Oryx and Crake Read-Along: Post Six (Part 13 – 15 Reaction)


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

Reading Parts 13-15 The shortest section, and after the shocker in part 12, maybe a little anti-climactic, I read this bit like a maniac, probably in the middle of the night, hoping to find out why.  Of course, I didn’t find out. The next morning, I bought The Year of the Flood. And yesterday, I finished Maddaddam, and so, the trilogy in it’s entirety. Full review of the whole shebang to come.

Part 13-15 Reaction

Poem: On revisiting this section, I noticed some nice symmetry in the table of contents. And when you think about it, the chapter titles kind of sound poetic, when read together. Don’t you think? Or is this a symptom of Atwood fangirling?


Alex: It’s odd that I haven’t talked about Alex the Parrot yet, because it was one of the most intriguing references in the book. Up till this point, I thought Alex was was a representation of Jimmy’s disillusionment, but duh, it’s a super-intelligent animal that looks around and decides “fuck this.” Obviously it’s Crake. Or maybe both? I think Alex also represents the importance of language and the combination of delight and horror we experience when confronted with the fact that living things other than humans might have real intelligence. I mean, the last line in the book is “Time to go.” That’s a paraphrase of Alex’s “I’m going away now.”

Alex the parrot comes to him in a dream…Snowman is suffered with happiness and love. It cocks its head, looks at him first with one eye, then the other. “The blue triangle,” it says. Then it begins to flush, to turn red, beginning with the eye. This change is frightening, as if it’s a parrot-shaped light bulb filling up with blood. “I’m going away now,” it says.

“No, wait,” Snowman calls, or wants to call. His mouth won’t move. “Don’t go yet! Tell me…”

Alex the Parrot Last Words

This is an accurate representation of me after reading Alex’s wikipedia page. Via funnyjunk.com

Fridge Magnets: Having finished the series, it’s tempting to go back and look for clues. Because [spoiler?] there are still a lot of unanswered questions and we never get back in Jimmy’s head. Here’s Atwood dropping a hint:

He could have mentioned the change in Crake’s fridge magnets. You could tell a lot about a person from their fridge magnets, not that he’d thought about them at the time.

Okay, so Crake’s fridge magnets are mentioned twice, once while he’s at University:

  • No Brain, No Pain
  • Siliconsciousness
  • I wander from Space to Space
  • Wanna meet a Meat Machine?
  • Take Your Time, Leave Mine Alone
  • Little spoat/gider, who made thee?
  • Life experiments like a rakunk at play
  • I think, therefore I spam
  • The proper study of Mankind is Everything.

Later, when Crake is working on the Paradise project, we see his fridge magnets again:

  • Where God is, Man is not.
  • There are two moons, one you can see, and one you can’t
  • Du musz dein Leben andern (“You must change your life”)
  • We understand more than we know
  • I think, therefore.
  • To stay human is to break a limitation
  • Dream steals from its lair towards its prey

The scariest one for me is how the silly “I think, therefore I spam” has because the chilling “I think, therefore.” Just makes me think of nothingness, which is, I guess, what Crake wanted.

Blank Page: I find a lot of great writers end up writing about writing, and Atwood is no exception. Jimmy says of the Crakers:

These people were like blank pages, he could write whatever he wanted on them… Snowman marveled at his own facility: he was dancing gracefully around the truth, light-footed, light-fingered. But it was almost too easy; they accepted, without question, everything he said.

I wondered, is that a writer’s dream, or nightmare? To have a complacent public lapping up their every word? Probably a dream that becomes a nightmare, as Jimmy says, “much more of this…and he could see himself screaming with boredom.”

Don’t Let Me Down: Crake’s last words to Jimmy are “I’m counting on you.” Jimmy’s mother’s last words to Jimmy (maybe) are “Don’t let me down.” We close the first book in this series with another echo of “Don’t let me down.” I don’t have some grand theory about this, in fact, I still don’t know why Jimmy, why Crake chose him as the shepherd to his Craker flock. But I’m sure there’s something here, and that Crake did choose Jimmy, deliberately, when they were still kids. I sort of think that Crake had something to do with Jimmy’s mother’s disappearance, or his own parent’s deaths – that he engineered something so that they would have this parentlessness in common, so it would bond them… because as I and the other read-alongers have noted, the friendship was always a little strange.

I won’t want to do much of a wrap-up here, because I want to do a proper review of the series, but just in case it wasn’t clear – I loved this book. Atwood is often held up as a symbol of the stodgy establishment in CanLit, but my god, she’s earned her status as literary icon. I’m quite tempted to join some fellow book bloggers in their quest to Read All of Atwood (though never at the pace they’re on, a book per month. I would see this as a “before you die” type thing.)

Thank you Kristilyn and Rick for the great discussions! I had a blast. Check out their read-along posts at Reading in Winter and Another Book Blog.


  1. Andrew

    A quick note about Alex the Parrot: he’s also (I think) supposed to be paralleled with the spirit/bird that Oryx believes is following her when she’s taken from her village. She tells the story of the way her people believe that your family members can watch over you through birds. It’s the only moment of real spirituality in the whole book. Alex the Parrot is Jimmy’s weird inversion of the same idea. For Oryx, the sounds of the birds are comforting because she knows that her family will always be with her. Jimmy fixates on Alex for similar reasons (Alex represents his mother in a way), but he achieves that connection through technology–his spirit animal is entirely virtual–and ultimately Alex, like his mother, leaves him. It’s actually one of the most subtly awesome things that Atwood does in the novel and it’s really understated. I didn’t really pick up on what Alex was supposed to mean until about my third time teaching the novel.

  2. Kristilyn

    I think that Crake didn’t so much want nothingness, but he wanted a higher-power godliness. But yeah, the fridge magnets did say something about him. It’s amazing what we think of in hindsight.

    This book frustrated me. I hated how it was completely set up for a sequel, which meant that we really didn’t get any answers in the end. I at least expect to get SOME answers by the end, but I feel like it just opened up more questions.

    As far as your ‘Why Jimmy?’ question goes … I don’t really think that Crake *chose* Jimmy. I think he was just stringing him along and then Jimmy pretty much fudged things up for himself to the point where he couldn’t go back to before …

    Thanks for participating in the read-along, Laura! 🙂

    • Andrew

      Hi, I’m Andrew. 🙂

      The “Why Jimmy” question is interesting. I think there’s a good case to be made for the fact that late in the game, Crake recognizes that he can’t perfect biology/humanity. It’s (I think) why he goes out and gets so drunk on the night that he releases the plague. Jimmy remarks that it’s unusual to see him intoxicated. Crake is deeply attuned to the fact that he is the perfect embodiment of everything he needs to wipe out in order to reboot the world. Jimmy, on the other hand, is the chaos element. He’s the flawed one. The artist. The guy who can’t see all the moves in the game. I think Crake comes to realize that Jimmy is, in a weird way, the perfect embodiment of humanity. So he leaves the Crakers to Jimmy in the hopes that their biological advantages and his humanity will come together to make something productive. There’s lots of stuff in the text to support all this, but I lent my teaching copy to someone else, so you’ll have to take my word on it. 🙂 I’ll make some references later when he gets it back to me.

      • lauratfrey

        Sounds great, thanks for all of this 🙂

        Yeah, doesn’t Crake, or maybe one of the scientists, say that they had to leave a bit of singing and things in there, or the Crakers would just be vegetables? It made me wonder why, at that point, Crake didn’t wipe out everything, Crakers included. Why leave the possibility of humanity coming back and just wrecking everything all over again?

  3. Rick @ AnotherBookBlog.com

    So, how embarrassing is it that I barely noticed the parrot at all? Like, if people didn’t mention it I would totally forget it was involved in any way. Not sure how that happened.

    I wouldn’t exactly say that the book was set up for a sequel based on its lack of answers. I think this was a very deliberate narrative choice. I feel like MaddAddam will end in much the same way. It’s the nature of this series.

    Oh, and kudos for writing the word “stodgy.” Great word.

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  5. VH

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  7. liezurly

    I’d like to know how advanced the pigoons will get. Given their bodies there isn’t a lot they can do, but they definitely seem to “know”. So they could just walk around grazing and nothing more comes of it than they can sort of protect themselves. Or maybe over time given there is nothing stopping them from mearly surviving now they will evolve through the generations into another thinking capable being.

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