I’m definitely no queen of science fiction. In fact the group Queen is probably the closest I get to science fiction.
“She Makes Me (Stormtrooper In Stilettoes)”
Other than a Saturday Ren & Stimpy marathon or the occasional Star Wars rendezvous, I don’t really dig into this genre. To be honest, there’s three categories of science fiction for me; the kind that’s completely over my head and unreadable because I can’t get past the intellectual jargon, then there’s the polar opposite kind that leaves me wondering who wrote this trash and then finally there’s that happy medium of writing where the writer has literary novel abilities, but also makes me google words or ideas that I’ve never even seen before. I’ll give you some examples in this nifty table I created.
As you can see from the before mentioned table that I don’t really delve into the “two science for this literary gal” section because they just make me feel useless and dumb. I think Margaret Atwood falls into the second two categories. There are times when I’m reading her science fiction books that I’m like OH COME ON, MARG, CAN’T YOU WAIT UNTIL I’VE HAD MY COFFEE? However, she definitely makes me want to know more, or makes me want to reread in order to understand what the eff she just said. I’m telling you, I had to read about the pigoons and their human organ growing ability like seven times.
I started Oryx and Crake probably four years ago. I know it had to be that long because I checked it out from the library thinking that all Marg Atwood’s books were commentary on the women gender’s plight. I had read The Handmaid’s Tale a few times and then I got really into Penelopiad. I actually created a fake poster for Penelopiad, so when I say really into, you know what I mean. It hung next to my Backstreet Boys posters and inspirational girl quotes from tumblr. Needless to say I had no idea that she wrote science fiction. I was on this “let’s not raise our children with gender identities” kick during college and so I wanted just another book that subtly destroys all notions that females are lower class citizens. I read a few pages into Snowman’s depressing dialogue, returned the book, bought the book and commenced to leave it under my bed for The Thirteenth Tale which was a sort of a romantic ghost story that only took me two days to finish. Snowman was never heard from again until he appeared in a box from the moving truck when I moved into my house last August.
I believe my exact words were, “Oh, you.” As if we had gone out a few times and he never called me back for the third date. I’m the charm on the third date. It took me a year to finally get it off the shelf and the only reason I did was because Maddaddam was coming out and I thought Maddaddam was a twist on The Bible story of Adam and Eve so I had to read it. Now I know that I’m not really correct in my assumptions, but it could still swing that way. Halfway through Oryx and Crake I was sure that Year of the Flood was a retelling of Noah’s Ark. As if the world just regenerates after it’s destruction with the same stories told in different ways. Don’t ask. And definitely don’t tell me because I’m going to get Year of the Flood off of Better World today so that I can continue on my science fiction saga.
Oryx and Crake is a book that will take you weeks to finish which is probably why I didn’t finish it in college, or even really start it. I was so enamored with the disgusting bits that I would reread them constantly. Executions in Asia. Extincathon. (I would one hundred percent as a Raphus cucullatus or a Mammuthus primigenius). You should have heard me try to explain a part of this to my students when I gave them the section about what Jimmy and Crake could do on the internet. “Well, you see, there’s these two boys and they’re both in love with the same girl who’s in child pornography and only one of them survives to tell their story, but I’m pretty sure his best friend Crake is the mastermind behind the world ending. Otherwise the people who smell like oranges wouldn’t think of him as an idol, which they’re not supposed to have in the first place because that genetic flaw was removed from their planning process.” Yea, good luck with that.
Oryx and Crake is the story of Jimmy (aka Snowman) who is (we think) the last man standing in a dystopian version of our world. Snowman is a hell of a character. He’s completely full even though it leaves the reader a bit wet socks to read his perspective for 374 pages. He tells the story of what our future has become through the eyes of his childhood self, Jimmy. Jimmy’s father works for the Pigoon compound and his mother becomes a terrorist against the current government. (Let me just say, I don’t believe for a second what happens to her. I’m waiting for her reappearance in Year of the Flood). Pigoons are genetically engineered obese pigs who harvest human organs for transplant. There are also other genetic spliced animals, plants and eventually humans. At the heart of this book is a fucked up class system of intellect vs. average and wealthy vs. poor. The people who live in the pleeblands have very little access to the medicine available in the compounds, but the compounds are all about the next technological advancement even at the hands of killing its scientists. It’s scum either way you throw it.
Jimmy gets a best friend Crake and throughout the whole book Crake is that kid who you avoided in school because he was always really quietly drawing detailed superhuman anime characters in his notebook and putting calculus equations next to their head. Yea, I have one in my class so I know they exist. I can’t really tell you much about Crake other than he’s a sicko and a child prodigy. If I tell you anymore than you’ll know what happens even though I think you know exactly what happens as soon as Crake is introduced into the novel. The things you don’t know is what will kill you. Here is my twitter reaction to Crake thirty pages out of the end.
Like Jimmy’s mother, I also still believe in Oryx. There’s still pigoons at the end that are now interested in eating humans and so they’re are still transplants if Jimmy could just wrap his mind around performing surgery and shocking Oryx a little bit. We just need a little automated external defibrillator action in Year of the Flood. I should write Margaret Atwood a letter.
There were so many things I loved about this book. It’s intellectually stimulating. I want someone to create Blood and Roses so that I can play it (http://boardgamegeek.com/ boardgame/132019/blood-roses). Guys, this is why googling is bad. I just had a scary epiphany moment when I read the title of this wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User: Jack_Merridew/Blood_and_Roses). It says User: Jack Merridew/Blood and Roses, and continues on to just be an excerpt from Oryx and Crake, but Jack Merridew is the title character in Lord of the Flies. My synapses are fashioning a protective barrier so my brain doesn’t explode right now. Are these books connected. I NEED ANSWERS.
I love what a genius Crake was. He was repulsive in his pursuit of being the best and he does it with Gatsby subtlety. Please excuse that Fitzgerald leak as I loathe Fitzgerald in every way and would usually not promote him or his characters in a book review. I never thought for a second that Crake was as competitive as he was until we get into Paradice. (Yep, that’s a play on words). Margaret Atwood, you are so kitschy.
I suppose I should talk about Snowman because he is the main, main character. I’m positive he was just a pawn in Crake’s game, but I need to know why. There was no explanation of his purpose in the game of Crake other than as protector and almighty helper of the Crakers. I hope Year of the Flood flushes this out for me. Maybe it just comes down to that Crake had no one else because he was living in his own built laboratory, creating madness and hawking his brain power on the best splicers in the world. I guess we’ll never know.
If I haven’t thoroughly convinced you to read this book yet, I have one last trick. At it’s pigoon harvested beating heart, this book is about the hope for the human race and the death toll if that hope doesn’t last farther than our technological creations do. So I want to leave you with my favorite highlighted exchange between Crake and Jimmy before Jimmy becomes alcoholic and a bit schizophrenic Snowman. (I’m not really sure if he’s psychologically going crazy without human contact or if his brain is crumpling).
“Take birds – in lean season they cut down on the eggs, or they won’t mate at all. They put their energy into staying alive themselves until times get better. But human beings hope they can stick their souls into someone else, some new version of themselves , and live on forever.”
“As a species we’re doomed by hope, then?”
“You could call it hope. That, or desperation.”
“But we’re doomed without hope, as well,” said Jimmy.
“Only as individuals,” said Crake cheerfully.
“Well, it sucks.”
“Jimmy, grow up.”
Crake wasn’t the first person who’d ever said that to Jimmy. (Atwood, 120).