Oryx and Crake Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Oryx and Crake

Snowman, the last human alive, thinks back on the disaster that ended humanity. Snowman is the last human on Earth. All that remains are the genetically engineered wolvogs and pigoons that roam the forests, along with the beautiful and peaceful creatures that have come to replace mankind. Wracked with guilt and self-loathing, Snowman continually thinks back to the time before, when he was named Jimmy. Jimmy grew up in a time when genetic engineering was popular. Society did things like grow human organs inside of pigs, and chicken was grown from a large biological mass of chicken genes. At a young age Jimmy made friends with a boy named Crake. The two lived in one of many corporate controlled compounds, where the rich and privileged could avoid the dreaded "pleeblands." The two boys spent their days playing games like extinctathon and watching public executions. At one point the two found a video of Asian child pornography, and Jimmy was haunted by the eyes of one of the prostitutes. As the two boys grew, they followed different paths. Crake was a brilliant scientist, and went to study at a prestigious college. Jimmy pursued the arts, which were derided and worthless in their society. Jimmy ended up with a job writing ads, and Crake became a famous scientist, working at manipulating the human genome. When the two met again, Crake was working on creating a better form of humanity- the "Crakers" we see in Snowman's era. Crake had hired a teacher for them, a girl named Oryx, who turned out to be the child from the pornography Jimmy saw so many years ago. In the present day, Snowman attempts to protect the Crakers, and to survive in the post-apocalyptic world. He makes his way through the rubble into a former city, scavenging for supplies. As his flashbacks come closer and closer to the present day, Snowman struggles to understand the purpose behind the apocalypse, and his own part in what happened.
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Best part of story, including ending: The society is described with a great deal of care and realism. The time it's set is somewhat vague- we only know that it's in the future. The trappings of this society are very well explored, and Atwood makes a great exploration of the effects of biological engineering. Unlike a lot of post-apocalyptic cautionary tales, this one actually feels somewhat realistic. A lot of the aspects of the book are entirely believable, and there are points where it's really not hard to believe that this could be where our society is headed. That being said, the Crakers specifically are sort of ridiculous. They're presented as this sort of ideal being, but the book describes their mating ritual (in which the male's sexual organs turn blue and they wave them around in a mating call for the females) and they all read as a bit silly and overdone. The flashbacks are where the real meat of the story happens, and the disastrous time when Snowman lives is somewhat over-the-top and uninteresting.

Best scene in story: The scene in which Jimmy and Crake first see Oryx in the child porn. This is the first scene in which the audience really understands the depravity of the society Jimmy lives in, and it's also the first scene where Jimmy himself really starts to understand it. The description of the pornography, while not graphic, is just detailed enough to help us understand exactly how sickening it is. It's a very powerful exploration of the darker side of this future.

Opinion about the main character: Jimmy is a fairly solid main character. The truly interesting things about him only come out in the present when he's Snowman. Snowman is a legitimately insane and distressing character, who's haunted and delusional and struggling to survive. Jimmy himself is something of a standard artsy nice guy main character, but the intrigue for the reader comes from reading and trying to understand exactly what happened to push him so far over the edge. The main issue with both portrayals of him is that he's very passive. Jimmy himself does fairly little of any real importance in the flashbacks, and Snowman is a bit too far gone to have any real impact on the present. At the same time, one has to wonder why Snowman continually decides to stick around and take care of the Crakers, especially once we start to understand what happened so long ago. It's a significant question for his character that's never really addressed in a satisfactory way, and it makes Snowman's complaints a bit more confusing than they need to be.

The review of this Book prepared by Rachel a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Oryx and Crake

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 10%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 20%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 40% Tone of book    -   depressing/sad FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story Lifeform altered?    -   Yes Kind of alteration:    -   genetic engineering

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   writer Age:    -   20's-30's


Earth setting:    -   medium future 22-24th century    -   distant future Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   an average amount of scientific explanation Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   descript of kissing    -   major character becomes a sex slave How much dialogue?    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Margaret Atwood Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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