Snowman is the last man on Earth. The survivor of some extinction-level event, he spends his days on a beach, fighting the elements and watching over the Children of Crake and Oryx. These children are not like Snowman, who used to be called Jimmy before the world died. Snowman is their caretaker, of sorts, but as the days wear on and his supplies dwindle, he is forced to leave the Children behind and set off for the city in search of more food. Unfortunately, this means Snowman will have to face the life he left behind, as he is overwhelmed on his journey by memories of how exactly his world came to this end.
I realize that’s a pretty vague description of the novel, but this is one of those novels that needs to be experienced rather than explained. Jimmy’s life story is told in flashback, and Atwood takes her sweet time in building up his world before tearing it all down. The two other major characters are Crake, Jimmy’s boyhood friend who is a misanthropic genius, and Oryx, a frustratingly hard to read woman with whom Jimmy is infatuated – and whom Crake also happens to love. I’ve read reviews of this novel that describe it as a “love story” and that perplexes me. It seems to me that Jimmy projects the idea of love onto Oryx more than anything else – but as opaque as Oryx is drawn, it’s difficult to tell if I’m right or not.
This is the first book in Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. I’ll be reading the second, “The Year of the Flood” next and then finishing with “MaddAddam.” The second book runs concurrently with “Oryx and Crake,” so I’m hoping it will shed some more light on some of the characters as well as flesh out the cataclysm and its results a little more. The best I can say about “Oryx and Crake” is that I definitely want to spend more time in this world.