Saturday, July 23, 2005

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Certain novels make me envy the fun the writer must have had in inventing the details. Sure all fiction is inventing, but some books --Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis, Jasper Fforde's novels--seem deliriously imaginative. Oryx and Crake is similarly inventive and clever, but it can't have been much fun to imagine--the world's fate here is hideous and unfortunately for those of us on Planet Earth, not so unimaginable. But Atwood gets major kudos for her creativity.

In the end, though, I just never got deeply involved in this novel. Possibly because I read the first half, read about ten other books, and then read the second half--but I think that was effect rather than cause. Atwood alternates the current/through story (post-apocalyptic United States) with back story that gradually leads the reader to how the current state of affairs was reached. But Snowman, the protagonist, is alone in all of the through story, and largely as a result I was much more interested in the back story, which is fully populated. That would be fine except for the book is half through story, half back story. So I was impatient and kinda bored for half of the book. Yet in contrast, I loved Life of Pi, in which the protagonist is also alone for at least half of the book (tiger aside). I think the difference is that in Life of Pi the back story comes first--you don't flip back and forth, so I wasn't wishing for the switches (I knew there wouldn't be any switches) and I had a deep interest in Pi before I was left alone with him.


Tai said...

I read O&C about a month ago -- read it with no other distractions. And I have to agree that it was kind of boring. Initially I blamed my dislike of it on my overall distaste for the genre. With further reflection, however, I realized that I was never able to sympathize with the characters. Definitely not with Snowman, maybe a little bit with Oryx but she was too elusive for most of the book and I never got a strong sense of who she was until the novel's end.
Interestingly, Jane Caputi told me that Atwood claims the story was given to her by birds. This is not a metaphoric or ironic statement. Literally, Atwood claims to have communicated with them. If that is true, we may, in fact, be reading about our future.

A. Papatya Bucak said...

Tai--you might be interested to know Oates has a futuristic, clone story in the Atlantic (Fiction Issue). It's a pretty minor work for her, I think, but interesting to see her take on the subject.

Tai said...

ooh now I am excited. Oates's new pseudonym, Lauren Kelly, just released a book that was, in my opinion, more boring than Atwood's. I hope she is in better form in the Atlantic story.