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) was released in 2013.
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. . .
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.
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.
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.
Gone Horribly Wrong: Subverted with the Crakers. Crake wanted them to be incapable of symbolic thought for fear that they would recreate the mistakes of humanity. He fails in this. They develop music, religion and by the end of MaddAddam art but still remain naive and pacifistic.
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.
LEGO Genetics: OrganInc has bred lots of exotic-sounding hybrids. Most have fairly self-explanatory names like "pigoon"note pig + baboon, "rakunk"note raccoon + skunk and the unfortunate "snat"note snake + rat.
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.
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.
Our Elves Are Better: The Crakers, a race of beautiful people literally designed to live harmoniously with nature.
Rape as Drama: Blanco in The Year of the Flood always picks one of the girls who works for him at Secretburger as his unwilling sex object. Worse, they tend to die soon afterwards.
Retcon: In Oryx and Crake, the God's Gardeners are depicted as a loony, ineffective, fundamentalistAnimal 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.
Synthetic Plague: HelthWyzer put plagues in vitamin pills to create demand for their products, which inspired Crake to put the plague he used to wipe out humanity in sex enhancement pills.
Tuckerization: The characters Amanda Payne and Rebecca Eckler were named after winners in charity auctions
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. Every time Jimmy presses her for her history, her story changes - in the end, Jimmy suspects that she invents her past to humor him. Also, Jimmy himself, both literally and in the lit.crit. senses.
Utopia Justifies the Means: Even if the means are wiping out the entire human race and replacing them with a new one engineered to live harmoniously with nature.