Oryx and Crake Read-Along: Post Two (Part 1 – 3 Reaction)
For all the details on this read-along, head over to the sign up post on Reading in Winter.
“Read-along” implies that the participants will read the book on the same schedule. I deviated from the assigned dates a little bit with Moby Dick, but this is a bit extreme. I read the first assigned section, parts 1-3, in my first sitting. I believe I read all the way to part 6 or 7 on the first day. I tried to ration it. I tried to read my other book instead, but my other book was Northanger Abbey which is such a bore compared to this. I finished the book in four days.
Why was I compelled to inhale this book like a line of crushed ritalin? Aside from the stellar writing and characterization, Atwood’s pacing and world-building is compelling and addictive. She reveals just enough to make this near-future wasteland seem utterly real, and holds back enough to make you keep you in suspense. It’s a precarious balance that she manages beautifully.
I’ll still post on schedule, and will have to be extra careful about spoilers. I’ve started Year of the Flood in the meantime, and should be all set for the last book in the series, MaddAddam, on September 3rd.
Part 1-3 Reaction
Epigraph: It’s notable that Atwood chose two quotes for the epigraph (fancy name for quotes at the beginning of a book.) It’s no Moby-Dick, with its pages of excerpts, but it’s still kind of a ballsy move. Like, one pretentious quote isn’t enough? The first quote is from Gulliver’s Travels, and the second is from To The Lighthouse. I’ve never read Gulliver’s Travels, but Google tells me it’s an early example of dystopian fiction, so that makes sense. I have read To The Lighthouse, and I’m having a hard time thinking of a parallel between the books. Here’s the quote:
Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle and leaping from a pinnacle of a tower into the air?
I guess it speaks to the chaotic state of the world as the story begins.
Dystopia. So Hot Right Now. Dystopia.: I can’t help but notice that YA dystopian fiction is having a moment. The Hunger Games, Divergent, Cinder. These books are everywhere. Atwood couldn’t ask for better timing to release the third book in this series. Rick at Another Book Blog pointed out the “YA-ification” of the paperback cover art and I bet that’s not coincidence. There’s crossover potential here.
I thought I hadn’t read much dystopian literature, but once I thought about it, I realize that I have actually read quite a few:
- Brave New World. Such an obvious comparison, though I don’t know if Atwood’s world will be as timeless as Huxley’s. I remember being shocked at the publication date on BNW. It reads so modern for something written in the 1930s.
- Infinite Jest. I never thought of IJ as dystopian till now, but it totally is. Atwood’s descriptions in this section kind of remind me of IJ’s wasteland, The Great Concavity.
- Bumped and Thumped by Megan McCafferty. This YA dystopian series actually has more in common with Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s interesting to note that in the first 44 pages of Oryx and Crake, we get more depth of character and context than in that whole series. Atwood is just so skilled and exacting.
- Honourable Mentions: 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Atlas Shrugged, A Clockwork Orange, The Children of Men, The Handmaid’s Tale.
Snowman – Cool Story, Bro: Atwood says she chose a male lead for this book simply because she was tired of being asked why all her leads were female, but I don’t buy it. I may be over-thinking, but I believe authors, especially those as meticulous and focused as Atwood, have a reason for all their choices. I just don’t know what it is in this case. Snowman is kind of unremarkable, and I spent most of this section wondering if he was crazy. I see him as unreliable and an anti-hero. I was curious about the intrusive thoughts and memories that plague him. Is that a symptom of whatever went wrong? Or a symptom of a man losing his mind due to isolation?
Oryx and Crake: Crake’s identify is a mystery. Is he a man or a god? A man that made himself into a god? A god that Snowman imagines as a man? And Oryx is little more than a disembodied voice at this point. But, you know, they’re in the title, so you better pay attention.
In 44 pages, Atwood had me engrossed. I don’t find her writing particularly beautiful or poetic, thought I’ve heard it described as such, but what she lacks in flowery language she makes up for in pacing, plot, characters, and satire.
Till next week! Check out the other read-along posts at Reading in Winter. Kristilyn and Rick both did a bang up job!
Did you take notes while you blazed through the book? I’m thinking it must be hard to write reaction posts after having read the entire book.
So glad you liked the book so much. Gives me hope that my early excitement is going to be maintained.
I never stopped to think about Snowman as an unreliable narrator. Interesting observation. He’s clearly a bit unhinged so it’s certainly possible. Maybe all this Crake hate isn’t even justified. Or, at least, maybe Snowman is also partly to blame?
This book is good stuff 😀
I didn’t take notes, but I bought the paper version so I could flip back. I do that a lot, buy the ebook and the hard copy… when the hell is the publishing industry gonna give me the digital rights with the paper book?? It’s not too bad though, I did the same thing with Moby-Dick, I was always at least a section ahead.
I love unreliable narrators. Make me guess a bit. That was my biggest let down with the YA series I mentioned, Bumped. It was a good story, fascinating dystopia, and similar to O&C in that it’s near future and you can kind of see how it could happen, but it’s just kind of laid out for you. I kept waiting for the next layer to be revealed, but there was nothing. It is what it is. BOR-ING.
Agreed. Unreliable narrators are usually much more fun. They can even make re-reads more interesting.
I didn’t sign up for the read-along as I’ve read Oryx & Crake twice already. I struggled the first time, loved it the second. That was unusual for me as I normally don’t have any trouble getting – as you said – engrossed in Atwood’s stories. I don’t think it flows the way some of her other books do. Whether that’s because it’s written from a male perspective or intentional given the subject matter I don’t know. It’s interesting to read your comments and gives me a different perspective as I read it a third time to get ready for MaddAddam. Thanks!
I’m super excited for MaddAddam now! I’m usually late to the party for these things, so it’s pretty cool that I’ll be all up to date and ready to read on the 3rd.
I haven’t read a lot of Atwood so maybe it was easier for me, going in with very few expectations.
How did i not know there was an Oryx and Crake read-a-long? I loved that book and loved The Year of the Flood even more. Can’t wait for Maddaddam later this month!
Me neither! It’ll almost be like another read-along, as I’m sure LOTS of people will be picking it up on the 3rd.
I am sooooo looking forward to Maddaddam.
I don’t find Atwood’s writing to be flowery and beautiful, either … but it just WORKS. It’s still accessible and doesn’t try to be pretentious or anything.
Personally, I think that Crake is a God right now … but then who is Oryx? Some kind of goddess? Are they like the Adam and Eve of this future?
I can’t believe you powered through this book! I read it and took notes as I read or I would never remember what I read … you’re awesome! I hope you like the rest of the books in the series!