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BOOK REVIEW: Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood
This is one of those books that shows a lot about your beliefs in your reaction to it. The main ideabase of the book comes from the future of genetic engineering. It starts out with small things like "racunks" or racoons crossed with skunks, minus the smell. It ends with, well I won't spoil it, but needless to say some people will find the Crakers an improvement and some won't. You'll have to read the book to see what I mean. I have the feeling that a lot of the stuff that Atwood found horrifying about genetic engineering (the "chickie-nobs") I have completely the opposite reaction to. That's what I mean about your reaction to the book saying something about your beliefs, especially in the "playing God" discussion.

The creation of the world after the perfection of genetic splicing and engineering is very well done and very compelling and I comend Margaret Atwood on her achievement. The other thing that I hope gets people's attention in the book is the power of the corporation aspect of the book. I trust corporations to create profit maximizing things like the chickie-nobs but I will never trust a corporation to make decisions about the future path of humanity, like they do in this book. If people don't pay attention though, that's what's going to happen. Genetic engineering is a very powerful technology and despite some technophobes best efforts it's going to come soon. The power to muck with humanity on a large scale is something that requires transparency of operation to be used safely. We have to pay attention, even if we don't like the technology.

As much as I liked the world and the science, the book does have more than it's share of problems. The characters could use a little more life to them for instance. Jimmy/Snowman is a fine character, I have no problem with him. Oryx and her story take up too much of the book and frankly, she's interesting but not terribly well fleshed out. Crake is, as many science-fiction characters are, exactly what he needs to be for the plot. Not to say he isn't consistent, he definately is. But he's also more than a little unrealistic. He's one of those "perfect at everything" characters who is smarter than everyone, cooler than everyone, etc. Crake is the genius of genetic tinkering but he also happens to be a genius computer hacker to boot. The hacker part is a little much. Would it have killed Atwood to make Jimmy the hacker and give him at least a little something over Crake? I don't think so and it would have added some much needed depth to the character in the form of at least one thing he's not perfect at. There is a lot of unneeded stuff in here, like pretty much all of Oryx's backstory. I also found the final ending of Snowman's story to be completely unsatisfying. It felt like Atwood knew she had finsihed the "real" story of what happened to the world and then couldn't figure out a good way to end the actual book.

Overall I liked the book, despite its flaws. As I said, the vision of the future is very compelling and thought-provoking. If you have any interest in what a possible future for the world post-genetic engineering could look like, I would recommend this book to you. The audiobook, read by actor Campbell Scott, is great. Scott has a mastery of different voices that I would have never expected based on his movie roles. I don't think the world will end up anything like the one portrayed in Oryx & Crake but something like it is coming and I think Margaret Atwood's vision is going to be thought of as very prescient in the years to come.