Oryx and Crake is the first installment in the Maddaddam trilogy, a dystopian future with a liberal dose of gene splicing at its core.
The novel is told through the perspective of “Snowman”/Jimmy, a depressed man, clothed in a bedsheet, presiding over a gaggle of ‘Children of Crake’ – innocent genetically engineered people living in a ruined world. Through his reflections, with learn about Jimmy and the world that was. We learn of the red-hot gene splicing industry, creating smart Pigoons, delicious Chickienobs, and adorable Rakunks. We learn about his mother leaving him to revolt against these changes as his father rises up through the corporate splicing ranks.
We learn how society is split: the workers of these massive biotech industries live in lush compounds behind high walls and armed guards, while the rest of humanity languishes in toxic pleeblands.
We learn about how he and his teenage friend Crake spend their formative years watching porn, naked news, and snuff films together, in a state of boredom. We learn about the normalisation of horrible and traumatic things viewed from the safety of a screen.
We learn of Oryx, the trafficked and abused child who survives her traumatic upbringing and enters into Jimmy and Crake’s adult lives.
We learn of the downfall of the world, with Oryx, Crake, and Jimmy at the centre.
As I read Oryx and Crake, a difficult book at best, the following quote kept occurring to me:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I feel like Oryx and Crake is the story about what happens when good people – or at least, chaotic neutral people – do nothing. Snowman’s apathy, lust, selfishness, and impotence pave the way to the ending of it all, though he’s not actually the one who designed the downfall or pushed the big red proverbial button.
I struggled to finish this novel, and the story didn’t really come together for me in a compelling way until its closing chapters. While the message within is a worthy one, this was not a great read to me. I’m not sure I can muster the will to read the next two in this trilogy.
Overall, 2 Fish for Snowman out of 5.