subtracted the impact of such cooling from data on the stratosphere and performed a statistical analysis, which found temperature trends consistent with observed warming on the surface and the predictions of climate models.” In other words, it’s getting harder and harder to argue that global warming is just political correctness and environmentalism running amok.

None of this means that New York state is turning into a tropical rainforest overnight, as some parts of Oryx and Crake seem to suggest. The truth is, Atwood uses global warming as a convenient symbol both of humanity’s plight and of the Crakers’ new beginning. It can’t be a coincidence that the global warming world where the Crakers live in naked bliss bears such a strong resemblance to our ideals of Eden. Atwood isn’t making a sci-fi prediction here as much as she using what is probably a real phenomenon and leveraging it for literary purposes.

A second part of the book that may be called alarmist is all the emphasis on how genetic engineering is being used to create some sort of dystopia. Truth is, you don’t have to be alarmist to be concerned about the future implications of that. Just check out all the recent hand wringing about the strain of avian flu in Asia that is jumping from birds to humans with very deadly results and may yet cause the most terrible influenza epidemic since the early 20th century unless scientists can get a handle on it. And that’s just a version of natural evolution rather than genuine gene splicing. Imagine what happens when we truly perfect the field of proteomics in a world filled with millions of smart folks who want to write real viruses and not just the computer type. Atwood isn’t, of course, covering a lot of ground that hasn’t been covered before by more traditional sci-fi writers. Nancy Kress comes to mind. But Atwood’s purposes are more multidimensional because she trying to create a sort of profane and satirical creation myth all her own.

On a more general level, here’s the reality on which a lot of her story is based. The reason that human lifestyles (that is, our cultures) have changed (some would say progressed) so remarkably quickly in the course of just a few thousand years is because we are constantly changing our own environment through our technologies and then changing again as we improve those technologies (or adjust to problems caused by those technologies).

We create spears to kill animals more quickly and then find out we run out of animals and then we create agriculture and domesticate animals so we have more food to eat and then we create cities so we have more people to grow food and then we create new systems of government to handle all these people concentrated together and then we create large walls to protect these people from other hungry people and then we create catapults to break the big walls and then we…well, you get the point.

By evolutionary standards, it’s a remarkably fast process. It’s all based on our ability to hand down knowledge from one generation to the next, which then improves on the new artifacts/technologies.

The point is that now, with genetics, we’re just arriving at the state where we become our own artifacts. Think about that a minute. Once we perfect these sciences, we will mold ourselves at the same fantastic (and ever quickening) rate of speed that we’ve evolved our technologies. This is a scary place to be, and so I have some sympathy when Crake says that things are changing so fast that humanity has lost its ability to navigate. The best it can do is hold on tight in rapids growing ever faster, ever more turbulent.

Now, I’m not pretending to know how it’s all going to end. But I do know that, whether he or she be optimistic or pessimistic, nobody else knows either. At least Atwood is stepping up and trying to create the kind of story that may help humanity avoid some of the larger rocks in the river. For that alone, if nothing else, she’s won my respect.

 

 

Posted by len. on 6/7/2004, 9:46:37

Mark writes:

>Atwood isn’t making a sci-fi prediction here as much as she using what is probably a real phenomenon and leveraging it for literary purposes.

Indeed, the best science fiction is almost never intended to be predictive, another common misconception about the genre. SF is sometimes expanded as “speculative fiction” rather than “science fiction”, and the best speculative fiction poses questions of the “what if” variety that stories set in the more familiar world of today or its history have a harder time asking, though they are inevitably variations on the basic themes of what it means to be human, and what it means to be non-human.

len.

 

 

Posted by the bunyip on 9/7/2004, 14:13:13

I would contest this statement. While earlier SF may have had less “forecasting” bent, this is less true today. Greg Bear, and Robert Sawyer as examples, posit “what if” based on current knowledge in various fields. Sawyer doesn’t like the term “speculative fiction”, but i think he has an aversion to Harlan Ellison who promoted, if not actually coining, the term.

In hopes we’re not descending into a dispute over semantics, “predictive” sounds rather “inevitable” which most SF writers would disdain. “Plausible” from today’s knowledge and possible trends would be more to my liking.

the bunyip

~

Posted by moana on 26/6/2004, 16:37:35

Wait, so does this mean you didn’t like Brave New World?

I was hoping for more, having liked A Handmaid’s Tale, and I think I read a review on Amazon somewhere that said something about all the heavy-handed symbols Atwood uses… I liked the interaction between Crake and Jimmy, which is why the second part of the book was my favorite.

Still, the made-up words, the lack of cool technology, this stuff worsened the book, and I think it would have been better had Atwood not TRIED to write science fiction.

By the way, my favorite science fiction novel is Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. It’s masterful science fiction that uses the tech stuff in crazy and wonderful ways. I’m sorry that more people didn’t like the book (I had fun reading it, even though I didn’t think it should have won any prizes), so if you want good SF, that’s what I reccommend 🙂

 

 

Posted by Lale on 27/6/2004, 9:29:54

: Wait, so does this mean you didn’t like Brave New World?

Oh, I liked Huxley’s Brave New World but there were some boring parts in it. I thought Oryx and Crake had more suspense. Atwood didn’t stay in one place for too long, didn’t dwell on things, didn’t go on and on about something, it was a fast and fun read.

That’s basically the only thing I liked about the book.

I hated the “ditto”s.

Lale

 

 

 

Posted by the bunyip on 25/6/2004, 5:42:24

“plebian” society.

Neal Stephenson used a related term in “Snowcrash” – most of society lived in “burbclaves” – suburban enclaves. Reading today’s SF requires an intuition for where language is likely to go as much as for where technology is likely to lead.

This is yet another reason i encourage you all to read Sawyer. He doesn’t resort to “technobabble” to impress the reader.

stephen

 

 

Posted by Guillermo Maynez on 26/6/2004, 12:16:04

Well, frankly speaking, I started to like this book in the beginning. Just like Lale, I got into it quick but I was also disappointed quickly. The story is totally unimaginative (in spite of pretending to be SF!), and please don’t come scare me with global warming. Jimmy the Snowman is not an unattractive character, but Crake is a snob and Oryx has no place in the story and I’m not going to be moved or impressed to tears by the child pornography story. Imagining a mad scientist trying to reengineer humankind, and then everything goes wrong, is as original as the story of the ex-pornstar turned caretaker of the Crakers. I have to admit the book was fun sometimes, but very basic fun. It kept reminding me of those now rightfully forgotten 70’s novels, mediocre mixes of SF, porn, futuristic catastrophes, etc. If this is Atwood, I’m amazed at her fame. It’s not deserved.

~

Posted by Bethany on 27/6/2004, 22:25:28

I agree with you on some levels – Oryx’s story seems kind of out of place in the book. Well, I guess the child porn story does some work to explain Jimmy’s infatuation with Oryx. But I think the real genius of Atwood’s work shines through in Jimmy. In some ways, he’s an incredibly boring character. His life is so pathetic, and the way he acts, the way he is obsessed with Oryx – it really frustrates me a lot of the time. Yet somehow, I never became so frustrated that I put the book down. He grips you as a reader – there’s something there, something special. Also, consider the fact that you know the ending (or almost the ending) already at the beginning of the book. It’s no surprise that the Crakers are created and Jimmy has to take care of them, and yet the book is suspenseful. I couldn’t put it down because of a desire to find out what happened. I think this is a testament to Atwood’s skill as a writer.

As for the story itself, I wonder how literally we are meant to take it. I mean, I guess it’s plausible in a way, and that’s what makes the book successful on a surface level. If humanity comes to a bitter end, you can bet it’s going to be by our own hand. Besides, part of the joy of writing would be to create this new world – as an author, I think that would be a fascinating thing to do. And yet, I think the story can be taken on a more metaphoric level, too. The story is not prophetic in its details, it’s prophetic in its generality. We are so concerned with scientific advancement that it is becoming harder and harder to be concerned with the state of the earth, it’s natural resources, its innate beauty.

Okay, I don’t know how much of that makes sense – just some thoughts off of the top of my head.

By the way, pleeblands really confused me at first too, because I kept reading it as plee-blands. Then something clicked in my memory from highschool history class – oh yeah, plebians!

 

 

Posted by len. on 2/7/2004, 13:03:09

Bethany writes:

>Oryx’s story seems kind of out of place in the book.

I’ve not finished the book yet, but I immediately took it for granted that Atwood created the Children of Oryx and the Children of Crake to provide some sort of contrast and duality. I haven’t gotten far enough to confirm that this is really there.

I agree that the story is bad science fiction. It’s the sort of science fiction that people who don’t read science fiction write, what they think science fiction is like, without knowing what it’s like. But it’s ultimately incidental to the larger aim of the book, which, at this point, I can’t articulate.

Good SF takes the “SF stuff” for granted and you hardly notice it. The “SF stuff” provides a different or larger canvas on which to address the classic human issues, or to examine truly alien variations on these themes and their implications.

Recommended:

The Sparrow: Mary Doria Russell
Snow Crash; The Diamond Age: Neil Stephenson
Ender’s Game: Orson Scott Card
The Foundation Trilogy: Isaac Asimov
A Fire upon the Deep: Vernor Vinge
Hyperion: Dan Simmons
Childhood’s End: Arthur C. Clarke
Ringworld: Larry Niven

len.

 

 

Posted by moana on 2/7/2004, 22:48:10

Thanks for giving me my new summer reading list 🙂

~

Posted by Mark on 2/7/2004, 23:14:36

If you’re interested in reading some new sci-fi, allow me to recommend The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. This book won the Nebula Award for best novel in 2003. There are a few clumsy parts to it, but much of the writing is dazzlingly poetic, a rare treat in sci-fi. The main character is compelling and yet has you wondering what a person’s “identity” truly is. And the book is refreshingly free of aliens, spaceships, wormholes, robots and the like.

~

Posted by Meg on 28/6/2004, 0:27:43

I’ve had a very good time reading everyone else’s responses to this novel — and it is very hard for me to write my own response — because I am still so up in the air about this book.

On the one hand, I found it incredibly slow to start. I really wasn’t into it at all until Snowman started his journey to Paradice, and even then, I was only slightly interested in the present-day story. I was much more interested in seeing Crake’s journey as told through the flash-backs instead.

As far as our discussion points go, I find myself agreeing with those who wished for more from Oryx and who were disapointed in the shoddy attempt at sci-fi. Crake was quite fascinating, but Jimmy/Snowman felt like a clumsy writer’s attempt to make me feel bad for a half-written character.

However, there was one aspect of the story that I found absolutely riveting that hasn’t been touched on yet by us, and that is the ending. Strangely, though, because of my apathy towards Snowman, it only becomes interesting to me if I view it as an abstract:

If you somehow managed to survive the apocalypse and live in total isolation for a period of time, how would you approach the first strangers? To do so may mean salvation (of sanity as well as life) but it also creates a huge risk.

On one level, it’s the choice we all make after the first time someone breaks our heart and we have to re-enter the world: no man is an island … but to push oneself out to sea to find others is to explose oneself to sharks. (that’s a horribly clumsy way of phrasing that, but you understand, yes?) On another level, it is the choice that world leaders are trying to make now: how do we begin to trust the unknown — isn’t it easier and safer to strike out at it before it can hurt us?

What does Snowman/Jimmy decide? Will he hurt the strangers and trully become the Abominable Snowman — the last of his race, a creature on its way to extinction? Or will he reach out to them as Jimmy — a man who has undergone hell, but still a man?

 

 

Posted by Mark on 28/6/2004, 0:32:16

Although I’m not a long-time participant here, I did recently read Oryx and Crake and so hope you don’t mind if I put in my two cents.

I tend to agree with the other readers’ comments that Oyrx is not a very well developed character, making her feel more like a literary and plot device than an integral part of the story. As for Crake, he is also undeveloped in many ways, but this doesn’t bother me as much since he is, after all, intended to be cipher.

Like everything else in this futuristic world, Crake is a shadow of something that was once great. Art has become nothing but marketing. Love has been abandoned for sex. Freedom has been replaced by security. Creativity is corrupted money. And God becomes a miserable little nightmare-plagued gene-splicer named Crake. It is, in fact, this lousy, degraded world that is in such need not only of renewal but redemption.

That is really Crake’s role. He both a parody of a supreme being and, being a man of genius and action, the real deal. He is both Creator and Destroyer, both vengeful Old Testament Jehovah and the great New Testament martyr trying to redeem humanity.

Inadvertently (on Crake’s part, not Atwood’s), I think the only person Crake redeems is Jimmy/Snowman, the only genuinely three-dimensional character in the whole novel. Jimmy is the perennial adolescent until after the Crake-induced apocalypse. Only then does Jimmy (however reluctantly and imperfectly) mature into anything like an adult, parent, a fully human being.

Snowman stands in contrast to the Crakers themselves, the Adams and Eves of a new world. The Crakers have no real personality and enjoy only rudimentary growth. Crake has tried hard to cleanse them of original sin (which he conflates with some combination of sexual love and symbolic thinking), but in the end he fails. Crake couldn’t keep the Tree of Knowledge from the Crakers, as their creation of mythology and art (in the form of the “Snowman image” they build) shows.

In think Atwood is suggesting that we can’t start over from scratch in the hope of “staying in Eden” next time. That’s a crazy and ultimately supremely Romantic mistake made by Crake. The only hope of redemption is working through where you are now, as Snowman has been trying hard to do.

Atwood leaves you hanging at the end. We never know whether Snowman decides to kill the rest of the humans or not. But you do get the feeling that something important hangs in the balance, and it’s not just the survival of the Crakers or even humanity itself.

 

 

Posted by Enej on 1/7/2004, 3:41:05

I agree with many comments here, but there are still two questions that noone seems to address:

Why did Oryx and Crake have to die, and why did Crake choose such a miserable person as Jimmy, who will just screw up everything again from the start?

…Jimmy, as you all agree, is trapped in a puberty-adolescence type of mind (which is not that uncommon for many in our current society as well), being irresponsible, cynical, not caring, etc. And he is given the task to protect and “raise” the children of Crake – who are naive, pure, unspoiled new breed of “people”, eager to learn about the world and their role in it. And already Jimmy screws up everything from the beginning by his ignorance of the impact of his babbling, creating deity worship, false ideas, lies,… EXACTLY what Cracke said led to eventual destruction of the humanity.

Why did Crake choose such a cynical and unreliable average of a person as Jimmy? Why did he have to kill Oryx, who would have done a much better job probably? I accept the explanation that he killed himself as a sacrifice to the greater end, for he did not want the chance of the information about the vaccine being extracted from him (I assume in future “truth drugs” will be much more reliable)… but still, he could wait with a spray gun and only kill himleft if neccessary. But why kill Oryx? She didn’t know anything about the vaccine. To stimulate compassion in Jimmy? Why choose Jimmy in the first place?

And also a final point to the speculation what happened at the end: I think it’s quite obvious. “Don’t fail me” was Crake’s demand, not Oryx’s – which means – don’t fail my project – don’t fail helping me wipeig out the human race, helping to replace it with a new bred of Crakers.

Enej

~

Posted by Lale on 1/7/2004, 10:48:45

Thanks for the post, Enej.

: Why did Oryx and Crake have to die, and why did Crake
: choose such a miserable person as Jimmy, who will just
: screw up everything again from the start?

I think Crake had to kill Oryx (in front of Jimmy) to create rage in Jimmy and to make him kill himself. And perhaps there was an element of jealousy/revenge as well, since they were both in love with her.

Why did Crake choose Jimmy? Who else was there? He knew Jimmy. Circumstances put them together, somehow they connected and became friends. Crake didn’t have a lot of (read: any) friends. Plus Jimmy was smart (much smarter than the society allowed him to expose) and he was pure, in a way innocent.

: …Jimmy, as you all agree, is trapped in a
: puberty-adolescence type of mind (which is not that
: uncommon for many in our current society as well),
: being irresponsible, cynical, not caring, etc.

I don’t think Jimmy was uncaring. He was a very sensitive, emotional young man. He did care. He cared about his rakunk, he cared about his mother, he cared about Oryx … I think he was chosen because he was a “softie”. He would care for these clueless new creatures.

: everything from the beginning by his ignorance of the
: impact of his babbling, creating deity worship, false
: ideas, lies,… EXACTLY what Cracke said led to

Well, look at the situation he is in. Who could have done better? He is the only soul left on earth, how can one not babble?

: at the end: I think it’s quite obvious. “Don’t
: fail me” was Crake’s demand, not Oryx’s – which
: means – don’t fail my project – don’t fail helping me
: wipeig out the human race, helping to replace it with a
: new bred of Crakers.

When did Jimmy agree to compy with this demand? He didn’t make any promises. Just because Crake says “don’t fail me”, it doesn’t mean Jimmy would automatically sign up to the whole “wiping out the human race” project. He is left with noone of his own race, his loved-one is killed before his eyes, there is no more food, everything is ruined, so Jimmy is now free to do as he pleases, he still did well under the circumstances, I think.

If there was any character to like in the book, it was Jimmy, in my opinion.

: And also a final point to the speculation what happened at the end: I think it’s quite obvious.

As for the very end: I don’t think it would be wise to kill these other three people. We know that they are not the only ones. Jimmy already heard on the radio an English speaking and a Russian speaking survivors. There are surely others. Jimmy can’t keep on killing all of them. Just not practical. One of them will kill him first.

What a mess!

Lale

 

 

Posted by Enej on 1/7/2004, 11:37:52

: I think Crake had to kill Oryx (in front of Jimmy) to
: create rage in Jimmy and to make him kill himself. And

Of course, but why? As I said before – if the reason was to prevent cure (vaccine) being extracted from him, he could carry a spraygun handy and kill himself when (IF) the need arises. Oryx OTOH had nothing to do with it.

: perhaps there was an element of jealousy/revenge as
: well, since they were both in love with her.

Definitely not. That was not Crake’s character – he did everything for the bigger plan – everything was calculated; even his life did not matter for the realisation of his ideas. There is no place for emotions – especialy weak emotions such as love (in his mind, that is).

: I don’t think Jimmy was uncaring. He was a very
: sensitive, emotional young man. He did care. He cared
: about his rakunk, he cared about his mother, he cared
: about Oryx … I think he was chosen because he was a
: “softie”. He would care for these clueless
: new creatures.

Jimmy is a very confused personality – I guess mostly because of his weird disfunctional family. He is an ideal example of a very common and serious problem of our time where parents are failing to understand their children either because of their workoholicism, self-centeredness or general social dissfunctionality (just look at all the self-help groups, sects, “alter” new age religions,… or OTOH look at one show of Jerry Springer show 😉 …and his parents are a classical example of this: Father, a self-focused scientist, wanting to be proud of his son, but failing to understand him utterly, and his mother, a complete nuttcase (I won’t go into details).

…That is also why Jimmy is the only “realistic” and 3-dimensional character of this book (unfortunately). If course you feel sympathetic to him – but that is not an excuse enough.

Most psychos (killers, rapists,…) today have actualy been in their youth quite similar to Jimmy’s personality. Very emotional, introvert, and utterly missunderstood. When I say introvert – being popular with jokes in his high-school is just a mask he puts on to bluff his way into “society”, and try to fool himself to get a fake sense of belonging.

Jimmy is nevertheless an irresponsible, cycical, emotionaly very frustrated person – quite empty in a way (if you haven’t yet – read American Psycho… quite a similar character as far as emotional capabilities are concerned).

: Well, look at the situation he is in. Who could have
: done better? He is the only soul left on earth, how can
: one not babble?

I dissagree. A strong person would understand the situation and would be aware of the impact his deeds make in the future world. Such babbling only means – “i’m the only poor soul left on this earth – what the F* do I care what happens to the rest of it. i’m miserable. i’m even to weak to kill myself – i live, but i do not care about life”.

: When did Jimmy agree to compy with this demand? He
: didn’t make any promises. Just because Crake says
: “don’t fail me”, it doesn’t mean Jimmy would
: automatically sign up to the whole “wiping out the

Nope. He didn’t agree with it before. He was to ignorant to understand what Crake was telling him. BUT, the final words are in itallics – which means the voice in his head. And if the voice in his head tells him this – I assume (that is my understanding, but I may be wrong) it is because he came to the realisation of its meaning. …He was considering the options first. But then the voice tells him to “not fail him”, and that’s it. Final message. Final destruction. Endo of the book – end of civilisation.

: There are surely others. Jimmy can’t keep on killing
: all of them. Just not practical. One of them will kill
: him first.

Of course not. But he doesen’t understand that. Jimmy does not seem to understand much else from his confused now and his messed up past (Oryx). He does not understand the concept of future, the concept of impact and the concept of reason.

: By the way, Enej, we appreciate your contribution.
: Welcome to our site. How did you find us? What is the
: origin of the name Enej?

Thanks. Source: Google – where else 😉 I wanted to see if there is anyone on this planet who doesen’t see this book as the new “Brave new world” – all hyped about praises for it 😉 …I liked it, don’t get me wrong. It is a nice concept, well written, but not developed enough.

Characters are weak, science is poor, certain motives are not well explained. But it is still worth reading – still above the average utopian book.

Origin of Enej? It’s Slovene version of Aeneas.

Enej

 

 

Posted by Meg on 2/7/2004, 8:40:50

:Enej writes
: …and his parents are a classical example of this:
: Father, a self-focused scientist, wanting to be proud
: of his son, but failing to understand him utterly, and
: his mother, a complete nuttcase (I won’t go into
: details).

I think it is unfair to call Jimmy’s mother “a complete nutcase”. From the information we are given about her, she was one of the top brains in her field who became troubled by the moral and social implications of the work she was doing. As a scientist driven in the pursuit of knowledge, she then had two choices: continue in her chosen career, ignoring all of her qualms, or stop. And when she chose to stop, there was nothing else for her. She continued to watch her life partner further entrench himself in the field that she despised, she watched her son growing up in a world that she did not love — how could she possibly stay in that place and stay sane?

And yet she tried: she made over-the-top efforts to be a good mother to Jimmy (cooking special lunches for him), but still cannot succeed at it. So she left — not to fade into obscurity, but to remain at the front of the opposition, fighting tooth and claw for a world she could loved. She is not particularly likeable, nor would I want her for a mother, but she is not a nutcase. She is a person who has lost her place in the world, and goes out to try to reclaim it. In fact, I found her to be one of the more compelling characters in the book.

: I wanted to see if there is anyone on this planet who
: doesen’t see this book as the new “Brave new world” – all
: hyped about praises for it 😉

What’s fun about that thought, though, is the irony in it.

“O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! Oh brave new world
hat has such people in’t.”

When Miranda exclaims this at the end of the Tempest, she is looking at a pack of buffoons, conspirators, assassins and otherwise unsavory characters. It is her complete innocence that allows her to look upon them with wonder. There is a slight parrallel that could be made between Miranda and the Crakers (manufactured innocence in a tempestuous world) and even between Crake and Prospero, who, through their obsession/dedication with learning about “rough magic”/science create a virtual apocalypse where the fundamentals rules of humanity are (at least temporarily) destroyed…

 

 

Posted by Meg on 2/7/2004, 23:17:51

: : perhaps there was an element of jealousy/revenge as
: : well, since they were both in love with her.
:
: Deffinitely not. That was not Crake’s character – he
: did everything for the bigger plan – everything was
: calculated; even his life did not matter for the
: realisation of his ideas. There is no space for
: emotions – especialy weak emotions such as love (in his
: mind, that is).

Objectively, yes. however, I am constantly amazed to see what “weak emotions” like love can do to even the most grounded, driven people in the world.

You demand a lot of an author when you ask that her characters be better people than those we see around us in real life: Jimmy becomes a real human when he finds himself unequal to dealing with raising the Crakers. Who could have done more? Even the strongest would tremble and doubt their purpose when they watched their entire species die a horrible and grisly death…

~

 

Posted by Mark on 3/7/2004, 9:04:10

: : perhaps there was an element of jealousy/revenge as
: : well, since they were both in love with her.
:
: Definitely not. That was not Crake’s character – he
: did everything for the bigger plan – everything was
: calculated; even his life did not matter for the
: realisation of his ideas.

: I am constantly amazed to
: see what “weak emotions” like love can do to
: even the most grounded driven people in the world.

My sense of this is that, yes, Crake was indeed driven by jealousy as well as love to kill Oryx. He held onto his revenge until the last possible moment, to avoid ruining his master plan, and then succumbed to what he himself saw as his own all-too-human weaknesses. How often was the stupidity and destructiveness of human love and sexuality mentioned in this novel, usually by Crake himself? For all that, he was consumed by his love for Oryx, and he wanted (like many murderers of family members) to “protect” her from the pain to follow. Leaving Jimmy behind was, in some ways, part of his revenge against his thick-headed friend. True to character, Crake tried to leverage even his own fallibilities to suit his plans.

As for the end of the book, I don’t think it is determined, or Atwood would have just written it. She leaves it open, allowing much to hang in the balance. It’s up to us to decide both what Jimmy should do and what he will do. Are they the same thing? What’s really a stake? Can he, in the end, be more than the puppet of Oryx and Crake?

My own feeling is that he’s about to slay his fellow survivors and that this will be (at least on a symbolic level) the completion of Crake’s plan. Yet, Crake’s plan is already doomed, I think. The Crakers are themselves all too human. Their symbolic thinking is intact, and they will go on to replicate many of humanity’s faults.

The real hope, from my perspective, is for Jimmy to NOT slay his fellows, but it’s a slim hope. Only by repudiating Crake’s plan will Jimmy become a whole, independent human being, the very thing that his society tried so hard to squelch (both in him and in all people) during his lifetime. Will Jimmy be able to master his own fate in the end? Maybe not. But who among us really does?

 

 

Posted by Guillermo Maynez on 3/7/2004, 13:05:33

Well, it’s been an interesting discussion on an not very interesting book. I tend to stay in the middle when it comes to Jimmy being a cynical and irresponsible guy or a likeable character. I did like him sometimes. As I said at the beginning of the discussion, I like books about persons who are left alone, stranded in some limit-situation, the epitome being of course “Robinson Crusoe”, an excellent story.

The problem with this book is that Atwood shows her laziness here. It is full of cliches and commonplaces. Think about it for a moment: “Oh God, I have to write a new novel and I have run out of ideas. What should I write about? Oh, of course! I’ve got it! I’m going to write about a mad, selfish scientist who works on the genetic field and his experiment goes awfully wrong and the human race is destroyed. I’ll throw in ingenious names for mix-bred animals. There will also be the friend of this scientis, a regular guy from a dysfunctional family. Batman’s Robin, Robinson’s Friday, etc. Cool, and then they will be in love with the same girl, who they find in….. yeah! in a child pornography site! That’ll be cool and politically correct. By the way, that will be the axis of my story: political correctness: global warming will finally become true and damage the Earth; all the subjects of daytime talk shows will be there: environment, dysfunctional families, child pornography, the self-inflicted destruction of humankind, etc., etc., etc.

The fact that the book has created such hype is a testament to the sorry level of most readers. Nothing in it can truly be called “original” or “creative”

 

 

Posted by len. on 6/7/2004, 10:10:36

Guillermo writes:

>Nothing in it can truly be called “original” or “creative”

Sometimes I wonder if originality or creativity has become overvalued as a parameter of art. A great deal of, for lack of a better word, unpleasant 20th century art has had little to recommend it besides its “differentness”, often to the point of being bizarre or offensive solely as a way of being “original”.

Simple excellence of craftsmenship (and I’m not arguing or even implying that Atwood’s book is an example thereof, I’m just going off on a tangent) seems to have fallen into disvalue. I am reminded of Brahms, whose greatness as a composer seems to me to have less to do with his having broken new ground (which he did do on occasion, for example in Ein Deutsches Requiem), as much as his rendering well plowed ground in its consummate form.

 

 

Posted by Mark on 4/7/2004, 12:31:37

For those who would like to know more about the current scientific realities, legalities, and ethics of creating biological chimeras, I recommend a pretty recent article in Mother Jones magazine called “Gods and Monsters” by Mark Dowie. I’ve provided the link below.

http://www.mojones.com/news/feature/2004/01/12_401.html

~

Reviewed by: Adam Date: 1 December 2004

Hmm, an overall great book. Sure, many will be put off that Atwood did not do so much actual research to have 100% accuracy in her “science fiction”. I’d, you know, prefer the imaginative work that writers put out that aren’t restricted by the incredibly tight reigns of the Sci-fi genre.

Anyways, interesting characters, Snowman and Jimmy’s mother fit very well together, it is kind of cool how Atwood threw so much around in the book, it was like a puzzle to solve.

The last words that are said to him are “Don’t let me down”, which is said to Jimmy by his mother right before she was executed. This leads me to believe he wants revenge, though would he inflict it on the humans, who are evil in nature and could have been employed by the compound or other scientists? Or would he wipe out the crakers, the product of the cruel science she deemed immoral?

It’s worth reading through a few times, look for repetition and key characteristics within the book, mirrored events (a la page 106 event 1, page 343 event 2 which is directly similar to event 1). Stuff like that. Think Hamlet analysis.

Anyways, took me a while to find a place like this. Pretty nifty.


ReadLit Team

 


Want to contribute?