Oryx and Crake Read-Along: Post Four (Part 7 – 9 Reaction)


For all the details on this read-along, head over to the sign up post on Reading in Winter.

Reading Parts 7-9

This is probably the section of the book I remember the least about. Maybe I read it late at night. Or maybe I read it really fast, because we`re finally making some progress. Jimmy’s on the move, and he’s telling us more about Crake. Looking back, there are actually a bunch of really important things in these chapters, but I can’t talk about them yet! So if you`re still reading, PAY ATTENTION.

My thoughts are a little disjointed, but as always, there’s lots to comment on. The writing is so dense.

Part 7-9 Reaction

Blue Man Group: This book is pretty serious and scary most of the time, but there are some laughs:

Their penises turn bright blue to match the blue abdomens of the females, and they do a sort of blue-dick dance number, erect members waving to and fro in unison, in time to the foot movements and the singing: a feature suggested to Crake by the sexual semaphoring of crabs.

(Probably getting flagged as pornography by my work’s servers tomorrow. Again.)

So sex comes down to women being fertile and men being… there? Jimmy and Crake talk about what this means – no more unrequited love, no more rape, no more fussin’ and fightin’. But Jimmy wants to know what this means for art, much of which is inspired by heartache. Crake patronizes and condecends (why does Jimmy like him, again?) and finally asks:

Wouldn’t you rather be fucking?

Which is pretty much up there with “to be or not to be” as far as philosophical questions go. But says a lot about Crake, I think.

A Woman’s Work: Jimmy says the Craker women don’t do any work apart from tending the fire. I guess pregnancy, childbirth, and child care aren’t work? Dick.

Though maybe Crake made some adjustments in that area too. If *I* was designing a new strain of human, that’s the first thing I would mess with. Shorter gestation, smaller babies… maybe we could just lay eggs, or something? The more I think about it, the more I’m pissed off at Crake for not addressing this! 

He better have got rid of wisdom teeth too.

Teach a Snowman to Fish: I feel like I’m missing something – why the hell can’t Snowman ask the Crakers to catch him more fish? He makes it sound like he can never go back on his word or contradict himself. They seem to take him at face value, so why can’t he just say Crake spoke to him through his watch and want them to catch more fish, or something? Or, why can’t Snowman go fishing with the Crakers, learn for himself? He is keeping himself at arm’s reach, for some reason. Is he afraid of them? Afraid he’ll become one of them? I don’t get it.

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy!: Atwood is very plot focused here. I found myself so caught up in Jimmy’s story that I sometimes forgot that oh yeah, billions of people have died. I think he’s a pretty self-centered guy, so it makes sense that his story is wrapped up in himself. But Atwood reminds us, from time to time, of the absolute horror that occured just weeks (months?) ago:

Along the road is a trail of objects people must have dropped in flight, like a treasure hunt in reverse. A suitcase, a knapsack spilling out clothes and trinkets; an overnight bag, broken open, beside it a forlorn pink toothbrush. A bracelet; a woman’s hair ornament in the shape of a butterfly; a notebooks, its pages soaked, the handwriting illegible.

The fugitives must have had hope, to begin with. They must have thought they`d have a use for these things later. Then they`d changed their minds and let go.

The most disturbing passage in the whole book, perhaps series:

“That’s the head in the middle,” said the woman. “There’s a mouth opening at the top, they dump the nutrients in there. No eyes or beak or anything, they don’t need those.”

I had Chicken McNuggets the day after reading this passage, and it has haunted my dreams ever since.

Mechanically separated chicken. I'm Lovin' It! (photo via Gizmodo.com)

Future McNuggets. I’m Lovin’ It! (photo via Gizmodo.com)


Mommy Issues: So, both Crake and Jimmy lost their mothers to the evil HealthWyzer machine. Pretty good motivation for ending the world, or saving it, I suppose. 

Oryx and Crake IRL: There was an epic thread on Reddit this week, asking people to spill industry secrets. There was lots of gross stuff about the restaurant industry, and how various service industries rip you off (Jiffy Lube, duh,) but this one caught my eye:

Most people who say this are ignored as kooks, but having worked in pharmaceutical research, I can confirm this:

  • We already have developed better, safer medicines than most of the crap currently on the market. However due to the following reasons, most of it will never reach the market.
  • FDA Approval costs a fair amount of money and time, and for a “new drug” to be approved takes bloody years. The slightest fuckup in testing and back to the beginning.
  • Money. If a new drug discovery is not going to be as profitable as the stuff currently on the market, it will simply be patented and sat on. Research funding: Not enough of it anymore to properly explore all the possibilities.

Life imitates art? Art imitates life? Damn.

Till next week! Check out the other read-along posts at Reading in Winter


  1. Heather

    I just read a book that dealt with the same issues with drugs–how the stuff being sold is the profitable stuff, even if it doesn’t work or has terrible side effects, FDA approval, etc. Also (in this fictional book), even if they had found a drug that successfully helped or cured a disease, if the disease only affects a small number of people, drug companies will pass them over and only work on the drugs that will help a larger number of people, because PROFIT. Even though the book is fictional, I have no doubt this is true. Ugh.

  2. Rick @ AnotherBookBlog.com

    “So sex comes down to women being fertile and men being… there?” In nature, most of the time, yes. Just watch Planet Earth to see all the crazy dances and fights and displays males do to get the attention of females. Lots of pomp and circumstance haha. There’s a lot of evidence of Crake wanting to take human back to something more primitive, more primal. He seems to hold nature in somewhat low regard, but he sees lots of value in how animals behave.

    “Crake patronizes and condecends (why does Jimmy like him, again?)” I know, right?! I was thinking this through the whole chapter. I get that, for the novel’s purposes, having them as foils for one another works great, but from an internal logic standpoint, why in the world would these two people be friends? It seems like each one would annoy the other. I’m wondering if this gets explained later?

    “I feel like I’m missing something – why the hell can’t Snowman ask the Crakers to catch him more fish? He is keeping himself at arm’s reach, for some reason. Is he afraid of them? Afraid he’ll become one of them? I don’t get it.” I think the arm’s length comment is a good one. That’s what I’ve been thinking. He seems to watch over them, in a way, but he doesn’t want to be involved with them, he doesn’t want to need them for anything. Whether this is a statement against Crake or it’s his own need to stay independent and strong, I don’t know. Interesting, though.

    “…oh yeah, billions of people have died. I think he’s a pretty self-centered guy, so it makes sense that his story is wrapped up in himself.” I’ve had the feeling, through the whole read, that the catastrophe that happened a while ago. Like a year or more. So at this point Jimmy has gone passed the grieving for humanity stage into anger. So if he seems self-obsessed, or concerned only about himself, a) he’s probably gone through the rest of humanity already, and b) there’s only himself left, so I’m sure you’d be pretty wrapped up in your own shit haha. I might be wrong on the timeline, though.

    Finally, your comment about “ending the world, or saving it” is interesting. The idea of saving the world BY ending the world is fascinating. What a complex moral concept, hey? Reminds me about a book I’m reading, The Eye of the World, where a young man is told that he’s the savior of the world, but he’s destined to kill everyone he loves in order to do it. Crazy, but super interesting.

    Great post again, as always!

    • lauratfrey

      Yeah I think you called out Crake’s comment about nature with a capital N. And Jimmy’s dad makes a comment in an earlier chapter about how “protein isn’t sacred” or something. I’d be interested to see how someone with religious leanings would interpret all this.

      I think they do annoy each other. But I think Crake needs Jimmy more than Jimmy needs Crake… I just haven’t entirely figured out why yet.

      Yes, Jimmy gets a pass for being self centred NOW, but he always was. I’m not sure about the timeline either! I thought it was longer, like you, until I read Year of the Flood (sorry, spoilerish)

  3. Kristilyn

    The whole sex thing cracked me up! It was just so bizarre! So basically we’re like monkeys or something? We don’t feel anything, we just have a job that has to be done? Though when it comes to women’s job only being stoking the fire, I think that’s because the kids grow up faster than they do in our society now. So really, childrearing takes no time at all.

    The chicken thing was SO GROSS. You’re right, probably the most disturbing part so far. Sure glad we weren’t eating chicken the night I read that.

    I wonder about Jimmy and why he’s the only one. Well, he said that there must be others like him, but so far he seems to be the only one and the Crakers look at him differently. But then, if Crake saw the need to save him, why is he living how he is? Why doesn’t he get whatever fancy life Crake must have?

    Great post, Laura!

    • lauratfrey

      I think there are lots of hints about the Crakers developing a bit of religious feeling (worshipping Oryx and Crake, with Snowman as their prophet) but I wonder if the Crakers will start to develop feelings for each other. Like, maybe one day a lady-Craker will only want one blue man, or something. Something to show that you just can’t “edit out” feelings?

      • Rick @ AnotherBookBlog.com

        Atwood always said that she was writing the MaddAddam trilogy from an optimistic standpoint. Despite all the crap that happens, she wants to be optimistic about the future. So I won’t be shocked if, in the end, Nature wins out, regardless of how badly Crake messed with things. Earth will always right itself, in time.

  4. Buried In Print

    Chapter Eight is one of my favourites; I feel like a lot of things start to come together there. Well, perhaps as many questions erupt to replace the others, but, still, it’s affirming to feel we’re gaining more of an understanding of the situation and the world such-as-it-is.

    I asked the same questions about the fish, but I do feel it offers some new insight to his character, a way to offset the other kinds of ideas that he has about his own identity and intent and role, in contrast to some of the other observations about him. (Sometimes it’s hard to be sympathetic to his character, but simple hunger we can relate to.)

    With his determination to stick with the original declaration, we have confirmation that he does operate according to a code, possesses an integrity that we might be inclined to overlook (deny?) based on some other plot elements, and we have to wonder about the responsibility he feels to create a story that is, at least, consistent, even if it doesn’t succeed for him personally.

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