Feb 20, 2008

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake

You know, this one has dystopian elements, but it's less an actual dystopia and more apocalyptic. Or maybe it's about a dystopian society (the compounds) living right next to a pre-apocalyptic one (the pleeblands). Or maybe it's just a romantic novel with big ideas.

In a way, it reminded me of Fight Club. No, no, bear with me. Only in the case of the main character's (Snowman) relationship with Oryx, the woman or women he obsesses over. Much is made of her, she's his every other thought, and yet her actual participation in the action of the story - either before or after the fall - is minimal at best. She's really got jack shit to do with what happens, aside from transportation that would be handled by anyone. She's just a point for him to orbit - she might as well be mythical. And, in fact, Snowman does his best to make her so by the end.

Anyway, I liked this one as a story. Plenty of funky little details, plenty of worrying ideas. If I made a pie chart showing the different styles of dystopia and how likely I find them, class-based commercial control would be a big ol' slice. I'm not one to be spooked by the idea of cloning, or even gene-splicing particularly - although the ChickieNobs grossed me right out (does anyone else watch the show Squidbillies? they had something very similar just a week or two ago, but it was buffalo wing style) - it was more the marketing elements that I find myself still thinking about. A pill that enhances sexual prowess and good moods, but secretly sterilizes the user? Yes, I believe people would fall over themselves to take it, and that scares the crap out of me.

final thought: I'm a bright-but-not-overly-so word-happy writer type, and I still found Snowman shallow and sort of annoying in a Holden Caulfield kind of way. Your mileage may vary.

14 comments:

white rabbit said...

Absolutely nothing to do with Margaret Attwood but II've done a reggae posting - you asked about ska so here are a couple of YouTube clips for copy & paste...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rg1iEBWxVeQ

UB40's cover of standard 'Red Red Wine'. I don't know how well-known they were in the states but they were big here. they started as part of the late 70s UK two-tone (mixed bands of black & white kids) ska thing. They were from Birmingham (England not Alabama!) and someone I used to know could have been their bassist but he fell out with Ali Campbell (guy video centres around) over a girl. So it goes.

white rabbit said...

I gotta do this in 2 posts...

Identify the quote (so it goes).

I wouldn't blame you if you hadn't a clue - it's a British thing - but any idea where the name UB40 came from?

Second clip

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeGCzEssgEM

This is the Pioneers 'Longshot kick de bucket' from the beginning of time. it's apparently about a horse (Longshot) who dropped dead in the middle of a race.

;)

downtown guy said...

Thanks, man. Actually, that was their one big hit over here - the video played constantly on mtv back in the day. They had a later minor hit with a cover of Can't Help Falling in Love With You. (Or is it called Fools Rush In?)

downtown guy said...

And isn't UB40 from a welfare form or something like that?

white rabbit said...

You got it! UB40 is Unemployment Benefit Form 40 - which people used to have to take when they signed on for the dole.

'So it goes' appears repeatedly in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 btw

downtown guy said...

I missed the part about So It Goes. Yeah, I wrote that on my sneakers in 10th grade, when I first read Slaughterhouse 5. It's a good thing to remember.

I honestly can't believe I retained that bit of trivia about UB40 - I probably heard it on tv back when they were popular.

Colin said...

What do you see as the difference between postapocalyptic fic and dystopian fic?

downtown guy said...

Postapocalyptic stories are after the fall, after the ruling system's collapsed. Dystopias take place while the ruling system is still very much in power. The can intersect - a dystopian world can lead to the apocalypse, or a dystopia can rise from the ashes of civilization - but they don't have to.

At least, that's how I'm seeing it right now.

JRSM said...

"class-based commercial control would be a big ol' slice"...
You're going to LOVE 'The Space Merchants'. And the ChikieNobs are pretty much stolen from there, to (though in 'Merchants' there's a difference of scale).

downtown guy said...

Connections and cross inspirations like that are half the fun of this project. I'm looking forward to finding that one.

Aurora said...

Nice review. I was rather fond of Snowman BECAUSE of his shallowness, but I like the whole "I'm human, not fiction" element.

Sadako said...

Agreed with you on Snowman--he annoyed me in the same way. I also read this book in college, the same year I read/saw Fight Club, so I definitely was feeling the Fight Club vibe.

I really like your blog. I just discovered it via the Straight Dope, and it's a really cool idea. I'll be sure to check out the books I haven't actually read myself because dystopian novels are really great to read about.

downtown guy said...

I'm glad you found my blog. I'm always interested in hearing what someone else has to say, especially from places like the straight dope boards.

x-ray iris said...

Although this discussion is ever-so-old, I wonder if you read Year of the Flood?