Oryx and Crake (Book Review)
The first book in the MadAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood has easily become one of my favorite authors over the past year. Her books are reliably witty, intoxicating and thought provoking. In Oryx and Crake, Atwood takes us on a thought experiment where GMO (genetically modified organisms) production has been taken a step further. Pigs are being bred with human organs inside them- to be used for people who need them. Chickens are bred without heads- so as not to feel the pain while they are housed in miserable conditions and then killed for human consumption. Jimmy, the main character of the book, takes on a new job with his childhood best friend, Crake. Crake, a genetics genius, has surpassed trading animals traits around, and is now focusing on genetically modifying human beings. Specifically, he is working on the concept of immortality.
“Immortality,’ said Crake, ‘ is a concept. If you take mortality’ as being, not death, but the foreknowledge of it and the fear of it, then ‘immortality’ is the absence of such fear. Babies are immortal. Edit out the fear…”
The book alternates between this account of Crakes discoveries, and then flashes forward to the future, where Jimmy is the only living remainder of human life on Earth. In an attempt to save the world from death, something has gone horribly wrong. Or has it?
“All it takes,” said Crake, “is the elimination of one generation. One generation of anything. Beetles, trees, microbes, scientists, speakers of French, whatever. Break the link in time between one generation and the next, and it’s game over forever.”
As the last human on Earth, Jimmy finds himself to be the caretaker for Crake’s last great creation- the Crakers. The Crakers are the new humans- free of fear of death because they all keel over at the age of 30 without any prior notification. The Crakers have no sense of humor (because humor implies a sense of malice), and thus there is no longer any war. The Crakers have skin that acts similar to photosynthesis- thus they no longer have to worry about the depletion of the ozone layer or the pollution in the air. The Crakers only mate every three years- because that is all that is needed to keep a healthy supply of Crakers on Earth- and to eliminate heartbreak.
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