Oryx and Crake
In her eleventh NOVEL, Margaret ATWOOD returned to the genre of speculative fiction whose possibilities she had first explored in THE HANDMAID'S TALE (1985). Set in a post-apocalyptic near-future, Oryx and Crake (2003) is told from the perspective of Snowman. Originally named Jimmy, Snowman appears to be the sole survivor of a global pandemic and now shepherds a band of human-like creatures known as the Crakers. In a series of flashbacks, the novel recounts the former life of Jimmy and his childhood friend, the boy-genius Crake. Growing up in the protected environment of a corporate enclave, they spend their youth immersed in INTERNETPORNOGRAPHY and violent COMPUTER games. Crake goes on to a successful career in bio-ENGINEERING. He procures his own research facility, the Paradice Project, to which he recruits Jimmy and Oryx, an enigmatic woman he believes to be identical to an Asian girl he and Jimmy had earlier seen on a child pornography website, and who enters into a love-triangle with the two. As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that the actual goal of the Paradice Project is the elimination of the human race by means of a virus and its replacement with the Crakers, who have been genetically engineered to live in harmony with nature. After revealing to Jimmy that he is to serve as the Crakers' guardian, Crake murders Oryx and is in turn killed by Jimmy. The novel concludes with Snowman discovering three other human survivors and trying to decide whether he should make contact.
The novel addresses concerns that have always figured centrally in Atwood's work, such as sexual exploitation, ENVIRONMENTAL destruction, and the ambiguous function of the human imagination as a means of both mastering and escaping from reality. However, Oryx and Crake integrates these themes into a broadly conceived satirical critique of contemporary society, targeting the degrading effects of online culture, the hubris of genetic engineering, transhumanism, and globalized capitalism. Both a critical and a popular success, the novel was a finalist for the Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD and the Orange Prize.