Friday, April 8, 2016

A Bleak Future for Everyone!

I think when asked the question pertaining to entertainment, "What are you in the mood for?" the usual answer is "something light, or funny, or fun." Funny and fun are two very enjoyable categories but sometimes you want something else. Something heavier. You feel like putting aside that milk chocolate in favor of something darker. This could be because you're already sad. Life is a constant cloudy day and you just want something to reflect your feelings. Sometimes you want to indulge in the sad and tragic because you're burned out on the fun and funny. Or maybe you're finally in the right place to watch that certain something your friend keeps recommending to you that will make you reflect on the emptiness of life and the darkness of mankind. If you are at that place to enjoy you some razor sharp commentary on life with a coat of post-apocalypse wrapped up in near future science fiction then Oryx and Crake is right for you.

The story follows Snowman as he lives in the ruins of an empty Earth. Before the 'event' that killed off humanity the world was dominated by multi-national businesses with their employees living in nice compounds separated from the rest of the world. Snowman (formally Jimmy) lived in one of these compounds where he met his life long friend Glenn who eventually goes by Crake. Acting as adviser, in the present, to the human like beings known as Crakers, Snowman undertakes a journey back to one of these now abandoned compounds to gather supplies. Along the way to the compound the reader is shown flashbacks of Snowman's childhood, college years, and early career of the time he spent with Crake and the events that led the world where Snowman now lives. Quite the cheery place we have here.

This story speculates on the future of western culture and science and asks, "What if we continue down this road? What if responsibility is abandoned in favor of advancement and comfort?" These questions are running through the mind of Crake while Jimmy follows him along, loyal and ignorant, until Crake finally decides: there is not turning back, so we must start anew. Not only is the world that Jimmy and Crake live in controlled by multinational companies, a bleak commentary on our present life, but the world that Snowman lives in, inherited, is far worse not only for its emptiness and danger but also for its likelihood of happening. The real power Margaret Atwood brings is creating not just a realistic future but one that seems inevitable. That the parts and pieces are already in place turning, moving humanity towards a population of one. And those are always the darkest and most powerful of stories. A story you not only believe could be real, for we all believe in the reality of a good story since that is what so engrosses us in the telling, but one that feels like you're living out right now.

I would like to address, as a side note, how the author talks about this novel. Margaret Atwood does not like to refer to Oryx and Crake as science fiction but rather as an adventure novel or in the genre of speculative fiction. Speculative fiction, at least for me, is the umbrella that covers not only science fiction but also fantasy and any other fiction that steps outside of our reality even in the slightest. I think that the technology and the future setting, even in the flashbacks, all fit well within science fiction but the mood of the story, the language and focus of character and the mental process of those characters, seem firmly grounded in literary fiction. This is not really important to whether you should read this book or not and you can make your own call on what genre Oryx and Crake belongs to, it was just interesting to me.

Overall my score for this novel is: it's good. I might be a bit weird in how much I like these kind of dreary, depressing kind of stories. I know they are difficult not only in the reading but in the wanting to read them but the power and the lasting memory of such a story far outweigh those on the lighter side. Usually.
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I hope you enjoyed the third review from my top reads of 2015 list. Next week I will be reviewing what is considered to be one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written: Dune. Should be fun. Hope to see you then. Have a great Friday.


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