“Oryx and Crake” might fall under the science fiction fantasy genre but it is in incredibly powerful book because it is written so convincingly by Canadian author Margaret Atwood like a piece of doomsday prophecy that the make-believe scenarios are so convincing.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, genetically modified (GM) animals and products of other Frankenstein-styled experiments humans have conducted went awry only to set off a slew of calamitous consequences where the chickens came home to roost. The sole survivor of the disaster is a man who calls himself Snowman with the responsibility to protect a group of good-natured but defenseless GM creatures once created by his best friend.
The main reason I was strangely drawn into the book is that it feels like humanity, since the novel was published in the past decade, is slowly walking down the ominous path Atwood had dictated in her fictional MaddAddam World. This similar message was quite recently also expounded by American restaurant chain Chipotle in their wonderfully presented advertisement/animation film.
Through the Snowman, Atwood voices her concerns and reservations about the genetic engineering industry, which in her book is dominated by groups of mega firms. They alter the DNA of various life forms and natural processes to leave far-reaching impact upon the general population but purely out of selfish reasons to mine it for their own benefit.
“That’s all we need,” Said Jimmy’s mother. “More people with the brains of pigs. Don’t we have enough of those already?”
“Can’t you be positive, just for once? All this negative stuff, this is no good, that’s no good, nothing’s ever good enough, according to you!”
“Positive about what? That you’ve thought up yet another way to rip off a bunch of desperate people?” said Jimmy’s mother in that new slow, anger-free voice.
“God, you’re cynical!”
“No, you are. You and your smart partners. Your colleagues. It’s wrong, the whole organization is wrong, it’s a moral cesspool and you know it.”
“We can give people hope. Hope isn’t ripping off!”
“At NooSkins’ prices it is. You hype your wares and take all their money and then they run out cash, and it’s no more treatments for them they can rot as far as you and your pals are concerned. Don’t you remember the way we used to talk, everything we wanted to do? Making life better for people – not just people with money. You used to be so… you had ideals, then.”
As I was going through this book, it felt like reading into the chilling future of the homosapien species as we lead ourselves down an inevitable road of self-destruction in our fanatic pursuit of the everlasting and immortal life even if it means to manipulate nature. Atwood poses serious bioethical and moral questions to readers about how far are we are going to draw the line between bettering lives with science and playing God.
“I thought you didn’t believe in God,” said Jimmy. “I don’t believe in Nature either,” said Crake. “Or not with a capital N.” Hypothetical.
This is a gem to remind me of my humanity. Our humanity that is.