Oryx and Crake
is a 2003 novel by Margaret Atwood
"Snowman" is a storyteller and teacher of lore to a new species of sapient beings. He has reason to believe he is the last of the old human beings; humanity and its civilization has been wiped out in a plague.
This novel alternates between Flashbacks
and "present-day." In the flashbacks, he tells about growing up and living with his best friend. They are privileged, living in a walled compound run by drug companies. Genetic engineering is very common in society; they engineer super-pigs to better model human diseases, for instance. His best friend becomes very interested in biology and genetic engineering; he eventually takes on the nickname "Crake" when the pair start playing the game "Extinctathon." (Our protagonist is no good at it, as there are many extinct species and most of them are not big, cute, or prominent. Crake becomes an expert.)
In the present, something goes horribly wrong in a foraging mission, and Snowman has to go to one of the now-ruined and abandoned complexes for shelter - specifically, the one he used to live in. The two storylines do converge.
A sequel, The Year of the Flood
(2009), has been published; rather than continuing the plot, it details what other characters are/were doing during the events of the first novel. The third and final book in the trilogy, MaddAddam
(also the title of the trilogy itself) is due out in August 2013.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Jimmy's reaction to Crake's creation, neon-colored herpes.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Neon green rabbits, Mo'Hair sheep in red, purple, silver, and so on.
- Apocalypse How: Type 3a, mostly.
- After the End
- And You Thought It Was a Game: Extinctathon in Year of the Flood
- Ax-Crazy: Blanco.
- Bad Dreams: So bad that Crake screams in the night from his dreams every night. Made even creepier by the fact that he does not remember them on awakening.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: According to Crake. When designing his new, improved humans, he spends more effort to make sure they won't believe in God than he does on anything else, and doesn't consider them a success until he finds a way to do so. Although note how eagerly they believe everything they hear from Snowman. . .
- Big Bad Friend
- Book Ends: Zero hour.
- Also, Snowman wakes before dawn.
- Character Filibuster
- Cloning Body Parts: "Pigoons" are chimeric pigs with human organs, several human organs in fact, based on one possible method of producing artificial organs.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Cluster S Bomb, really.
Sometimes in the dusk he runs up and down on the sand, flinging stones at the ocean and screaming, Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! He feels better afterwards.
- The Chessmaster: Crake in the literal and troperiffic sense.
- Crapsack World: Atwood makes a fairly compelling case that human civilization deserves to be exterminated.
- More like has to be exterminated. Crake's reason for what he did was that if he didn't do it, humanity would utterly destroy itself, thus exterminating all intelligent life. Crake got rid of humanity, but to save intelligent life he created the children of crake.
- Crowning Moment of Funny: Despite, you know, the fact that everyone on earth is dead, Atwood has written a book that is at times truly hilarious.
- Decade Dissonance: Between the Compounds and the pleeblands.
- Depopulation Bomb: The intended effect of the virus; it's fairly succesful.
- Dystopia: The Guardian's reviewer thought that Nineteen Eighty-Four's future looked pleasant by comparison.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Jimmy's briefly-mentioned girlfriends from the first book, Brenda and Amanda, are the main characters of the second book.
- Everyone Went to School Together: Present in the first book, taken to almost ridiculous levels in the second.
- Evolutionary Levels (possibly subverted)
- Evilutionary Biologist
- Freak Out
- Gambit Roulette: It's implied that Crake had been working on his life's work for a long time. His mother's death was caused by a virus that was very similar to the one he later unleashed upon earth. See Self-Made Orphan below.
- Garden of Evil
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: And how.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: It's later confirmed in The Year Of The Flood that there are a lot more people left than Snowman thinks, and they aren't all as crazy as Snowman. This is probably because they do not know what caused the plague, because the person who caused it wasn't their best friend, and because they don't have to relive their memories over and over again to find out where it went wrong and where Snowman could have prevented it all.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Or a heart of evil. Or a heart of nothing. Or a heart of...gah, stupid Oryx.
- How We Got Here: Snowman wakes up on a beach...
- Killer Rabbit: The wolvogs. Look like friendly dogs, and when they are not ruthlessly killing other creatures, they act like friendly dogs.
- They're designed to act like that, until you get close.
- Literal Genie
- May Contain Evil: BlyssPluss pills are marketed as the ultimate sex aid: they act as contraceptives, prevent the transmission of STDs and enhance sensation. Unfortunately some of the pills also contain an artificially created hemorrhagic Ebola-like virus that wipes out almost the entire human race.
- Mega Corp.: Several.
- Murder.com: It's the new internet porn.
- My Death Is Just the Beginning
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: CorpSeCorps.
- New Media Are Evil: Any and all advancements are painted in the most horrible light Atwood can manage. Apparently anything more technologically advanced than steam power is another step towards the end of the world.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Crake, albeit somewhat silently. Apart from the ominous fridge magnets.
- Retcon: In Oryx and Crake, the God's Gardeners are depicted as a loony, ineffective, fundamentalist Animal Wrongs Group. The Year of the Flood, however, depicts them far more sympathetically, and suggests that their previous characterization was just the public perception informed by CorpSeCorps propaganda and the actions of extremists.
- Bear in mind that Jimmy/Snowman, the POV character of Oryx and Crake, is a preposterous schmuck who is hapless enough to make Josef K. look like Number Six, who gets suckered in by blatantly fraudulent ad campaigns that he wrote himself, who doesn't even clue in after Crake explains that Jimmy's mother went on the run from CorpSeCorps after discovering that her husband's employer had been secretly infecting its own customers with genetically engineered plagues in order to prop up its pharmaceuticals business.
- Schmuck Bait
- Self-Made Orphan: Implied with Crake, who was convinced his mother and uncle had turned his father over to CorpSeCorps to be "suicided".
- Twist Ending / The Untwist: Although it's being foreshadowed very explicitly all along, when the revelation comes, it still hits you like a punch in the gut and a kick in the nuts.
- Unreliable Narrator: Oryx. Everytime Jimmy presses her for her history, her story changes - in the end, Jimmy suspects that she invents her past to humour him.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Lots.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: A number of companies in the story use these, along with Wiki Words.
- Word of God: Atwood says that Crake AKA Glenn is based exactly on Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and has Asperger's Syndrome.