Reviews

Type Title Author/Director/Developer Date Rating
Book Oryx And Crake Margaret Atwood 7/3/4 ***__

Review

Oryx And Crake is about the dangers of unrestrained genetic engineering. The vision of the future presented is one where engineered viruses are targeted towards the elite who live in walled off compounds, guarded fiercely and intrusively by hired security forces. Those not rich enough to live in these fortresses live out in the wild city “pleeblands” where sickness and disease ravage the population. There are no conventional animals in this book, but hybrids and tweaked species created by man—Rakunks (racoon/skunk hybrid with no smell), wolvogs (wold/dog engineered to look domestic and friendly but behave ferally), and pigoons (pigs grown with multiple human-compatible organs that regenerate—the perfect donor).

But even this future is the past for the main character. Something has happened and “Snowman” is apparently the last human alive in the wreckage of civilization. He lives near, but not among, the Crakers, who look human, but have been genetically modified to withstand the harsh heat of global warming and have beefed up immune systems to protect against the horrible viruses man has created. They also don’t fight, seek power, have jealousies, or have any other “negative” human attributes. However, they sit around all day and live a boring (by our standards) way of life. But they are happy. So, is it paradise, or a step backwards toward ape-dom? It’s not clear and the book doesn’t really offer any answers.

This book is clearly a cautionary tale against all out genetic engineering. There are the gross, but all-too-potentially-real examples of this, my favorite (or perhaps I should say “my least favorite”) being the “ChickieNobs”. One of these is described as “large bulblike object that seemed to be covered with stippled whitish-yellow skin. Out of it came twenty thick fleshy tubes, and at the end of each tube another bulb was growing.” Each bulb was a chicken breast, the head of the “chicken” is at the center, and the “mouth opening” on top is where the nutrients are dumped. There are “no eyes or beak or anything, they don’t need those.” They also remove all the brain functions that don’t have to do with digestion, assimilation, and growth. This is a revolting concept, but much cheaper per breast than standard chickens and so they stand poised to take the world by storm. I somehow see this as realistic—we already live in a world where chickens are raised in cruel mass production environments to keep costs down. The main character still eats ChikieNobs, even though he knows what they are, just like I still eat chicken, even though I know how they’re treated. Some things don’t change...

I had some problems with this book. It seemed a little too long. Half the story is “after” some pivotal event, and the other half is Snowman remembering his past “before” this event. The “after” part is a little tedious sometimes, and the “before” part has some unnecessary details that just add length and not much else to the story. I did feel slightly disappointed in the book after finishing it. There are no ideas or alternatives put forward as a way of keeping this from happening in the future. In fact, in the end even the Crakers start acting more human than they were designed to—we see rumblings of leadership and religious symbology, both of which are features their brains are supposed to lack. Perhaps the author is positing that this is just inevitable for our kind. We seek knowledge and it leads us down a path that doesn’t ever deviate... This book was at least thought-provoking and worthy of reading.

Last Modified on: Nov 11, 2013 17:44pm